Dig this Smithsonian article that traces the dark side of Clowns. These darker, non-comedic or even anti-comedic elements have been an intrinsic part of clown lore, at least since Grimaldi (1778 – 1837) — whom the article’s author likens to a “homo erectus” of the modern clown, i.e. the first example who we’d still recognize as an example. It’s an intriguing perspective that clowns have gotten more sinister in the popular imagination as a response to a suppression of those darker aspects in the interests of depicting clowns as child-safe, innocent fun. There’s a bit of The Joker’s disruptive anarchy as well as Emmett Kelly’s heart-wrenching pathos always just beneath that greasepaint and this article makes a good case that it’s always been.
I’ve had dark clowns on the brain in anticipation of that Theatre Bizarre and its patron dead clown Zombo.