The original clown was born in 1778 London named Joseph Girmaldi. Born from an Italian comic actor immigrant, he lived in Clerkenwell and took to the stage at Sadlers wells from an early age. Grimalde has a sad family story: abuse from his father and his wife’s early death probably inspired and left him finding comfort in theatre. He invented the white faced standard uniform of all typical clowns today, was a master of audience interaction and a legendary figure in the theatre till his death in 1837. At a time when slap stick and buffonary were wildly extravagant shows, Grimaldi was a constant sell out with his wit, physical stunts and sing a long’s. By age 42 he was left broken and unable to walk back from his local pub because of the stage, he literally performed himself to death. Not much in the way of first hand sources are left, apparently he wrote memoires but they have never been found. What we do know is that he was loved by his audience who saw him through his infirm years with benefit gigs to allow him a pension and probably a few free pints.
Today Grimaldi is commemorated the first Sunday of every February at a church not far from his grave stone, clowns come fully dressed to a clown service and show ever year. That fell on The 5th this year.... I will have to remember to go in 2013, now I how the tradition of the sad clown started.