The Education of a Circus Clown

Mentors, Audiences, Mistakes

  • Authors
  • David Carlyon

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. David Carlyon
    Pages 1-10
  3. David Carlyon
    Pages 11-29
  4. David Carlyon
    Pages 31-45
  5. David Carlyon
    Pages 47-61
  6. David Carlyon
    Pages 63-75
  7. David Carlyon
    Pages 77-89
  8. David Carlyon
    Pages 91-104
  9. David Carlyon
    Pages 105-118
  10. David Carlyon
    Pages 119-126
  11. David Carlyon
    Pages 127-136
  12. David Carlyon
    Pages 137-145
  13. David Carlyon
    Pages 147-154
  14. David Carlyon
    Pages 155-166
  15. Back Matter
    Pages 167-219

About this book


2017 Freedley Award Finalist, Theatre Library Association

2016 Best Circus Book of the Year, Stuart Thayer Prize, Circus Historical Society

The 1960s American hippie-clown boom fostered many creative impulses, including neo-vaudeville and Ringling's Clown College. However, the origin of that impulse, clowning with a circus, has largely gone unexamined. David Carlyon, through an autoethnographic examination of his own experiences in clowning, offers a close reading of the education of a professional circus clown, woven through an eye-opening, sometimes funny, occasionally poignant look at circus life. Layering critical reflections of personal experience with connections to wider scholarship, Carlyon focuses on the work of clowning while interrogating what clowns actually do, rather than using them as stand-ins for conceptual ideas or as sentimental figures.


Circus Clown improvisation interaction performance apprenticeship Ringling Barnum America clown comedy concept education experience history of literature present

Bibliographic information