Clown Is in Town
Clowns are comical performers, stereotypically characterized by their grotesque appearances: colored wigs, stylistic makeup, outlandish costumes, unusually large footwear, red-nose, etc., who entertain spectators by acting in a hilarious fashion. The types of their acts varies greatly. Although some find clowns to be scary, their intended purpose is to entertain people, especially young children. Peter Berger writes that “It seems plausible that folly and fools, like religion and magic, meet some deeply rooted needs in human society.” For this reason, clowning is often considered an important part of training as a physical performance discipline, partly because tricky subject matter can be dealt with, but also because it requires a high level of risk and play in the performer.
Clowning was developed from a broad tradition of historical performances, and it is difficult to point out a singular tradition or even a few different ones as being the primary precursors to clowns. However there are a few past prominent forms of entertainment contemporarily linked to clowning as its possible antecedents.
Examples of historical, “clown-like” comedic performers have been the pantomimus in ancient Greece, the Lazzi of Commedia dell’Arte, bouffons, court jesters, as well as the French mime tradition. On top of this there are many non-European clowning traditions (including clown-like figures in Japanese Kabuki theatre) to consider which may or may not have influenced what we now think of as a clown.
A whiteface character does not always wear the classic whiteface makeup. Additionally, a character can wear traditional whiteface makeup and be an auguste.
Classic appearance. Traditionally, the whiteface clown uses “clown white” makeup to cover his or her entire face and neck with none of the underlying flesh color showing. In the European whiteface makeup, the ears are painted red. Features, in red and black, are delicate. He or she is traditionally costumed far more extravagantly than the other two clown types, sometimes wearing the ruffled collar and pointed hat which typify the stereotypical “clown suit”.