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 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 seems to be related. May be combined with 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 Faux Affably Evil. Compare Repulsive Ringmaster.
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 Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- 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".
- A fake one of these pops out of a door as an In-Universe Jump Scare in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series. Later, a living mannequin clown with a Slasher Smile appears.
- 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 Super-Powered 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.
- 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 Cult of Laughter from Equestria Divided is an entire army of these run by a Monster from Beyond the Veil Pinkie Pie.
- 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..."
- 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
- 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.")
- 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.
- The Brave Little Toaster had a nightmare about a fireman-clown trying to chase it 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!
- King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph, despite not being a true clown, evokes this imagery as his comical, loony Mad Hatter persona erodes away to reveal his truly evil inner self. Becomes a bit more literal in the climax.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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 pictures 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.
- 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. However, we've probably seen the last of Tricky as at the end of Consternation, Jebus destroyed Tricky's portable Improbability Drive and killed him. (Spoilered not because his death is a surprise but the way it comes about is.)
- 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."
- 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.
- Death Battle has pitted two of the worst monster clowns against one another, The Joker vs. Needles Kane a.k.a. Sweet Tooth.
- 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.
Waldorf: Eh, don't worry about those guys. They're nowhere near as bad as the clowns who write these things!