Clowns are supposed to be funny. They're supposed to make everyone laugh, especially children. This is the entire point of their existence. A truly good clown is supposed to be a Friend to All Children. Sometimes they succeed. But for some people, clowns awaken some primal fear. There are children who won't go near a clown without shaking, freezing up or even screaming.
Their face is... fake, corpse-like, most often the makeup they use does NOT help, the emotions aren't real, the smile is just painted on. The outfit and big shoes are downright grotesque. There's something seriously wrong with a clown to some people, and this resonates deep within the part of us that still believes that there is a monster in the closet, that will get out if you don't keep the door closed.
Cue the Creepy Circus Music...
It's startlingly uncommon to find clown characters who are genuinely good. More commonly, writers tap into the fear: the Monster Clown is a classic villain. Expect the Monster Clown to parody humor, with classic jokes becoming deadly; acid in the plastic flowers pinned to their lapels and joy buzzers with fatal amounts of voltage, among other things. If they work in a circus, it'll be a Circus of Fear. Likewise, also expect them to crack dark jokes while killing them and laugh maniacally. Sometimes, a Monster Clown just LOOKS like a clown, and doesn't do what clowns normally do, like tell jokes or work in a circus or go to kids' parties. If there is a clown in a work that just looks like one, it's almost guaranteed that it is a Monster Clown. Because, you know, you just don't go about dressing like a clown without doing anything clowny.
Sooner or later, our heroes will have to put these clowns to the sword. And sometimes not even that stops them. Also take note that many of these clowns may or may not be completely insane and also commit their horrific crimes laughing crazily and frequently, and often with a very high-pitched voice while acting in a very similar manner to an overgrown child.
Sympathetic clowns are generally a little more muted in appearance and behavior, whether or not this is faithful to the job (in which case, see Sad Clown). Generally, audiences are more receptive to clowns who act more like ordinary people, and have less extravagant makeup. Surly clowns who tiredly work with ungrateful children are more common, probably because they speak to the average overworked audience; they may be an example of Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight.
Enemy Mime is a sub-trope of Monster Clown. A villainous clown that is Played for Laughs instead of fear is a Villainous Harlequin. The Depraved Kids' Show Host and Creepy Mascot Suit seems to be related. May be combined with Scary Jack-in-the-Box, Creepy Doll, Perverse Puppet, Evil Puppeteer, or Robot Clown. Clowns' ghastly white makeup puts them into White Mask of Doom territory. The Monster Clown is often Affably Evil or (far more likely) Faux Affably Evil. The Monster Clown is often seen with a Balloon of Doom. Compare Repulsive Ringmaster. For examples based on the Joker from Batman, see Practically Joker.
The opposite of this trope is the (perhaps sadly) rarely seen any more Non-Ironic Clown.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Films — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- In this E -Trade commercial with the talking baby, the baby says he rented a clown named Bobo, who we see standing in the background making balloon animals, before getting a scared look on his face and saying "And I really underestimated the creepiness." Subverted in that the clown doesn't actually do anything creepy other than just be there. Which may or may not be enough to be freaky for a clown.
- The KGB commercial with two moms looking for clowns for their kids' birthday parties. The one using KGB finds Benny the clown, a professional clown who cheerfully and successfully entertains the children. The second finds Biffo, a fat, hostile clown who scares all the children into running away and then randomly destroys the drink table.
- A Little Caesar's ad has two girls wandering in the woods. One of them mentions rumors that a deranged clown haunts the forest. As it turns out, they're right, but thankfully he has a liking for cheap pizza.
- So you're watching a McDonald's ad in Japan and... OH MY GOD RONALD MCDONALD IS STALKING YOU!!!note
- A Motel 6 commercial features a guy not being able to sleep because of all the disturbing clown paraphernalia decorating the guest room he's staying in.
- Krinkles the Clown, of Post's Sugar Rice Krinkles. Good Lord, where to begin? For one, the technology for filming and broadcasting in color was well established by then, but they made the decision to not just shoot everything in black and white, but paint up the set—including Krinkles himself—in black and white. And, to put it in perspective, this ad campaign was chosen after discarding the prior Asian stereotypes they were using.◊
- Taco Bell's "Routine Republic" commercial has clowns as Gestapo officers.
- The US Postal Service used this in an ad: "Because we have to get that out of this house." "Come on it's not that ba-eeeaaah! Oh, yeah, that has to go."
- And then, there's this Wal-Mart advertisement. Those with coulrophobia, do not watch. (Though it's not entirely the poor bastard's fault.)
- These kung fu clowns from an ad for Bell South phonebooks veer into Comedic Sociopathy levels, though most of these are Played for Laughs.
- Flower Fairy: In Season 5 episode 24, Xiaoai and Eric end up in a candy world with a clown who lets them explore it and ride the carnival rides that are also there. The clown tricks them into thinking he's friendly, but lets Eric fall asleep from exhaustion before using the opportunity to forcibly control Xiaoai like a string puppet.
- Happy Heroes: Season 7 episode 13 features a clown villain whose name is, in fact, Monster Clown (or Clown Monsternote ). In the episode, Big M. releases him from a high-security prison for especially dangerously criminals to have him help in a evil plan of his, only to be Taken for Granite by the clown along with many others - Clown Monster's special power is to absorb energy from people's laughing and using it to turn the laughing person or people into stone.
- The Far Side
- One cartoon features a giant clown marching through a city; a squad of soldiers are behind a building ready to ambush him with a rocket launcher armed with a giant pie.
- Another cartoon features a group of angry clowns arguing with each other at a negotiation table; the caption reads, "At the strategic pie limitation talks".
- Implied with another strip that shows a clown being escorted to the electric chair.
- If: In it the then UK prime Minister Theresa May is portrayed as, in Steve Bells own words, an "evil,scary clown".
- A fake one of these pops out of a door as an In-Universe Jump Scare in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series. Later, a living mannequin clown with a Slasher Smile appears.
- The Cult of Laughter from Equestria Divided is an entire army of these run by a Monster from Beyond the Veil Pinkie Pie.
- In Ice And Fire, Kallen's Zero mask, unlike the one Lelouch wears in canon, makes her look like this. More specifically, it's an ornate clown mask that's happy on one side and sad on the other. Subverted in that, despite being ruthless at times, she's not actually evil.
- The Loud House story Lincoln's Memories: In "A Very Loud Halloween", Luan dresses as a psycho clown by taking her normal clown suit and putting fake blood on it.
- The New Adventures of Invader Zim:
- In Season 2 Episode 5, Zim creates a Cyborg Death Clown and sends it after Dib and his friends as they investigate an allegedly haunted house.
- In Season 2 Episode 8, Nyx and Gaz's road trip to Arcadikon is sidetracked by doing a favor for Grissom in the form of eliminating a rival gang for him. Said gang for some reason all dress up like clowns, apparently on the basis that clowns are disturbing.
- Pagliacci features Pinkie Pie as a Jokeresque character. You'll never look at that little pink pony the same way again.
- In the Pony POV Series, an Alternate Universe glimpsed in the Truth (as well as in Dark World) gives us Nightmare Granfalloon, Pinkie Pie's potential Superpowered Evil Side.
- The vocaloid fanfic Rotting Camellias has four of them, portrayed by Teto, Tei, Ruko, and Ritsu.
- Scuzzo the Clown assists the primary villains in the first installment of the Contractually Obligated Chaos series.
- Stand Dust (A JoJo's Bizarre Adventure X RWBY Crossover) : Freak is a clown sent by The Door to kill Team RWBY and Josuke Higashikata. Their Stand is even named after the Insane Clown Posse. Unlike most examples of this trope, Freak are utterly sympathetic : Freak were originally three siblings who merged in body, mind, and soul at their birth, with the brother merging with the sister first then the subsequent fusion merging with the younger twin. Abandoned at birth, Freak were subsequently forcibly recruited by a circus, and were paraded in front of the crowd, who either mocked their physical appearance or took pity on them. They were also physically and psychologically abused, leading to them snapping, killing their bodyguard and escaping the circus. They were subsequently recruited by the Door. Despite the Door warning them of the possibility of dying if they were pierced by the Stand Arrow, Freak were so grateful to the Door for helping them out and giving them a greater purpose that they stabbed themselves with it, subsequently gaining their Stand Insane Clown Posse. Even after she fatally wounded them, Ruby feels nothing but sympathy for them as they die.
- Flashback (MHA): In a conversation with Midnight, All Might notes that the most infamous American supervillain to this day was a clown-themed villain called "Mister Smiles", who was so terrifying that even now, American supervillains hate to be compared to clowns. All Might openly describes him as worse than his own Arch-Enemy, All For One, and summarizes him as a supervillain whose starting point was looking at the Joker and going "hold my beer".
- Played for Laughs in "NiGHTS into Dreams in a Nutshell," a parody video of NiGHTS into Dreams… by YouTuber McSchmoodle. In the game, NiGHTS is a beautiful and benevolent jester/acrobat-like creature. In this video, NiGHTS is depicted as a raving, feral lunatic in a cage. A Nightopian tries to convince Elliot to touch NiGHTS (because that's how the player gains control of NiGHTS in the game), and Elliot is too scared of NiGHTS to do it. The Nightopian forces him to mesh with NiGHTS. At the end, both Elliot and Claris have become giggling, grinning lunatics locked in a padded room. One of the guards watching over them mentions that they keep saying the same sentence: "I am the jester."
NiGHTS: (inhuman growling and breathing sounds)
Nightopian: See the jester? You're gonna touch it!
NiGHTS: (demonic voice) TOUCH.
Nightopian: And it will absorb you into its body!
Elliot: Uhh, I don't- I don't think I wanna do th- (The Nightopian grabs Elliot's hand and makes him fuse with NiGHTS) Wha- NO!
- Realistic Pokémon: A tongue-in-cheek invocation — Mime Jr. is depicted as a tadpole that makes itself look "as grotesque as possible" to scare off predators. Its evolution, Mr. Mime, is depicted as a pretty normal looking (if pretty huge) frog.
- Urban legend: A teenage girl is babysitting, and the parents call home to check in. "Everything's fine," she says, "oh, but I covered up that clown statue in the back hall with my jacket, it was creeping me out." "Clown statue? We don't own a clown statue..."
- The tale of the clown in the coconut tree from Brazilian Folklore: Once upon a time, there was a clown named Coco (meaning 'coconut' in Portuguese). In the circus, he was unable to make anyone smile, so he went crazy and ran away. During days of waning moon, he climbs a coconut tree to see the moon "smiling" for him. But when the moon is covered by clouds, the clown gets down to the ground to see other smiles: those of people. So when he meets a person he will try to make them laugh, and, should the person not give him at least a smile, he will punish them, sometimes with death. And he continues doing so until the moon is no longer hidden.
- Abandoned clown train remembers you!◊
- A new Urban Legend going around is that of an extremely sinister/dangerous Monster Clown in Bradford, which has been rumored to be doing everything from peering in windows to robbing people to stabbing them. The police department consider it a hoax, and a news story about it can be seen here
- The Brave Little Toaster had a nightmare about a fireman-clown trying to chase her into a filled bathtub. His only line was "Run!". Sound advice! Considering it was a toaster's nightmare, and the clown was armed with a fire hose and a fork... Heck, the way his hair is shaped, he looks like the Devil!
- Dumbo is an early, downplayed example — the clowns genuinely like making their audience laugh, but they're a bunch of Jerkasses behind the scenes, humiliating Dumbo (and having a clown play his mother is pretty cruel, considering what happened to her) and not worrying about hurting him, or worse. One of the clowns does get a Pet the Dog moment, but that's about it. (When he insists "You'll hurt the little guy", the other clowns just laugh him off and say that elephants can't get hurt because "they're made of rubber.")
- Fantasia 2000 has the Jack-In-The-Box from the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major segment. He's a Scary Jack-in-the-Box with the outfit of a jester, and he develops a Villainous Crush on the Ballerina. He's quite frightening and cruel in his attempts to kill the Tin Soldier.
- One of Riley's deep, subconscious fears in Inside Out is the enormous and horrifyingly manic Jangles the Clown. "Whooo's the birthday girl?!" In the Creative Closing Credits, he's revealed to be a Non-Ironic Clown who is not pleased with his job.
- In Minions, one of the supervillains who chases Kevin across the city is a bomb-juggling, Laughing Mad, unicycle-riding clown.
- The Clown With The Tearaway Face from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Subverted in that he isn't that scary once you get to know him, just like the other denizens of Halloween Town.
- There's a joke that's gone around about a boy and a clown walking through the woods at night. The boy says to the clown, "Man, this forest sure is scary..." to which the clown replies, "You're telling me. I have to go back through it by myself."
- FunHouse: Rudy's Nightmare: Implied with the clown that appears throughout the game, which is consistently treated as a threat. The beginning of "Don't You Want a Balloon?" positions it as Pennywise in a shot directly referencing It, while another mode tasks the player melting it in acid. Both modes use songs that repeatedly play Evil Laughs.
- While Hurricane is filled with harmless Non-Ironic Clowns, the front of the cars of the "Hurricane" rollercoaster have a manically grinning Monster Clown face, complete with razor-sharp teeth.
- Talked about in the Sick Sad World episode "Origins Of Scary Things".
- Jasmine developed a fear of clowns after a childhood incident where she saw an older child dressed as a scary clown.
- The hosts mention the then-common clown pranksters, and say people who try jokes like that should be prepared for their victims to know self-defense moves.
- The Magnus Archives gives us a number of servants of The Stranger, the embodiment of the Uncanny Valley. As it represents the fears of things that look human but have something that makes them seem not, of course it has clowns in its retinue. It's said that Joseph Grimaldi, the most famous clown in British history, was one of its servants, and its current avatar, Nikola Orsinov, is usually depicted in fright makeup and ringleader's garb.
- Essentially averted by Cirque du Soleil in their specific clown acts. Traditional whitefaces and augustes are less intimidating than the popular conception, and some character-based clown acts largely eschew garish makeup and costuming. Indeed some clowns are downright ordinary-looking compared to the other characters. But there are villainous/mysterious characters who, intentionally or not, have appearances akin to this trope: Boum-Boum in Quidam, Le Titan in La Nouba, etc. Closest to the trope is the bizarre emcee Fleur in Alegria: According to the All There in the Manual material, he was the court jester to the now-gone ruler of the kingdom, and now he wants to be king.
- Pagliacci: An Unbuilt Trope. The opera involves Canio trying to play a Non-Ironic Clown, when in fact he is a Sad Clown because his wife is cheating on him, but The Show Must Go On. Finally he snaps and stabs his wife and her lover to death on stage in front of a live audience. The whole point is that he's not a monster or a psychopath just because he's a clown; if anything, his clown role is meant for Dramatic Irony. On the other hand, the evil hunchback clown Tonio plays the trope much straighter, being a Manipulative Bastard (and attempted rapist) who spitefully engineers the events that lead to the deaths at the end.
- Rigoletto, kinda. Although he's portrayed in a sympathetic light at parts, he's still a crazy, bitter, grotesque jester who indirectly kills his daughter and Morality Pet, Gilda.
- Universal's Halloween Horror Nights has had too many examples over the years to list them all. There are a few stand-outs however.
- Jack C. Schmidt, a red-headed, psychotic, and evil clown who gives us both the laughs and the fear.
- There's also Chance, his harlequin girl sidekick.
- The evil clowns from the Giggles & Gore Inc. haunted house. They kidnap people and take them to a factory where they torture and brainwash them into becoming evil clowns themselves. And then there's the Discarded, clowns considered too insane and too dangerous even to the evil clowns, so they are tossed into the basement and left to rot.
- In Hollywood, there are clowns that were once the Non-Ironic Clown trope.
- In 2014, there was the ice cream clown family Sweet Licks, Cutty and Bubba from the haunted house, Clowns 3D: Music by Slash. Once, they were ordinary clowns working at the Sweet Licks Frozen Clown Pops ice cream factory/roadside attraction, but the negative portrayal of clowns in the media and the USA's demand for treats low in fat and calories drove them out of business...and insane and desperate for money. So, the clowns came up with a wicked plan to save their business: trick people into coming into their ice cream factory with the promise of free ice cream for one day, kill them, turn their bodies into "healthy" ice cream and sell it to the public.
- Then there was Hollywood Harry aka Harold Kappowitz aka Koodles the Clown from the 2016 Terror Tram by Eli Roth. He was once a circus performer and children's variety show host before becoming the unofficial mascot for Universal Studios Hollywood when it first opened in 1964. But as time went on, people began to fear clowns thanks to their negative portrayal in movies and sensationalized news stories of clowns attacking people and kidnapping children. Kappowitz lost his job and was reduced to being an unpaid street performer outside the park gates. A few years later, he was banned from the property due to his increasingly erratic behavior. He fled into the Hollywood Hills and his character, Koodles, faded into obscurity. For decades, his presence in the backlot remained unnoticed even though the local wildlife surrounding the park and the occasional tour guide started vanishing. But these were brushed aside as the result of the park expanding and the transient nature of volunteer tour guides respectively. Then, in the fall of 2016, during the "Clown Craze", people started to notice him wandering around the backlot and began to take videos and photos of him whenever they got the chance and they called him Hollywood Harry, the phantom clown. Soon, "clown hunters" began to go searching for him, only to discover he was not alone. He had assembled an army of former circus performers and clowns to help him in his revenge against Universal Studios for firing him all those years ago.
- Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream had one simply named "Clown" as a member of "The 13", a sinister group of monsters that served as the "icons" of the event in 2013.
- Walibi Holland's Halloween Fright Nights event uses an evil clown called "Eddie the Clown" as one of its main mascots.
- Played at in one of the Monster High character diaries, where rushing through her makeup (which she can't see in the mirror) nearly leaves the vampire Draculaura "looking like an undead clown... not that there's anything wrong with that." No clowns have appeared in the franchise yet, but they may be out there.
- Ace Attorney has two:
- Simon Keyes from Ace Attorney Investigations 2 who reveals himself as the true Big Bad of the game, and easily manipulates multiple people similar to Matt Engarde. Though he only reveals himself as a clown when he's performing.
- Geiru Toneido, although she's a balloon artist, not a clown, from Spirit of Justice. She certainly seems this way having framed an innocent five-year-old, killed her master out of jealousy, and has a villainous clown look to her.
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: The D.I.C.E. organization consists of ten individuals masked as clowns going around causing mild pranks, vandalism, and petty theft For the Lulz.
- Demonbane: Tiberius wears a clown get-up, and is among the most monstrous characters (given that this game has Lovecraftian horrors in it, that is saying something).
- In Marco and the Galaxy Dragon, two aliens disguised as clowns kidnap a young Marco and seemingly murder her mother during the prologue.
- Trapped with Jester: Downplayed. Jester is a demon with a jester's appearance who isn't above murder, as he may tear apart the drivers of the carriage and invite the protagonist on a path of vengeance or to raze the world together. He's otherwise very amiable (although he may take you as a pet with or without your consent), which leaves his morality up in the air.
- DEATH BATTLE! has pitted two of the worst monster clowns against one another, The Joker vs. Needles Kane a.k.a. Sweet Tooth.
- Gop Donsterly from Elain T He Bounty Hunter is a gelatinous creature vaguely in the shape of a clown that is both a wanted criminal and has a supernatural game show in his gut.
- Gaming All-Stars has the highly-sadistic Needles “Sweet Tooth” Kane, who is also one of the few characters in The Ultimate Crossover and Remastered to outright kill a character for real rather than trophifying them. He’s also one of the few villains in Remastered to survive [[Andross’ attack on Earth, only getting Killed Off for Real during the third season of 2.
- Helluva Boss:
- Blitzo is a former clown-turned-assassin operating a hitman service out of Hell. His crass, impulsive and inappropriate behavior has been the death of both his former career and many of his personal relationships. All of which return back to haunt him.
- The series also gives us another Imp clown: Fizzarolli. Unlike Blitzo, Fizzarolli is a very successful jester and celebrity in the Lust ring, selling robotic replicas of himself as both animatronics and sexbots with the added distinction of being the consort of King Asmodeus himself. What makes him truly monstrous however, is his willingness to publicly humiliate anyone who crosses him or his master.
- Strong Man, the Old-Timey version of Strong Mad from Homestar Runner. As his name suggests, he is actually an unintelligent circus strongman who for some reason is always facing the camera and is working for Sir Strong Bad, The Homestar Runner's archnemesis.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Cegorach has milked his canon status as one of these for all it's worth, only stopping when he's trying to be a Scary Librarian instead. He's only been on screen for maybe 10 minutes total, but in that time single-handedly fought off a chaos invasion while trolling them and scarred for life a pair 10,000 year old custodies just for the hell of it.
- Mischief from Interface. Differently from other examples, he seems to be Creepy Good, as he doesn't show desire to harm anyone and is a friendly figure, while other people don't seem to be creeped out by his appearance.
- The titular character of the Lumpy Touch video "Yum Yum" is a self-proclaimed "flavor clown" who is employed by Whoopsie Burger to sample flavors for new burgers, but demonstrates very strange behavior and is heavily implied to be a cannibal.
- One of the primary bad guys in the Madness Combat Flash series is Tricky the Clown. Originally appearing in Madness Redeemer as a minor villain, he was pinned to a giant marshmallow (don't ask) by Hank in Avenger with a stop sign and turned into a zombie before being taken down by Hank again. He donned a Jason-style hockey mask for Apotheosis, but did not take part in the fighting. But in Depredation, Antipathy and Consternation, the Clown took on the power to warp reality itself, making him virtually unstoppable even after getting the top of his head sliced off and being blown full of holes at point blank range by Hank.
- Xombie, a flash animation series which takes place After the End in a Zombie Apocalypse world at one point goes trough a circus. Guess what the protagonist has to face there.
"Even undead, clowns are annoying."
Waldorf: Eh, don't worry about those guys. They're nowhere near as bad as the clowns who write these things!