And the answer: Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon served as the United States’ 37th President, from 1969–1974. On August 2, 1971, he signed Proclamation 4071, officially designating the first week of August as National Clown Week. “For surely the laugh-makers are blessed,” he said. While National Clown Week is a US holiday, it’s celebrated yearly by clowns and clown enthusiasts worldwide.
If you’ve ever been to the circus, a children’s birthday party, or are familiar with The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown, you’ll know that making people laugh is no honk on the nose (okay, maybe it is). This first week of August is National Clown Week, celebrating the wit, commitment, and creativity of clowns everywhere. With much of the hard work happening behind the scenes, National Clown Week was created to appreciate the surprisingly strenuous business of having fun.
In one form or another, the figure of the clown or jester has played a role in major royal courts and historical events for centuries. Once occupying a near mythical status in various cultures, the most ancient clowns were discovered in the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt, around 2400 BC. Like court jesters, clowns have traditionally served a socio-religious and psychological role in society.
Today, the image of the modern clown takes after the tradition of the circus clown, which developed out of earlier comedic roles in Varieté shows during the 19th to mid-20th centuries. This recognizable character usually wears outlandish costumes, distinctive makeup, colorful wigs, exaggerated footwear, and eccentric clothing, with the style generally being designed to entertain large audiences.
Hosted by members of the Clowns of America, National Clown Week pays homage to all things clown with special activities and events throughout the week. Learn how you can celebrate this National Clown Week here.