For thousands of years, clown-like figures have existed in folklore. Characters like jesters — satirical figures who poke fun at powerful figures — can be traced back as early as 2500 B.C.
In ancient Egypt, Pygmy clowns would make pharaohs laugh, as depicted in hieroglyphics. And according to ancient imperial Chinese folklore, a clown named Yu Sze was the only person allowed to poke holes in Emperor Qin Shih Huang’s plan to paint the Great Wall of China. In ancient Rome, clowns were stock fools called stupidus.
The English word for “clown” first appeared in the 1500s, when William Shakespeare used the term to describe foolish characters in his plays.