Nov 2, 2023 - Culture

Why being a clown is a critical art form for Church of Clown

Photo of two clown performers holding their arms out on a stage. The one on the left is in orange clown make-up and clothes.

Photo: Courtesy of Dan Griffiths/Church of Clown

Don't expect lopsided red noses or lackluster birthday party performers at Church of Clown — for this nonprofit arts organization, being a clown is a craft that aims to inspire joy and resilience.

Driving the news: Founded during the pandemic, Church of Clown serves as a space to train amateurs as well as a stage for more seasoned performers. Programming includes mime classes, clown workshops and a youth circus.

  • The group hosted a Holy Fools Parade on April 1 this year and is now holding its inaugural FLOP Festival at its Visitacion Valley venue through Sunday.

What they're saying: Executive director Dan Griffiths, a longtime staple in the local performing arts community, told Axios he started the organization as part of an effort to bring levity during a period of grief and isolation across the nation.

  • Clowns, he said, have existed throughout history — sometimes to point out foibles, sometimes as "ecstatic spirit workers."
  • Despite perceptions of clowns in American pop culture, they serve as a "human glue" that brings people together and gives them a tangible reason to laugh, Griffiths added.

The big picture: Clowning has a long history in the Bay. San Francisco is home to the Clown Conservatory at Circus Center and served as ground zero for the Pickle Family Circus.

What to watch: The Church of Clown plans to offer a Krampus holiday cookie event in the coming months and a physical theater performance series in the spring.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Francisco.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Francisco stories

No stories could be found

San Franciscopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Francisco.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more