When writing the script for my thesis, I have to admit I went in blind. I had no real prior knowledge of clowns other than what was depicted in various forms of media. This was definitely a problem. I didn't want my clown to fall victim to these clichés. So I decided to give myself a little history lesson.
Clowns originated all the way back to Roman times. They performed as secondary figures in farces and mime, parodying the actions of more serious characters. Then, during the middle ages, Court jesters and fools emerged, entertaining figures of power and authority. And if they failed, they would be decapitated. But obviously, times have changed.
There are three types of clowns.
The White-face clown is the ‘classic’ clown, the oldest and most well-known of the clowns, and is typically the straight clown in skits. This is the oldest style of clown, dating back to Greek theatre. Whiteface is the court jester of the Middle Ages. The White-face is the most intelligent type of clown with the highest status - typically the ringleader.
In the 1860s, or so the story goes, a low-comedy comic appeared under the name of Auguste, who had a big nose, baggy clothes, and large shoes. He worked with a White-face clown and always spoiled the tricks by appearing at the wrong time to mess things up. This then became a type of act – called the Auguste clown. The Auguste clown is the least intelligent, and zaniest of the clowns. The Auguste clown tends to be the silly clown in skits.
The Hobo or Tramp clown is the most popular character clown, although character clowns can be police officers, women, babies or government officials. The Hobo usually has tattered clothes, a tattered hat, make-up which suggests he is unshaven, exaggerated features and a red nose. The generic Tramp character is 'down-on-his-luck'. The Tramp clown is an American creation. Charlie Chaplin as the silent 'Little Tramp' clown, brought laughter to millions worldwide through film.
Now, that I knew a little bit more about clowns, writing the script became easier. I knew exactly what type of clown I wanted to make my clown and how I wanted to depict him. It’s crazy what a little research can do!