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What are the 4 types of clowns?

Clowns have been around for centuries, bringing laughter and entertainment to people of all ages. While clowns may seem similar on the surface, there are actually several distinct types of clowns, each with their own unique history, makeup, costumes, and comedic style.

The 4 Main Types of Clowns

The most common types of clowns include:

  • Whiteface Clowns
  • Auguste Clowns
  • Character Clowns
  • Comedy Clowns

Each of these clown varieties has developed its own recognizable traits and traditions over time. Let’s take a closer look at what distinguishes each one.

Whiteface Clowns

Whiteface clowns are the most classic and traditional clowns. Their distinctive makeup includes white foundation covering the entire face, with red or black outlines around the mouth and eyes. Features are generally painted in a dignified, neutral manner without a big smile or frown.

The whiteface clown often plays the role of the straight man or the one in charge in clown routines. Common whiteface clown characters include the elegant tramp, the stuck-up aristocrat, the spoiled prince, the sad sack, and the policeman. Their humor is dry, sarcastic, and satirical.

Famous whiteface clowns include Marceline from the 19th century and mimes such as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character.

Whiteface Clown Makeup

Whiteface clown makeup typically includes:

  • Heavy white foundation covering the face and neck
  • Bold red, black, or blue outlines around the mouth and eyes
  • Dark eyebrows
  • Red or black nose
  • Little to no other colors on the face

The heavy white makeup gives this clown variety its name and covers up all natural skin tones. The outlines around the eyes and mouth are cleanly shaped, often with rounded edges. The makeup is designed to allow for subtle emotional expressions rather than extreme cartoony smiles or frowns.

Whiteface Clown Costumes

Costumes for whiteface clowns tend to be dignified and elegant, reinforcing their straight man role. Common costumes include:

  • Nice suits with tails and top hats
  • Long trenchcoats
  • Frilly dresses for female clowns
  • Period costumes such as Renaissance attire or pilgrim outfits

Costumes are typically in shades of grey, white, silver, or salmon pink. They are designed to look formal and pompous, while still retaining a whimsical clown flair.

Types of Whiteface Clowns

Some of the most popular whiteface clown archetypes include:

  • The Hobo or Tramp: Shabbily dressed and down on their luck but maintains dignity and cheerfulness.
  • The Gentleman: Wears tailcoat and top hat, acts wealthy and sophisticated.
  • The Dandy: Fashionable and vain pretty boy in frilly costumes.
  • The Sad Sack: Wears ill-fitting clothes, always mopey and depressed.
  • The Old Soldier: Poses as a veteran soldier and authority figure.
  • The Policeman: Authoritative law enforcer in police uniform.

Auguste Clowns

Auguste clowns are the wacky pranksters of the clown family. They wear outrageous, colorful costumes and expressive makeup to match their zany, slapstick antics. Auguste clowns are immensely popular thanks to their crazy costumes, wigs, and props that add to their sense of mischief and fun.

Auguste clowns interact with the more strait-laced whiteface clowns in skits, playing the silly fool who messes up the whiteface clown’s dignified façade. They are the ones slipping on giant shoes, spraying seltzer water everywhere, and engaging in other boisterous comedy routines.

Well-known Auguste clowns include Lou Jacobs, who played an accident-prone janitor, and Red Skelton’s famous hobo clown character Freddie the Freeloader.

Auguste Clown Makeup

Auguste makeup is designed to look absurd and exaggerated. Features include:

  • Base foundation in flesh tone or white
  • Red nose
  • Painted mouth with bright red lips extending nearly ear-to-ear
  • Thick, arching eyebrows
  • Large eyes rimmed with black and painted eyelashes
  • Oversized buttons, bows, and ruffles glued to the face
  • Wild, frizzy wigs

Unlike elegant whiteface clown makeup, the Auguste’s look is intentionally ridiculous and over-the-top. Their makeup is meant to appear clownish rather than dignified.

Auguste Clown Costumes

Auguste clown outfits match their outrageous makeup. Costumes are usually mismatched, baggy, and loaded with absurd and funny accessories. Typical Auguste costumes include:

  • Oversized, long shoes
  • Baggy, loud checkered pants or skirt
  • Frumpy jacket covering an odd vest or shirt
  • GIgantic bow tie
  • Colorful wig with big puffs of hair or silly hat
  • Funny props like a horn, whistle, ear muffs, fake glasses, and more

Anything shocking, weird, or ugly is perfect for an Auguste costume. The sillier, the better!

Types of Auguste Clowns

Popular types of Auguste clown characters include:

  • The Bum: Wears mismatched, baggy clothes and acts like a hobo.
  • The Tramp: Bumbling janitor in an ill-fitting uniform and wonky hat.
  • The Fool: The most outrageous and wacky of Augustes in wild costumes.
  • The Acrobat: Animated gymnast Auguste prone to physical comedy.
  • The Animal:Takes on the persona of an animal with costumes and mimicry.

Character Clowns

Character clowns adopt the persona of a specific recognizable character or archetype. Their acts rely heavily on that single unique character rather than general clowning.

Popular character clown types include cowboys, policemen, firemen, doctors, old vaudeville performers, famous politicians or celebrities, animals, robots, aliens, and more. They may also portray a single fictional persona like a superhero clown.

Character clowns need strong acting skills in addition to clowning abilities to successfully impersonate their chosen role. Famous examples of character clowns include Charlie Cairoli’s Italian servant clown, the Swiss clown Grock, and Otto Griebling’s Emmett Kelly tramp clown.

Character Clown Makeup

Character clown makeup matches the archetype of the role. For example:

  • Cowboy clowns wear bold face paint with western motifs.
  • Animal clowns emulate the colors and patterns of that creature.
  • A celebrity clown exaggerates the real person’s signature looks.

Some character clowns follow stylized whiteface or Auguste makeup traditions, while others opt for customized looks fitting their persona. The makeup helps distinguish the clown’s role and identity for the audience.

Character Clown Costumes

Costumes are crucial for character clowns to establish their distinct persona. Examples include:

  • Firefighter turnout gear for a fireman clown
  • Nurse’s uniform and cap for a nurse clown
  • Robotic makeup and flashing accessories for a robot clown
  • Cowboy hat, boots, and holster for a cowboy clown

Costumes signify exactly who the clown is portraying and are customized for that persona. While silly elements are incorporated to retain the clownish spirit, costumes accurately reflect the character’s role and personality.

Popular Types of Character Clowns

Well-known character clown varieties include:

  • Cowboys and Indians: Wild West frontier characters.
  • Cops and Robbers: Humorous take on officers and crooks.
  • Doctors and Nurses: Wacky versions of medical roles.
  • Celebrity Impersonators: Clowns dressed as famous figures.
  • Animals: Clowns dressed in costumes, face paint, and behaviors of various creatures and pets.

Comedy Clowns

Comedy clowns specialize in making audiences laugh through slapstick routines, prop comedy, and humorous sketches. While all clowns aim to be funny, comedy clowns focus on polished comedic skills above all else.

Comedy clown acts feature a series of hilarious set pieces, gags, and routines carefully rehearsed for maximum entertainment value. Physical comedy is emphasized along with joke telling, impersonations, and other crowd-pleasing elements.

Famed comedy clowns include Bill Irwin, David Shiner, and Geoff Hoyle who performed extensively with Cirque du Soleil.

Comedy Clown Makeup

There are no set makeup rules for comedy clowns. Their look can borrow from classic whiteface or Auguste makeup trends or develop a unique style depending on the clown’s act and personality.

Comedy clown makeup may include:

  • Signature markings like stars, hearts, or lightning bolts.
  • Funny facial expressions painted on like a permanent smile or look of surprise.
  • Bright, rainbow colors to match their vibrant personality.
  • Sparkles and glitter to add a whimsical touch.

The makeup look will complement and punctuate their humorous hijinks and comedy routines.

Comedy Clown Costumes

Costumes for comedy clowns allow for comedic movement and physical comedy. Baggy pants, suspenders, and oversized shoes are common for exaggerated movements and silly walks.

Other comedy clown costumes include:

  • Bright, colorful patchwork outfits.
  • Funny prints or patterns.
  • Wacky wigs.
  • Spangled and glittery costumes.
  • Prop-heavy outfits incorporating props like balloons or noisemakers.

Costumes visually establish these clowns as kooky jokesters designed to make people laugh.

Types of Comedy Clowns

Variations within comedy clowns include:

  • The Jester: Wisecracking medieval pranksters.
  • Mimes: Perform pantomime routines.
  • Prop Comics: Incorporate props like balloons, instruments, balls, and plates into their act.
  • Impersonators: Imitate mannerisms and voices of celebrities or stereotypes.
  • Parody Clowns: Affectionately spoof cultural figures and stories through clowning.


Clowning traces its roots back to ancient history, evolving through court jesters, theatrical fools, and comedic performers of all stripes. Today’s clowns can be categorized into four main types: whiteface, Auguste, character, and comedy clowns. Each offers their own sense of humor, costuming, and role within the clowning world.

Whiteface clowns are the straight men with elegant costumes and makeup. Auguste clowns are jokesters in outrageous clothes who amuse and perplex their whiteface counterparts. Character clowns adopt a signature persona. And comedy clowns rely on practiced comedic routines to entertain audiences.

Modern clowns carry on the classic clowning traditions in circus shows, children’s parties, and other events. Their silly antics and playful humor continue bringing laughter to audiences of all ages.