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Clown Studies Courses: History, Theory and Analysis of Clown

Enrolment now open for the new ten-week Clown Studies Courses starting in October 2023

Clown Studies Course 'Part 1'

Group A - Tuesdays

10:00-12:00 (London time)

3rd Oct - 12th Dec 2023 

(10 weeks, with one week break in late October tbc)



time zones

(Berlin 11:00, Athens 12:00, New Delhi 14:30, Beijing 17:00, Tokyo 18:00, Sydney 20:00, Wellington 22:00)

Note: some start times will vary due to seasonal clock changes, according to your time zone)

​Group B - Wednesdays

18.30-20.30 (London time)

4th Oct - 13th Dec 2023

(10 weeks, with one week break in late October tbc)


time zones

(Berlin 19:30, New York/Montreal 13:30, Vancouver/Los Angeles 10:30)

Note: some start times will vary due to seasonal clock changes, according to your time zone)

Cost: £160 (whole term); £90 (5 classes); £20 (1 class)

Early bird price £125 until 31st July 2023

For enquiries and to enrol, please email: 

Payments in advance are valid for the term.

In the Clown Studies Course Part 1, we ask simple but challenging questions about clowns

What are clowns? What do they do? How do we know what a clown is? What is their history? What are clowns for?

If you want to ask yourself new questions, learn about areas unknown or simply engage in stimulating conversation and thought, then this is the course for you

Clown Studies Course 'Part 2'

Next course dates:

24th Jan - 27th Mar 2024


​Time: 18.30-20.30 (London time) (Berlin 19:30, New York/Montreal 13:30, Vancouver/Los Angeles 10:30)

Cost: £160 (whole term); £90 (5 classes); £20 (1 class)

Early bird price £130 until 15th November 2023

This is open to anyone who has already attended the first course. It focuses more in depth on key issues in clowning and guide participants through their own research.

For enquiries and to enrol, please email: 

Payments in advance are valid for the term.

In the Clown Studies Course Part 2, we focus in depth on broad issues of how clowns function and engage with audiences in our societies. We explore their meaning and roles across common sites (circus, theatre, street) and genres (dance, music) as well as unpicking our recent histories and ideas of clown training. 


If you want to delve deeper and question further your own ideas about clowns and clowning, then this is the course for you

Clown Studies Course 'Part 3'

Next course dates tbc

​Time: 18.30-20.30 (London time) (Berlin 19:30, New York/Montreal 13:30, Vancouver/Los Angeles 10:30)

Cost: £75 (whole term); £40 (5 classes); £10 (1 class)

This course is open to anyone who has completed Parts 1 and 2.

For enquiries and to enrol, please email: 

Clown Studies Part 3 is a student-led course, inviting all participants to share their interests, research findings and questions with the group.


If you want to consolidate your thinking and focus on your specific interests, then this is the course for you.

Each week, short presentations by students will serve as the starting points for debates and discussions which engage us today. Each participant will be expected to prepare a short introduction on a topic of their own choice within the field of clown studies. This can be in any format, such as:

  • A photo collection

  • A short piece of writing (analytical, historical, anecdotal, etc.)

  • Comments on an article or other publication

  • Commentary on a video

  • Any other format communicable via zoom

The topic would typically be expected to include:

  • Either a question for discussion

  • Or a perspective, theory or hypothesis to be discussed

Clowning is generally thought to be something you do without the need for any kind of formal education. However, that doesn’t mean that clowns don’t think about what they do, or ask themselves questions about the why and the how of their art. Nor does it mean that they are unaware of the history of clowning, or of its many and varied manifestations in different cultures around the world. Even if you don’t generally talk about clowning as a philosophy, you are likely to have a set of ideas or assumptions about what is of value, that inform how you perform or see other clowns.

The Clown Studies Course aims to bring all that thinking out into the open, and to add to what each individual already knows by asking questions about clowns: past, present and future.

The course is aimed at anyone wanting to expand their thinking about clowns and clowning and has drawn participants with both practical and theoretical experience, of all ages and across the globe - from those just beginning to discover the field to major international professionals with decades of experience who are keen to explore the ever-changing landscape of this fascinating part of world cultures.

Such courses are extremely rare. I started running classes on clown studies (history, theory, analysis) back in 2006 when we opened the Barcelona Clown School. It felt like an innovation then. No one was really teaching clown history or theory or analysis. To me it seemed self-evident that thinking and knowing about clowning could benefit your performing. Or that it could be a worthwhile and fascinating study in itself. More than a decade later, there is little or no chance to study this field, neither in private clown schools nor in universities, despite all the talk of embracing ‘popular performance’.


For six years, the London Clown School has consisted of practical weekly workshops in the foundations of clown dynamics and the developing and devising of clown performance material. It has also indirectly given birth to an experimental performing company that presents a monthly show in London, ‘Friday Flop’. People come regularly or occasionally to classes, and there is always a mix of old and new faces. Each participant gets to explore as they wish, whether it's discovering the joy of being stupid in front of others, or preparing performance material to try out in public. you may learn, nor when you may learn it.


So now, in a similar sustained way, there is an opportunity to explore the other side: the history, theory and analysis of clowning.


This initiative first ran from the beginning of 2020, offering both in-person and online options.

For the moment, though, only the online options will be available. 



General questions - What is clown? What is funny? How can we talk about clown? What is clown’s relationship to comedy? to humour? How do we know what clowns are? What are they for?


What is clown’s history? How are clowns specific to their time and place? Why do different meanings become attached to clowns according to their time and place? What is a Shakespearean clown? A circus clown? An auguste clown? A personal clown? What are clowns doing now? What do clowns argue about? What are todays issues for clowns? Using a selection of texts and other sources, we will study some of the principle movements in clown history as well as current trends.


Using practical observation of the work of clown performers, live or on video/film, contemporary or historical, how can we talk about them? What is the vocabulary of the clown critic? How can we answer the question ‘why is this (not) funny/clown?’ Whenever you watch clown performance, whether on video or live, you will be expected to record your responses for later discussion.

Some views from previous participants, who range from those just beginning in the world of clown, through to active professionals and some of the world's leading authorities in the field.


“I’ve been working as a clown for a few decades now and have a fairly broad knowledge of the subject and I found this class to be challenging, informative  and stimulating. More of a doer and less of an analyst, I was really charged by both Jon and the group and highly recommend anyone with an interest in clown take the time to participate in this class!” (Hilary Chaplain, Clown and Physical Comedy Performer and Teacher, USA)


“I really enjoyed this course for its historical and cultural context, its truly global coverage. It was well-researched, lots of audiovisual and reading material (which I ended up drawing on for my Theatre BA!), covering peoples and countries along the common theme of clowning but discovering both similar and diverse concepts of "clowning". It broadened my understanding of clowning, sociology and the cultural anthropology of clowns.” (Francesca de Sica, Performer, UK)


“Jon Davison’s Clown History and Analysis course is something I’ve been looking to learn from for years. The online format was very practical while I was on tour and is just as suited to our current confined lifestyle. I’m so glad I can keep learning in my field no matter the circumstances.” (Vanessa Kneale, Clown, Quebec)


“Before attending Jon's Theory Clown Course in 2020 during lockdown, I was reluctant to join any courses online, not expecting that they could create the same connections as seminars or courses where everyone is present in one room. However, Jon's course ended up being the highlight of my week, not only did I gain so much from Jon's  incredible resources, planning and structure of the course, (even after four years of independent clown studies, there was so much to learn), I also found the powerful critical conversations with the other participants incredibly stimulating and valuable. I would highly recommend this course for anyone interested in clowns no matter your experience level.” (Dr Klara Van Wyk, Clown and Researcher, South Africa)


“the online workshops were a great success. An in- depth learning with multiple sources of research offered. Questions and conversations from international participants were a huge benefit & definitely a course I would highly recommend” (Oona Grimes, Visual Artist, UK)


“Thanks a million for this very rich, special, liberating, thought provoking and supportive course, for taking the initiative, for bringing together such nice people and guiding the discussion in such way that everybody feels safe, and for asking such stimulating questions to my responses!”  (Fritz Alblas, Researcher, Belgium)


“It draws on a fantastic range of materials , background reading, and knowledge and again connects participants who bring a very wide range of experience and knowledge to bear. Fascinating and useful.” (Ian Macnaughton, Actor, UK)

How does the Clown Studies Course function?


Options for following the course

You can currently follow the course online either by attending the weekly online sessions, or by viewing the recorded videos in your own time, or combining both ways.

If you follow live, you will be able to take part in the discussions that form part of each session.



Each week’s session focuses on a particular set of questions about an aspect of clown studies, using a combination of video viewing, readings and discussion.

Each week:

  • Before the scheduled video session, you will receive preliminary questions, with reading and/or viewing tasks

  • Access to the video session either live or as a recording, as you prefer

  • After the session, follow-up questions/tasks/assignments

  • Feedback on your responses to the session

Live streaming and recording access

  • You will need access to Zoom if attending live

  • Live-streamed sessions will be available as recordings once the live session is over and for one year following the original date

  • You will be invited to join a private group on Facebook where all participants can communicate with each other in a support and discussion forum.


Assignments and Feedback

There will be short assignments or questions each week/session relating to the session covered or coming up (if you follow it in your own time through recorded materials this can be done at your own convenience within the overall time limit for the course). It is envisaged that you will need to spend around an hour reading, watching materials and writing or recording your responses each week/session. Each participant will receive feedback or comments as the course progresses.


Projects (Part 3 Course)

In the 'Part 3' Course, each participant will compile a small single-issue project of their own choice on clown themes, by the end of the course. Each project will receive feedback and may also be discussed by the course participants when appropriate and feasible. The aim of the project is to produce a short response or reflection on a specific area of clown studies. Projects can be compiled in any format - text, photos, videos, spoken word or any other format that can be stored or recorded for future clown students to consult. The amount of time needed to compile the project may vary according to the content and format.

You can consult previous projects here in the Clown Studies Project Library



Additional source materials

  • Participants will be provided with a variety of source materials – text extracts, video, photos, bibliography.

  • Additional video material will be made available via playlists and my own website for you to access at any time during the course and until the cut-off point (one year from the beginning of the course). Much of this material is available online freely in any case, but it will be organised for your convenience of study and reference


There will be a cut-off time for the assignments and receiving feedback of one year from the date of the beginning of the course.


Please send an email to and I will send you details of how to pay.




I do not usually refund payments made (either whole or part payments) but I can offer you:

  1. The chance to use your payment towards a course or workshop at a later date within one year of the original courser.

  2. If the workshop fills up and there is a waiting list, you may receive a refund if your place is taken by someone on the waiting list.


These options are only applicable if you are unable to attend a course through some unavoidable or unforeseen circumstance, and can only be taken if requested at least 48 hours before the start of a course or workshop. If you cancel within 24 hours or do not turn up without notification then you should pay any outstanding fee.  


This policy is to protect the viability of courses, whose costs and numbers of participants need to be confirmed in advance.


I try to keep all prices as low as possible (I haven’t forgotten how difficult it can be to be a student). That’s why there is a single price, with no discounts or concessionary rates.

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