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POP CULTURE CLOWNS
BY BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN

Clowns are a great part of pop culture history. And people's reactions to them are pretty extreme. Either you're scared of them, or you're afraid of them. No matter what side you're on, we hope you enjoy this thrilling collection of the greatest painted faces to ever grace the big top, courtesy of Bradley Mason Hamlin.

EMMETT KELLY aka “WEARY WILLIE” (1889 – 1979)
Emmett Kelly, an American circus performer, originated the hobo clown Weary Willie, based on depression era tramps. He was a star attraction at Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus when the circus actually meant something, before indoor arenas made it impossible to see anything other than an elephant’s ass.

KOKO THE CLOWN (1919)
Created by Max Fleischer, Koko the Clown first appeared in a series of cartoon shorts called Out of the Ink Well. The Koko animated shorts are some of the best, and funniest, I have ever seen.

THE JOKER (1940)
Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson, The Joker first appeared in Batman No. 1. The Joker is among the top tier of well known fictional villains, a true super star.

 

BOZO THE CLOWN (1946)
Created by Alan W. Livingston, Bozo the Clown first appeared on the Capital album, Bozo at the Circus. He was the star of his own TV show (beginning in 1949!) and arguably the most well known and beloved clown of all time.


photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

RONALD McDONALD (1940)
Created in 1940 by Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, California, McDonald’s is the progenitor of the modern fast food restaurant. Even though, the “Big Mac” was a total rip-off of the “Double-decker cheeseburger” invented by Bob’s Big Boy. Ronald is of course the all too familiar (and I think un-aesthetically appealing) clown mascot we all know and either love or hate.


photo by Ron Sachs/Getty Images

GEORGE W. BUSH (1946)
Created by the Illuminati, George W. Bush became our 43rd President of the United States of America on January 20, 2001. He is one of the most admired clowns throughout the “free” world.

CLARABELL THE CLOWN (1946)
Clarabell the Clown, initially played by Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) was of course the sidekick of Howdy Doody on The Howdy Doody Show, first appearing on television in 1947. Clarabell was mute, but spoke the final words on the show’s finale in 1960: “Goodbye, kids.” Gosh, brings a clownish tear to your eye, don’t it?

 

JACK from JACK IN THE BOX (1951)
“Jack” is the clown mascot, figurehead, and now CEO of Jack of in the Box, an American fast food restaurant chain founded in 1951. My favorite fast food from childhood! Tacos, fries, a coke--it’s all good.

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a Chiodos Brothers film from 1988. The movie, while compelling because of its use of evil [alien] clowns, moves slowly due to poor pacing and bad writing. However, it did give us the A+ theme song (and subsequent EP) Killer Klowns album by the Dickies.

 

KRUSTY THE CLOWN (1989, JAN)
Created by Matt Groening, Krusty the Clown first appeared on The Tracy Ullman Show in the short called “The Krusty the Clown Show” and of course appears regularly on the mega super hit cartoon: The Simpsons. Krusty is a homage to clowns and old Jewish comedians. He is a thing of beauty.

 

PENNYWISE FROM IT (1989, APRIL)
Created by Stephen King, “IT” appears in the novel, IT, essentially a giant telepathic spider that took the form of an evil clown and an assortment of other monsters that like to scare [and kill] children. IT is a really fun Stephen King book, one of the longer journeys (chock full of back story) but is well worth the read. Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise in the TV movie remains one of the scariest clowns ever.

 

HOMEY D. CLOWN (1990)
Homey D. Clown, portrayed by Damon Wayans is a character from the In Living Color TV show. He either coined the term, “Homey don’t play that!” or “To be or not be …” We’re not sure. His main competitor was the little known PBS clown, Ebonics the Clown.

SHAKES THE CLOWN (1992)
Created by Bob Goldthwait, Shakes the Clown, an alcoholic clown, appeared in the 1992 film Shakes the Clown. Not a very good movie from really any artistic merit and probably shouldn’t have made the list.

POGO THE CLOWN aka John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (1942 – 1994)
John Gacy was an evil man who raped and killed 33 boys. He is not honored here, but mentioned for his bizarre brush with clowndom. He was given the lethal injection and rightfully executed by the good state of Illinois on May 10, 1994.

 

HARLEY QUINN (Sept. 1992)
Created by Paul Dini, Harley Quinn first appeared on the Batman: the Animated Series episode “Joker’s Favor.” Harley is one of the greatest “add-ons” to the Batman franchise that arrived from a non-comic book source. She is a wonderful [and sexy] counterpart and companion to the Joker.

 

INSANE CLOWN POSSE (Oct. 1992)
Insane Clown Posse is a rockin’ little rap duo recording albums on their independent label, Psychopathic Records. They were voted “the worst artists in music history” by Blender Magazine in 2003, so you know they must be good. I am especially fond of their song “Piggie Pie.”

Lyric sample:

“The first little piggy, his house is made of wood
He lives in a chicken turkey piggy neighborhood
He likes to fuck his sister, and drink his moonshine
A typical redneck filthy fuckin' swine …”

 

DOINK THE CLOWN (1993)
Doink the Clown is a WWE wrestling clown, first appearing on the scene in 1993. He is rumored to have sexual relations with both Cyndi Lauper and Ebonics the Clown.

 

CAPTAIN SPAULDING (2003)
Captain Spaulding, created by Rob Zombie and played by Sid Haig, is a scary killer clown (and a popular Halloween costume worn by kids all over America) starring in the films: House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005).

PUBLIC CLOWN NO. 1 aka “Super Clown” (2005)
Created by Bradley Mason Hamlin, Public Clown No. 1 is a member of the SECRET SOCIETY. He is of the insane clown genre and a “metaphysical crime fighter.” He is due to break out of the Surf City Asylum any day now. You may visit Public Clown No. 1 at his official myspace page.

-Bradley Mason Hamlin
brad@retrocrush.com

 

 

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