The most famous clowns



Clowns are present in our culture for a long time. You can recall at least related clowns who were at the court and entertained to know. The very word “clown” appeared in the beginning of the XVI century. Originally called the comic character from the English medieval theater. This hero has improvised a lot, and his jokes were simple and even rude.

Today, the clown is a circus or variety artist, using buffoonery and grotesque. This profession is not as simple as it seems. In addition, clowns work in different genres, without such a people does not do any self-respecting circus. Who else will laugh the audience in between the numbers?


It is interesting that in America the image of the clown was surprisingly terrible. The fault is numerous works, where this image is exhibited by the bloodthirsty and cruel (remember at least the Joker). There was even such a mental illness as clownophobia. Speaking of modern clownery, you can not fail to mention the name of Charlie Chaplin. This comedian actor served as a source of inspiration for the actors of this genre, his image was copied and reused.

I must say that the most outstanding clowns realized themselves and far beyond the circus, in the cinema, at the theater, while performing a tragic repertoire. The most famous people of this ridiculous, not uncomplicated profession will be discussed below. Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837).

This English actor is considered the father of modern clownery. It is believed that he was the first clown with a European face. Thanks to Grimaldi, the comic character became the central figure of the English harlequinade. Joseph’s father, an Italian, himself was a pantoneist, an artist and choreographer in the theater. And her mother acted in the corps de ballet. From the age of two the boy has been performing at the theater. Failures in his personal life turned the young Grimaldi’s eyes to work. Glory to him brought the staging at the Royal Theater “Fairy Tales Mother Goose”. The actor became a clear innovator, because his character, the clown Joy, is similar to modern images. The clown was the central character in the rooms, he came up with buffoons and visual tricks, invariably causing audience laughter. The image of a simpleton and a fool originates from the time of comedy del arte. Grimaldi brought the female pantomime to the theater and laid the tradition of participating in the public’s presentation. The game on the stage undermined the health of the clown, effectively making him a cripple. In 50 years Grimaldi went bankrupt and lived on the basis of a pension and help from charitable performances in his honor. When he died, the newspapers wrote bitterly that the spirit of pantomime is now lost, because there is simply no equal to a clown in terms of talent. Jean-Baptiste Auriol (1806-1881).

At the beginning of the XIX century as such, the image of the clown was not yet there. The comic horse acrobats joked in the arena, there was a mime rider and a clown. This state of affairs changed when the figure of Jean-Baptiste Oriole appeared in the French circus. As a child, he was sent to study in a family of cable dancers. Soon Jean-Baptiste became an independent artist of a stray wandering circus. The artist’s career quickly went uphill, an acrobat rider with comic talents was seen. In the early 1830s, he was invited to join the Luasse troupe. With her, Oriol began to travel around Europe. The next step was the Paris Olympic Circus Theater. The debut took place on July 1, 1834. Jean-Baptiste showed himself versatile masters – he and the tightrope walker, and the juggler and the forces. In addition, it was also a grotesque actor. A strong and powerful body was crowned with a cheerful face, the grimaces of which mixed the hall. The clown wore a special suit, which was a modernized outfit of a medieval jester. But the makeup of Oriol was not, he used only common ground. In essence, the work of this clown can be considered a rug. He filled the pauses between speeches, parodied the main repertoire. It was Oriol who formed the image of a clown, gave him a touch of French humor and brought romanticism to the circus. In his old age, Oriol began to play in comic scenes, participating in pantomimes.

The most famous clowns

Groc (1880-1959).

The real name of this Swiss is Charles Adrien Vetta. His family was an ordinary peasant, but his father was able to instill in his son a love for the circus. Charles’s talent was noticed by the clown Alfred, who invited the young man to the troupe of the wandering circus. Having gained experience in it, Charles left his partners and left for France. By that time, the clown had learned to own several musical instruments, was able to juggle, was an acrobat and a rope-walker. Only here in the National Swiss Circus in the city of NĂ®mes, a young artist achieved only a job as a cashier. Charles was able to make friends with the musical eccentric Brik, replacing his partner Brock with time. The new clown chose the pseudonym Grock. The debut of the artist in the National Swiss Circus took place on October 1, 1903. The troupe toured a lot. With her, Grock visited Spain, Belgium and even in South America. In 1911, in Berlin, the clown suffered a fiasco, but touring in Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1913 were much more successful. Groka became known as the king of clowns. Tours in Russia also turned triumph. After the war, Grock again resumed performances, having visited with tours even in America. In the early 30’s, the clown even made a film about himself, which had no success. Already after the end of the Second World War, the artist issued two more tapes with his best numbers, and in 1951 he even opened his own circus “Grock”. The last exit to the arena of the famous clown took place in 1954. The name of Grock is a mask, which is presented as a prize at the European International Circus Festival of Clowns. Mikhail Rumyantsev (1901-1983).

Clown Pencil is a classic of the Soviet circus. Michael’s accession to art began in art schools, but did not attract interest. The career career of the future artist began with drawing posters for the theater. In 1925 Rumyantsev moved to Moscow, where he began to draw posters for the cinema. Destructive for a young artist was 1926, when he was next to a saw Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Like them, Rumyantsev decided to become an actor. After the courses of the stage movement there was a school of circus art. From 1928 to 1932, the clown appeared in public in the image of Charlie Chaplin. Since 1935, Rumyantsev began to use his new image of Karan D’Asha. In 1936, the clown worked in the Moscow circus, the final point of the formation of his new image was a small Scotch terrier. Clown’s performances were dynamic, filled with satire on the most acute problems in society. Coming on tour to a new city, the artist tried to insert into his speech the name of some local popular place. In the 40’s and 50’s, Pencil began to attract assistants in his speeches, among which was Yuri Nikulin. The clown was so popular that only his performances guaranteed circus financial success. The merry clown conscientiously gave himself to his work, but outside the arena demanded complete dedication from his assistants. Career Pencil in the circus has 55 years. The last time he appeared in the arena just 2 weeks before his death. The work of the artist was awarded numerous awards, he was the Hero of Socialist Labor, People’s Artist of Russia and the USSR.

The most famous clowns

Nuk (1908-1998).

Under such a pseudonym, the German Georg Spillner became famous throughout the world. When in 1932 he began his career as a dentist, no one imagined such a sharp turn in his destiny. But soon Georg refused this work, becoming a musical clown. Already in 1937 the German Theater in Munich declared him as the most famous clown in Europe. “The chip” of the artist was his large suitcase and a huge coat, which hid a variety of musical instruments. Nuke performed at the most famous concert venues in Europe, but despite his fame he remained a rather modest man. The clown was very musical, playing the saxophone, mandolin, flute, clarinet, violin, harmonica.In the 60’s he was written about as the most gentle clown of all time. Nuka was often compared to another legend, Gork, but the German had his own unique image. It is said that one day a clown wanted to buy one of his numbers to Nuk, but he refused. After all, his image is all life, with its experience, feelings, success and slaps. For many years, his wife, who played the piano, also appeared on the stage with Georg. In 1991, for her charitable work for her former colleagues, Germany awarded him with a cross “For Merits”. Nuk himself said that a stereotype had developed in the society according to which the clown should be a sad person in life, and on the stage constantly joke. But this image has nothing to do with him. The clown wrote that it is not necessary to study to obtain such a profession, but hard work is necessary. The secret of the artist was simple – everything that was in his mind was personally experienced by George. Constantine Bergman (1914-2000).

This Soviet carpet clown appeared in the family of a circus orchestra conductor. No wonder the boy was constantly attracted by the arena. From childhood, he participated in pantomimes, mastering other genres of circus art. The professional career of the clown began at the age of 14, with his brother Nikolai he put the number “Acrobats-Voltigeurs”. Until 1936, the couple performed together, using the images of popular comedians G. Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. During the war, Bergman acted as a member of front-line brigades. Fame brought him a simple reprise of the “Dog-Hitler”. It described how a clown barking at all the dog was embarrassed to call Hitler, because she might take offense. In 1956, Bergman became a well-deserved artist of the RSFSR. The clown was able to create the mask of an important dandy, putting on a ridiculous dandy suit. Circus artist turned to conversational reprises, arguing not only on everyday topics, but even about politics. Bergman was quite a versatile clown, including in other rooms. He jumped over the car like an acrobat, participated in air flights. Bergman toured the country a lot, Iran applauded him. The famous clown appeared in two tapes, in “The Girl on the Ball” he played in essence himself.

The most famous clowns

Leonid Engibarov (1935-1972).

Despite his short life, this man managed to leave a bright mark in art. Mime managed to create a new role – a sad clown, besides Engibarov was also a talented writer. Leonid from childhood fell in love with fairy tales and a puppet theater. At school, he began to study boxing and even entered the Institute of Physical Education, but quickly realized that this was not his vocation. In 1955, Engibarov entered the Circus School, where he began to study clownery. While still a student, Leonid began to perform on the stage as a mime. A full-fledged debut took place in 1959 in Novosibirsk. Already by 1961, Engibarov traveled a lot of Soviet cities and everywhere had a resounding success. At the same time, there was a trip abroad, to Poland, where the clown was also applauded by grateful spectators. In 1964 at the International Festival in Prague Engibarov was recognized as the best clown of the world, his novels began to be published. About the talented artist make documentary films, he is involved in the cinema, working with Parajanov, Shukshin. The famous clown at the height of his fame leaves the circus and creates his own theater. Engibarov, along with his constant director Yuri Belov, put on the play “Quirks of the Clown”. For 240 days of tours around the country in 1971-1972 this show was shown 210 times. The great clown died in the hot summer from a heart rupture. When he was buried, a downpour suddenly broke out in Moscow. It seemed that the sky itself mourns the loss of a sad clown. Engibarov entered the history of the circus as a representative of the philosophical clown pantomime.

The most famous clowns

Yuri Nikulin (1921-1997).

Most people know Nikulin as a brilliant film actor. But his vocation was a circus. The father and mother of the future clown were actors, which predetermined the fate of Nikulin.He went through the whole war, receiving military awards. After the end of the fighting Nikulin tried to enter VGIK and other theatrical institutions. But nowhere was he accepted, as the acting commissions could not discern the actor’s talents in the young man. As a result, Nikulin entered the clowning studio at Tsirka on Tsvetnoy Boulevard. The young actor, together with Mikhail Shuidin, began to assist Pencil. The couple traveled extensively and quickly gained experience. Since 1950, Nikulin and Shuidin began to work independently. Their joint work continued until 1981. If Shuidin had an image of a shirt-guy who knows everything, then Nikulin depicted a lazy and melancholy person. In life, partners in the arena of relations did not practically support. Since 1981, Nikulin became the main director of his native circus, and from next year and director. You can not ignore the participation of the famous clown in the cinema. The debut on the big screen took place in 1958. All-national love to Nikulin-actor was brought by the comedies of Gaidai (“Operation” Y “and other adventures of Shurik”, “Caucasian captive”, “Diamond hand”). However, behind his shoulders and a lot of serious pictures – “Andrei Rublev”, “They fought for their country”, “Scarecrow”. The talented clone proved to be a serious and deep dramatic actor. Yuri Nikulin received the title of People’s Artist of the USSR and Hero of Socialist Labor. Near the circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard there is a monument to the famous clown and his partner.

The most famous clowns

Marcel Marceau (1923-2007).

This French actor Mim created a whole school of his art. He was born in a Jewish family in Strasbourg. Interest to the acting art appeared in Marcel after acquaintance with the tapes of Charlie Chaplin. Marceau studied at the School of Decorative Arts in Limoges, then at the Sarah Bernard Theater, where Etienne Decrou taught him the mimicry. During the Second World War the beginning clown fled the country. He took part in the Resistance, and most of his relatives, including his parents, were killed in Auschwitz. In 1947 Marceau created his most famous image. Clown Beep with a white face, in a striped sweater and a battered hat, became known to the whole world. At the same time, the clown troupe “Commonwealth of Mimes”, which existed for 13 years, was created. The performances of this unusual theater with solo performances saw the best sites of the country. Subsequent years, Marceau was already on his own. Several times he toured in the Soviet Union, the first time it happened in 1961. In one of the scenes sad Beep, sitting at the table, listened to his interlocutors. Turning to one, the clown made a cheerful expression on his face, and to the other – a sad expression. Replicas alternated and gradually accelerated, forcing the clown to constantly change the mood. This was only possible by Marceau. Miniatures with Bip’s participation are generally filled with sympathy for the poor fellow. In 1978, the clown created his own Paris school of pantomime. In his arsenal, new miniatures and new heroes appeared. It is said that it was Marcel Marceau who taught Michael Jackson his famous lunar walk. For his contribution to art, the actor received the highest award of France – the Order of the Legion of Honor.

The most famous clowns

Oleg Popov (born 1930).

The famous artist is called the founding father of Soviet clownery. In 1944, while practicing acrobatics, the young man got acquainted with the students of the circus school. Oleg was so fascinated by the circus that he immediately enrolled in the school, having received in 1950 a specialty “eccentric on the wire.” But already in 1951 Popov made his debut as a clown clown. The artist was able to create an artistic image of the “Sunny Clown”. This cheerful man with a knot of blond hair wore excessively wide pants and a checkered cap. In performances, the clown uses a variety of techniques – acrobatics, juggling, parody, balancing act. Particular attention is paid to antra, which are realized with the help of eccentrics and buffoonery. Among the most famous reprises of Popov, you can recall “Whistle”, “Ray and” Cook. “In his most famous room, the clown tries to catch a ray of sunshine in the bag. Creativity of the artist was not limited to the theater alone, he did a lot on television, participated in the children’s television program “Alarm Clock”. Popov was shot even in the movies (more than 10 tapes) and directed circus performances. The famous clown took part in the first tour of the Soviet circus in Western Europe. Speeches there brought Popov truly world fame. The clown became the winner of the International Circus Festival in Warsaw, received an Oscar award in Brussels, received the “Golden Clown” prize at the Monte Carlo festival. In 1991, Popov left Russia, for personal reasons, and also unable to accept the collapse of the great Motherland. Now he lives and works in Germany, speaking under the pseudonym of Happy Hans.

The most famous clowns

Glory Polunin (born 1950).

Polunin was educated at the Leningrad State Institute of Culture, and later in the variety department of GITIS. In the 1980s, Vyacheslav created the famous theater “Litsedei.” He literally blew up the audience with the numbers “Asisya”, “Nizza” and “Blue Canary”. The theater has become very popular. In 1982 Polunin organized Mim-parade, which from all over the country gathered more than 800 pantomime artists. In 1985, as part of the World Youth and Students’ Meeting, a festival was held in which international clowns also took part. Since then, Polunin has organized many festivals, staged performances, numbers and reprises, trying on a variety of masks. Since 1988, the clown moved abroad, where he receives worldwide fame. His “cute show” is now considered a theatrical classics. Spectators say that the snow Polunina warms their hearts. The work of the clown was awarded the prize of Lawrence Olivier in England, the awards in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Barcelona. Polunin is an honorary resident of London. The Western press calls him “the best clown of the world.” Despite the “frivolous” occupation, the clown thoroughly approaches his work. Even the most crazy and adventurous show in his performance is actually carefully thought out and weighed. Polunin works a lot and does not know how to rest at all, although his life is a pleasure, on and off stage. And most importantly – this person creates a holiday.



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