10 Circus Acts That Have Withstood the Test of Time

Sure, some people may find clowns creepy, but they’ve been entertaining circus audiences for centuries. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Ah, yes. No circus would be complete without painted performers stuffing into too-small cars or hitting each other over the head with rubber chickens. (Is that even a clown act? If it is, let's hope there's more to it than that.) As we said, some floor acrobats from the earliest circus days began to incorporate clowning into their acts, and voila — the circus had its new stars.

Now we can't pretend the circus invented clowns. Although Philip Astley did do a kind of vaudeville act with a clown dubbed "Mister Merryman," and the dialogue was pretty much as silly as you'd expect, clowning and pantomimes existed long before Astley threw his hat in the ring [source: Angelo].

Today clowns are closely associated with the circus. But don't think that all clowns are alike: The true "white-face clown" might be the clever half of a duo who tricks the Auguste (the more naive and thoughtless clown) into trouble or mishaps.