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Clowns in TV and movies, ranked, from Bozo to Fizbo

Larry Harmon portrays Bozo the Clown.

Larry Harmon portrays Bozo the Clown. Photo Credit: AP / International Clown Hall of Fame

Zach Galifianakis has played his share of bozos, most notably one of the drunken dudes in the “Hangover” movies. Now he stars as a bozo of the baggy-pants variety — specifically, a rodeo clown — in the FX series “Baskets,” which premieres Jan. 21 at 10 p.m.

Clowns have been a part of the pop-culture scene since circuses starting coming to town. So let’s send in the clowns and rank some of the most memorable from one (a tee-hee) to four spritzes (so sidesplitting, a surgeon should be nearby).


TV’s most famous clown was first played by Pinto Colvig in 1949 and subsequently by Larry Harmon and Willard Scott, among others.

THE LOOK Heinz-ketchup-colored hair, a nose the size of a Macintosh apple and a mouth that looked like it was smeared in stewed tomatoes.

HIS SHTICK No one was better at taking a pie in the face.



Long Islander Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, was the first of three actors to play Clarabell on “Howdy Doody.” Clarabell never spoke until the series’ last episode in 1960.

THE LOOK A baggy striped costume highlighted his partly red but mostly bare “fuzzy wuzzy hair.”

HIS SHTICK He often sprayed co-star Buffalo Bob Smith with seltzer.



In the 1952 Oscar winner “The Greatest Show on Earth,” James Stewart played a onetime doctor who ran off with the circus after murdering his wife.

THE LOOK The hair and mouth bear a strong resemblance to Bozo’s, but a pint-size top hat was the crowning touch.

HIS SHTICK He had a bouncy number with Betty Hutton and real circus clown Emmett Kelly on a trampoline.



Bart and Lisa Simpsons’ favorite clown was a rabbi’s son with a penchant for cigarettes and alcohol.

THE LOOK Frizzed out seafoam green hair and a tiny red nose complement his purple shirt, green pants and blue bow tie.

HIS SHTICK He was more interested in getting kids to buy whatever product he’s pushing than in making them laugh.



As Cam on “Modern Family,” Eric Stonestreet occasionally appears as his untalented clown alter ego. Earlier in his career, the actor worked as a clown.

THE LOOK Purple hair, a blend of red and white face paint, red nose and Stonestreet’s outfit from his clown days — a yellow hat worn sideways, plaid suit with a red vest and a pink necktie.

HIS SHTICK In one episode, he got a bucket stuck on his head; in another he made a mess of a kids’ birthday party with a puppetlike show.

SPRITZES 1 for Fizbo, but 4 for Stonestreet as Fizbo.

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