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MrsDufresne's avatar

Where did clowns get their features from?

Asked by MrsDufresne (3547points) June 7th, 2010

Why does the traditional clown appearance include curly red hair, bulbous nose, big feet and a round mid-section?

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10 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Some of the caricature is derived from making fun of various people, such as the habitual drunk, with the red nose and round midsection, and the often lower class of a certain period, such as the red haired Irish. Most of it comes from various famous individuals, who were then copied by others.

You also find that different countries have different clowns. You can tell a Russian Clown from an Italian Clown from a German Clown and so on.

Kayak8's avatar

I read a book about the plague sweeping Europe in the 1300s that indicated the illiterate masses were “educated” about Saint Sebastian and were entertained by priests wearing what we think of today as the red clown nose to distract the populace from the deaths all around them. Still hunting for the citation.

BoBo1946's avatar

probably from some the anchestors of couple of Fluther members! loll

Think @YARNLADY “hit the homerun” on this one!

13thpagoda's avatar

Hobos, drunks, homeless. They all have tattered clothing that is too big or too small. Drunks walk in that shambling way, and are tipsy and have difficulty staying on their feet. Their breath smells (which I doubt clowns copy), and the features of a habitual drunk change as a result of their lifelong association with copious amounts of alcohol.

Every town had it’s town drunk. Often they were mentally unstable as well as being a drunk. So they were objects of fun first, and maybe a little bit of pity, too. So you have the amusing clowns and the sad clowns, depending on which aspect of the town drunk you are aiming for.

Clowns also do tricks, which copies the way homeless or drunks often tended to beg. They’d create some kind of silly acrobatic act and put out a hat in order to see if they could get a few pennies to buy their next drink with.

Young children are often scared of clowns, just as they are often disturbed by the homeless. Perhaps they are right to be. But maybe it’s just that clowns and homeless are different enough that they go beyond the boundaries of a child’s safety zone.

In a way, you could argue that clowning is politically incorrect—just as blackface is politically incorrect to make fun of African-American traits and habits. However, since the homeless and the mentally ill are not seen as a protected class (despite the Americans With Disabilities Act), and also because the mentally unstable are particularly ill-equipped to advocate for themselves, most people don’t care, and see the clown as just a funny thing that one usually sees in circuses.

Cruiser's avatar

Here is one clowns take on the history of clowns, he mentions on how clowns evolved from court jesters of way back in 2,500 B.C. Also mentions the first circus clown “Billy Buttons” was in 1768 in England.

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lanahopple's avatar

I just have a question, why do a lot of people hate clowns?!

YARNLADY's avatar

@lanahopple When I was younger, I was scared to death of clowns because many of them were actually pedophiles in disguise, and I could tell by the way they looked at me.

MrsDufresne's avatar

@lanahopple I have a story about an experience I had with a clown.
My husband and I went to a local pub. We went to relax and have a nice time. We sat down at the bar and ordered our drinks.

At the bar, right beside us is this guy dressed in a white tee-shirt, clown pants, rainbow suspenders, with the large shoes and the whole bit. He even had the dark diamond shaped eye makeup on. I’d guess that he had the rubber red nose in his pocket.

He was one of the strangest individuals I’d ever laid my eyes upon. Not because he was dressed as a clown, but because he put off this “aura” or “vibration” that made me feel nauseous.

He didn’t blink. He didn’t smile, and even when we said hello and tried to start up a casual conversation with him, he had these eyes that could fry an egg on the sidewalk. Like there was fire coming from them.

We gave this guy the benefit of the doubt, and thought maybe he was having a tough day. As my husband and I were enjoying each other’s company, and conversing with some of the other people, the whole time this guy kept staring wildly at people, sometimes us, like he wanted to have us for breakfast.

He was truly one of the strangest people I’d ever been in the presence of. Needless to say, we left early because of this individual. That was my one and only first hand experience with a “clown”. And I shudder while remembering to type this.

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