What clown?

The character appears in traditional and new circus, in horror films, in cabaret, on the street, in theatre shows and as childrens’ entertainment? How can that one word one fit all these different interpretations? What is clown and why is it such a divisive word, misinterpreted so often and misappropriated by so many?

It has struck me that whenever I am hired to teach a clown workshop I often have to spend most of the first session explaining what clown is not, urging students to reach beyond their instant understanding of the word, beyond their prejudice and open their minds to the possibility that this style of performance  can become a powerful performance tool.

So what is a clown?