Clowns History Types & Psychology 2023

Clowns have long been a source of fascination and fear for many people. These colorful entertainers, known for their exaggerated makeup, oversized shoes, and humorous antics, have a rich history that spans centuries. Beyond their entertainment value, comics also possess a psychological depth that can both captivate and unsettle individuals. In this psychologyorg article, we will delve into the history and psychology of clowns, exploring their origins, evolution, types, and the various emotions they evoke.


Introduction to Clowns

Clowns, in their various forms, have existed throughout different cultures and time periods. The roots of comics can be traced back to antique civilizations, where jesters and fools pleased royal courts with their tricks and comedy. However, the modern concept of jesters, as we know them today, began to emerge in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Evolution of Clowning

In the 18th century, the clown persona started to evolve with the introduction of the circus. Pioneers like Joseph Grimaldi in England and Jean-Gaspard Deburau in France brought a new level of physical comedy and theatricality to the art of clowning. Their performances incorporated slapstick humor, acrobatics, and pantomime, captivating audiences with their exaggerated gestures and facial expressions.

Types of Clowns

Comics come in various forms and styles, each with its own unique characteristics and performances. These different types of jokers contribute to the diversity and richness of the clowning tradition. Here are some of the most common types of jesters:

1. Whiteface Clowns

Whiteface comics are characterized by their white makeup, which covers the entire face and often extends to the neck and chest. They typically have exaggerated facial features and use vibrant colors for their costumes. Whiteface jokers are known for their elegant and refined appearance, and they often play the role of authority figures or sophisticated tricksters.

2. Auguste Clowns

Auguste jesters are the classic “bumbling fool” or “hobo” jesters. They have brightly colored, mismatched costumes and use minimal makeup, typically with exaggerated facial features and colorful wigs. Auguste jesters are known for their clumsiness, slapstick humor, and physical comedy. They often act as the comedic sidekick or foil to other types of jesters.

3. Character Clowns

Character jokers are comedians who embody specific personalities or roles. They may be based on recognizable archetypes or professions, such as the tramp clown, the old woman clown, or the mischievous child clown. Character comedians rely on physicality, mannerisms, and distinctive costumes to bring their characters to life, often incorporating humor and storytelling into their performances.

4. Mime Clowns

Mime clowns, also known as silent jokers or pantomime jokers, rely on non-verbal communication to entertain and engage audiences. They use exaggerated gestures, facial expressions, and body movements to convey their stories and create comedic situations. Mime jokers often perform with minimal props and rely on their physicality and imagination to entertain.

5. Clown Artists

Clown artists are clowns who incorporate artistic skills, such as juggling, acrobatics, magic, or music, into their performances. They combine the elements of clowning with their specialized talents to create captivating and entertaining acts. Clown artists often have a specific area of expertise and may perform in various settings, including circuses, variety shows, and street performances.

6. Grotesque Clowns

Grotesque jesters, also known as horror jesters or grotesque-comic jesters, lean towards the darker and more macabre side of clowning. They often have distorted or exaggerated features, with grotesque makeup and costumes. Grotesque jesters blur the lines between humor and horror, invoking a sense of unease and fascination in their audiences.

7. Clown Doctors

Clown doctors, also called hospital jesters or therapeutic comics, use clowning techniques to bring laughter and joy to patients in healthcare settings. They create a positive and uplifting atmosphere, providing emotional support and distraction from the challenges of medical treatments. Clown doctors often undergo specialized training to navigate sensitive situations with empathy and care.

8. Educational Clowns

Educational comics, also known as clown teachers or clown educators, use humor and playfulness to engage and educate audiences, particularly children. They employ interactive techniques, storytelling, and comedy to deliver educational messages and promote learning in a fun and memorable way. Educational jesters are often seen in schools, museums, and community events.

These are just a few examples of the diverse types of jesters that exist within the world of clowning. Each type brings its own unique style, skills, and comedic approach, contributing to the vibrant and multifaceted world of clown performances.


The Psychology of Clowns

Comedians have a unique ability to evoke a range of emotions in people. For some, they bring joy, laughter, and a sense of childlike wonder. However, for others, comedians can trigger feelings of fear, unease, or even coulrophobia, which is the fear of jesters. The psychology behind these mixed reactions can be attributed to several factors.

1. The Uncanny Valley

The uncanny valley refers to the phenomenon where human-like figures that fall short of being completely realistic elicit feelings of unease or revulsion. Jokers, with their exaggerated features and painted faces, often straddle the line between familiar and unfamiliar, evoking a sense of discomfort in some individuals.

2. Masking of Emotions

The use of makeup and masks allows comics to conceal their true emotions, creating an air of mystery and unpredictability. This masking of emotions can be intriguing, but it can also unsettle individuals who find it challenging to read the intentions and emotions of the clown.

3. Transgression of Social Norms

Jokers often engage in behavior that transgresses social norms and expectations. Their playful antics, pranks, and irreverent humor can challenge societal boundaries, leading to a sense of unease or unpredictability in some individuals. The juxtaposition of humor and the potential disruption of social order can create a complex emotional response.

4. Childhood Associations

Many people form their first impressions of jesters during childhood. The experience of encountering comedians in circuses, children’s parties, or media can shape one’s perception of these characters. Positive or negative childhood associations with jesters can influence how individuals respond to them later in life.

The Dark Side of Clowns

While jokers are generally associated with laughter and entertainment, there is also a darker side to their portrayal. Popular culture often depicts comics as sinister or malevolent characters, such as Pennywise from Stephen King’s “It.” This representation feeds into the concept of the “evil clown” archetype, reinforcing the fear and unease associated with jesters for some individuals.


Clowns have a rich history and a complex psychology that continues to fascinate and intrigue. They can evoke a wide range of emotions, from joy and laughter to fear and unease. Understanding the origins and psychological factors behind these mixed reactions allows us to appreciate the nuanced nature of comedians as both entertainers and symbols in our culture.

If you want to read more articles similar to Clowns History Types & Psychology 2023, we recommend that you enter our Psychology category.


Why do some people find clowns scary?

Some individuals find clowns scary due to the uncanny valley effect, where the exaggerated features and masked emotions of jesters create feelings of unease. Negative childhood associations or the portrayal of comics as sinister characters in popular culture also contribute to this fear.

How have clowns evolved in modern times?

Clowns have adapted to modern entertainment mediums, such as television and movies. They have also diversified their performances to include a range of styles, from traditional circus comedians to comedic actors who incorporate clowning techniques into their performances.

Are there any positive aspects to clowns?

Absolutely! Clowns have a long history of bringing joy, laughter, and entertainment to audiences. They can inspire a sense of wonder, spark imagination, and provide comic relief in various settings, including circuses, parties, and hospitals.

Is coulrophobia a common fear?

Coulrophobia, the fear of fools, is relatively uncommon compared to other phobias. However, it does exist, and some individuals may experience genuine fear or discomfort when encountering jesters.

Can clowning be therapeutic?

Yes, clowning can be therapeutic. Clowning therapy, often used in hospitals or therapeutic settings, leverages the humor and playfulness of jesters to uplift and engage individuals, particularly children, in a therapeutic process.

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