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Clowning

“Embedded in the nature of clown is the spirit of joy and resistance to oppressive forces,” write Amrita Dhaliwal and Nathaniel Justiniano in the description of their Journal series When Clowns Fight the Power. In this section, you’ll find content about many facets of clowning, including its relationship to activism, how it can be done online, and the role gender plays in the practice.

The Latest

Clowning for a Cause: Healthcare Clowns Offer Opportunities for Holistic Healing
Essay
Clowning for a Cause: Healthcare Clowns Offer Opportunities for Holistic Healing
by Amelia Parenteau
8 March 2022
The Brutalities of Mr. Punch
Essay
The Brutalities of Mr. Punch
by Leda Farrow
27 January 2022
Iranian Blackface Clowns are Racist, No Matter How You Sugarcoat Them in Obscure Archaic Mythology
Essay
Iranian Blackface Clowns are Racist, No Matter How You Sugarcoat Them in Obscure Archaic Mythology
A Fragmented Argument in Five Acts
by Hesam Sharifian
10 May 2021
Two clowns in lab coats make a patient laugh.
Clowning for a Cause: Healthcare Clowns Offer Opportunities for Holistic Healing
Essay

Clowning for a Cause: Healthcare Clowns Offer Opportunities for Holistic Healing

8 March 2022

Although healthcare clowns have existed for more than forty years, their work isn’t widely understood. Amelia Parenteau discusses the substantial patient benefits that healthcare clowns provide while diving into their history and current practices.

A puppet booth with two puppets in the window.
The Brutalities of Mr. Punch
Essay

The Brutalities of Mr. Punch

27 January 2022

Leda Farrow considers the history, legacy, and symbolic potential of Mr. Punch, a hand puppet characterized by his violent acts.

Outline of iran with Quote
Iranian Blackface Clowns are Racist, No Matter How You Sugarcoat Them in Obscure Archaic Mythology
Essay

Iranian Blackface Clowns are Racist, No Matter How You Sugarcoat Them in Obscure Archaic Mythology

A Fragmented Argument in Five Acts

10 May 2021

Hesam Sharifian reflects on how the blackface mask of the Hāji Firuz and Siāh-Bāzi clowns in Iran is reminiscent of an ugly past and should not be used in performance today.

three people standing outside
Liberating Terror
Essay

Liberating Terror

Clown and Activism

13 November 2020

Sayda Trujillo talks about white supremacy’s prevalence in clown pedagogy and shares how the invincible spirit of the clown has shaped her, “seeping through every tiny crack possible to make itself present to speak, to laugh, to sing, to bounce, to witness, and to encounter.”

a clown kissing a clear riot shield
Antiauthoritarian Clowning
Essay

Antiauthoritarian Clowning

A Tactical Review

12 November 2020

L.M. Bogad shares the story of the beginnings of Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, several tenets of “clownfrontational” tactics, examples of rebel clowning in a different contexts, and more.

three clowns posing with a handmade banner
Action and Reaction / Acción Y Reacción
Essay

Action and Reaction / Acción Y Reacción

The Experience of a Chilensis Clown Circus Theatre Company / Experiencia de una compañía chilensis de circo teatro payasx

11 November 2020

Members of Chile’s Compañía Siató—Valentina Paz Berger Correa, Jean Carlo Montecinos Carreño, Hernán Enrique Huerta Vargas, and Felipe Jesús Pereira Godoy—discuss clowning across Latin America; their show Sacrilegio, which denounces and ridicules religion, the church, and the police; the political duty of the artist; and more.

triptych of three clowns
A Very Very Very Serious Clown from Lebanon
Essay

A Very Very Very Serious Clown from Lebanon

10 November 2020

Amrita Dhaliwal and Nathaniel Justiniano speak with Lebanese humanitarian clown Sabine Choucair, covering the differences between clowning and bouffon, joining the revolution, environmental work, and more.

a group posing for a photo in front of a white van with "democracy" written on it
Can a Clown Be an Activist?
Essay

Can a Clown Be an Activist?

9 November 2020

Nathaniel Justiniano and Amrita Dhaliwal kick off the clown, bouffon, and activism series, talking about how the clown world has a racism problem and introducing the four contributors who practice their art around the world.

a clown nose on a laptop
Theatre, Clown, and Physical Comedy… Online?
Essay

Theatre, Clown, and Physical Comedy… Online?

17 August 2020

Charlie Peters, who has spent the early days of the pandemic thinking about and experimenting with how physical comedy can (and can’t) live online, shares what he’s learned.

an actress with a styrofoam cup
How Object Puppetry Confronts Climate Change
Essay

How Object Puppetry Confronts Climate Change

3 October 2019

Caroline Reck, artistic director of Glass Half Full Theatre in Austin, Texas, talks about how her company uses clown and object theatre to engage people in the battle against climate change.

Clowning While Female
Video

Clowning While Female

A Conversation at the Brick Theater in New York City

Sunday 9 September 2018
Borderlands Theater, Tuscon, AZ, United States

Clowns Ex Machina (Kendall Cornell, Artistic Director) presented the panel Clowning While Female: A Conversation as part of the Brick Theater’s New York Clown Theatre on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Sunday 9 September at 12:00 p.m. PDT (San Francisco) / 2:00 p.m. CDT (Chicago) / 3:00 p.m. EDT (New York).

a clown kissing a clear riot shield
When Clowns Fight the Power
Series

When Clowns Fight the Power

This series features a selection of folx from around the world who are all part of a long and diverse heritage of clown activists who subvert bigots and in cultivate hope in hard-hit communities. From rural villages to urban centers, from popular protests to refugee camps, each of our contributors use grit and humor to activate their communities toward equity and justice.