The attributes of a clown are playfulness, irreverence, and the freedom of ‘not knowing’. In ancient Greece comics were bald-headed and padded to appear larger than normal. They performed as secondary figures in farces and mime, parodying the actions of more serious characters. In Roman mime the clown wore a pointed hat and a patchwork colourful robe and was the target for the tricks and abuse.
The clown emerged as a professional comic actor in the late Middle Ages. Court jesters and fools were influences for travelling entertainers. Italian commedia dell’arte, improvised masked comedy with stock plots also developed many stock clown characters, including Arlecchino (Harlequin) in the 16th century. Harlequin began as a comic valet, or zanni, but soon developed into an acrobatic trickster, wearing a black domino mask and carrying a bat or noisy slapstick with which he frequently hit his victims. Pierrot was another Zanni, always the butt of jokes and pranks, he was the lowest of low in society. Commedia also had lazzi, or humorous interludes.
The 3 traditional types of clowns are the White-face, Auguste and Character.