Circus character jug designed by David Straus and produced in Japan by Sigma The Tastesetter of Garden City, New York, circa 1990. A circus clown is a performer who works in the circus and uses physical humor to entertain the audience. They often wear colorful clothing, makeup, wigs, and exaggerated footwear. The world clown comes from the Icelandic word "klunni" which means "a clumsy person". The first known clowns date from the time of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, around 2400 BC. Joseph Grimaldi originally designed a whiteface clown in 1801 with his face and neck covered with white makeup, his mouth painted with a grin, and black eyebrows. His clothes were extravagant. He has the highest status in the clown hierarchy.