Originally a foil for Harlequin's slyness and adroit nature, Clown was a buffoon or bumpkin fool who resembled less a jester than a comical idiot.
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Red Skelton's character in The Clown (1953), Dodo the Clown, depicts the circus clown as a tragicomic stock character, "a funny man with a drinking problem".
In the United States, Bozo the Clown was a very influential Auguste character since the late 1950s.
In the early 1800s, he expanded the role of Clown in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden theatres.
He became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as "Joey", and both the nickname and Grimaldi's whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns.
Based on the Bozo template, the US custom of "birthday clown", private contractors who offer to perform as clowns at children's parties, developed in the 1960s to 1970s.
The strong association of the (Bozo-derived) clown character with children's entertainment as it has developed since the 1960s also gave rise to "Clown Care" or "hospital clowning" in children's hospitals by the mid 1980s.
Their entertainment style is generally designed to entertain large audiences, especially at a distance.
Modern clowns are strongly associated with the tradition of the circus clown, which developed out of earlier comedic roles in theatre or Varieté shows during the 19th to mid 20th centuries.
Many circus clowns have become well known and are a key circus act in their own right.
The first mainstream clown role was portrayed by Joseph Grimaldi (who also created the traditional whiteface make-up design).
In the early 20th century, with the gradual disappearance of the "rustic simpleton" or "village idiot" character of everyday experience, North American circus and comedy developed derived characters such as the "tramp" or "hobo," notably Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp (1914) and Emmett Kelly's Weary Willie (developed by in the 1930s based on the hobos of the Depression era).