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Unwritten clown rule: you cannot copy another clown's what?

01/25/10

Show me the nugget

FACE

What: Each clown has his or her own unique face, which is considered their trademark. While clown faces are the same in many ways, each clown’s distinctive variation makes him or her one of a kind.

Why: The unwritten rule may have grown out of a U.K. tradition of decorating… eggs. In the mid-1940’s Stan Bult helped establish the International Circus Clowns Club (now called Clowns International), the first global organization for clowns in the world. Around that time, he began recording clown images on blown-out chicken eggs. It was his hobby that first recorded specific clowns’ facial makeup. Though many of the original eggs Bult painted were destroyed in an accident after being lent out for exhibition, a collection of reproduced and new eggs can be seen at the Clowns International Clown Museum. Today’s eggs are painted by a professional artist, and China-pot eggs have replaced the fragile chicken kind.

Get this: There’s a U.S. version too, starting in the 1980s. Leon “Buttons” McBryde, a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and his wife heard about the U.K. tradition, and started a similar unofficial registry for American clowns - using goose eggs.

A little more: Check out these clown egg photos from Luke Stephenson on Flickr, showing a few of the many painted faces.

There’s some clowning around going on in Paris. Check out John Laurenson’s story on Marketplace to see why these French clowns are so “risky.”

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