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To most people, joking around is a mere distraction from the daily grind. To a clown, it’s the basis of the business. Most clowns don’t work full time in greasepaint and oversized shoes. Instead, they typically maintain a full-time position for financial support, while working as a clown when job opportunities arise. A small handful of clowns find full-time work with circuses, amusement parks and other niches in the entertainment world. A clown's salary will vary depending on factors such as work hours and employer.
Average Full-Time Clown Salary
The average salary for advertised clown positions is $38,000, according to Simply Hired, while State Universtiy reports average earnings of $51,000 a year. These positions are for clowns who work a full schedule in a stable entertainment setting such as an amusement park. Many of these positions involve direct interaction with visitors and audience members rather than a strictly performance-based program such as those of circus clowns.
One of the premiere levels at which a clown may practice his art is as a circus clown. Circus clowns perform for several hours each day during performance days. Although as of 2011, fewer than 300 clowns work full-time in U.S. circuses, according to Occupational Outlook Quarterly, these clowns typically receive housing and medical benefits in addition to their wages. Because housing is provided by their employer, circus clowns’ salaries can be somewhat small, with starting salaries of around $300 per week.
Sometimes, wearing greasepaint and baggy pants is no laughing matter. Rodeo clowns work alongside bull riders in rodeos, distracting bulls from cowboys who fall from the saddle. This branch of clowning is particularly dangerous, with rodeo clowns routinely suffering injuries, according to Salary.com, and it requires athletic ability as well as a taste of adventure. Rodeo clowns typically earn between $100 and $225 per rodeo.
Most professional clowns don’t work full-time schedules. Instead, they contract their services out to party planners and other event organizers. A clown’s hourly earnings may vary considerably depending upon his skills and his audience–clowns hired to work at children’s parties usually earn less than those hired to provide entertainment at corporate events, for example. Hourly pay may range from $40 to $150 for engagements.
Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.