The Auguste Clown Type
The August Clown Type will entertain you with exaggerated expressions, slapstick comedy, and pranks of all sorts.
The number one skill of the Auguste clown is clumsiness. “Auguste” comes from Berlin slang for “idiot”, and that early circus audience had no idea, when they called out “Auguste” to that first clumsy performer, of the legacy their insults would leave.
Leon 'Buttons' McBryde
This comedic character, comfortable with his awkwardness, is usually paired with someone who affects superior authority - the Whiteface! The sparkling costume of the Whiteface is a stark contrast to the Auguste’s exaggerated make-up and poorly fitting clothes.
As the Whiteface Clown evolved into a quasi-leadership role at the end of the 19th century, a need arose for a another naive and clumsy character and the Auguste Clown became more and more popular, which also opened the door for the Tramo/Hobo clown type to follow.
When we think of clowns today, it is usually the antics, pranks, trips, falls and gags of an Auguste clown that come to mind. He is quite notorious for pranks and may have many pockets in which he carries gags and tricks.
In the pecking order of clowns, the Auguste Clown type follows the whiteface at number two - no longer low man on the list. As the art of clowning evolves and changes, the character roles also evolve. (See more on this below in Auguste Clown Type History.
The Auguste Clown type is over-the-top with exaggerations: his actions and body language, his wardrobe (extra-large shoes, for example) and, of course, the bulbous red nose! Often an over-sized tie - extra long, extra wide or both! - and large, baggy clothes all work together to complete the wonderful appearance of the character we call the Auguste Clown.
The Auguste Clown type can be either a joker or a fool. It is common for the Whiteface to boss the Auguste around and the Auguste often has difficulty performing tasks. This difficulty can be achieved with success because the Auguste takes everything literally. He is eager to please and is more innocent than unintelligent. It is normal for everything that the Auguste tries to accomplish to backfire, either by purposeful mischief or by being naive and clumsy in character. The antics of the Auguste clown create hysterical situations and great joy for the audience. When the Whiteface clown is not around the Auguste can be the quasi-leader.
Auguste - Standard
August Clown Type is visibly colorful with his make-up. The base color or foundation is pink, tan or flesh tones on the face and neck. The colors for the mouth and eyes are usually white or red. Like the personality of the Auguste clown; the make-up around the eyes and the mouth, (muzzle), are exaggerated. The desired look is to enhance and exaggerate the natural facial features, not cover them up. The mouth would be made to have a super smile and the eyes would have make-up going up over the eyebrows. This is to produce the look of a fun, wide eyed and a very happy mouthed clown.
Outlining around the muzzle and eyes would generally be done in red or black, and drawn in thin lines. Other lining colors could be used in moderation. This detail ties the colors together. Often a clown performing on stage, a walk-around or in a parade for example may be a short distance from the audience and this gives clear definition of their exaggerated features.
If there was ever a time to mismatch plaids and stripes the Auguste clown type would do it with exuberance! The Auguste would look renunculous and wear it well. My wife would just shake her head and say, "Oh dear, what am I going to do with you?"
The only rule for the Auguste Clown costuming is they must never wear sequins, sparkles or glitter, also no shiny fabrics those are reserved for the more elegant Whiteface Clown.
The Auguste Clown has the greatest variety of choices to pull from in costume design and choices. The Auguste can wear a jacket, coat or vest of his choosing or can go without. He can choose oversized or too small as well as nice fitting. The pants for the Auguste Clown can be short, long, or even oversized.
An Auguste clown can pull from any type of prints such as solid colors, stripes, plaids, polka dots and checks and it would not be unusual to wear some or all of them together at the same time!
(Adam 'Knute' Schill)
(Cathy 'Sonshine' Adams)
Commonly called "the tailor's nightmare", the Auguste's costume colors and patterns should complement the overall clown appearance, whether or not they are color coordinated or matched.
The costume can be complemented with outlandish accessories, like large or small ties, bright vests, colorful socks, large or comical collars, suspenders and many styles and colors of comedy clown shoes. These and one of the many hat possibilities, like skimmers, Irish derbies, bowlers, top hats, "madhatters" and "crushables" in various bright colors will enhance the Auguste clown character.
White or colored gloves are also worn. Although the Classic European Auguste is used in skits, it is not appropriate for COAI competitions.
Auguste - Lite
(Adam 'Knute' Schill)
(Cathy 'Sonshine' Adams)
The Auguste Lite (as Clowns of America International calls it) or European Auguste wears make-up that is very close to the natural look. The personality is still an Auguste, although not quite as exaggerated as the Auguste Clown type.
The Auguste Lite wears very simple make-up. Flesh tones are used for the face and neck with a small amount of white to lightly accentuate the eyes and mouth. The facial features are still exaggerated but not with bright colors. Outlining of the muzzle and eyes is normal but minimal, as well.
The August Lite wears no wig. A simple costume consisting of bright but well-fitting clothes presents a clown whose appearance is quite close to a "normal" human being. Of course, that's not saying much considering 21st century fashion trends!
In the mid 1800's the clown type known as Auguste emerged in the art of clowning. Although the specific artist that created this character can not be named specifically we can say with confidence that the two clowns that had the greatest influence in developing this character were Albert Fratellini and Lou Jacobs.
Albert, the oldest of the three Fratellini brothers created a character who was a go between one brother, François a Classic European Whiteface, and the other brother Paul who was a Tramp or Hobo character. Albert Fratellini is also the one responsible for the introduction of the red nose into today's modern day clown personification.
Lou Jacobs who worked with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus for 60 years of his life developed and made famous much of the character of the Auguste that we know today. This was in large part because his instantly recognizable clown face with cone head topped with a tiny hat and tufts of hair, large arching eyebrows and over-sized mouth was featured on billboards, posters, magazine covers, television commercials and even on a United States postage stamp making the Auguste Clown type famous.
Famous Auguste Clowns
- Rafael "Chocolate" Padilla
- Albert Fratellini (1886-1961)
- Charles Adrien "Grock" Wettach (1880-1959)
- Lou Jacobs (1903-1992)
- Nikolai "Coco" Poliakoff (1900-1974)
- Roy "Cooky" Brown (1932-2001)
- "Clown Bluey " Brattle (19-Present)
- "Buttons" McBryde (1943-Present)
- J.T."Bubba" Sikes (1943-Present)