Our #GivingTuesday gift 🎁: CWB’s 2024 Clowny Calendar. Claim yours today!

Top Clown Schools in the US (Includes Insider Reviews)

Top Clown Schools in the US (Includes Insider Reviews)

Do you dream of clowning? It’s time to take those dreams to the next level with this updated resource of top clown schools in the US.

These opportunities — ranging from drop-in classes to Master of Arts programs — offer creative inspiration, historical perspective, skill development, and valuable feedback to support your path to wearing the red nose.

While there’s no right way to become a clown, training completed by Clowns Without Borders (CWB) artists typically includes contemporary circus performance and working in an ensemble. The schools highlighted here celebrate these styles. They also espouse clown qualities we treasure, including vulnerability, authenticity, and presence.

Before we jump into our list of top clown schools in the US, we’ve got a question for you:

What kind of clown will you be?

CWB Artists Darina Robles, aka the migrant chicken, and Lars Uribe perform in a CWB tour in Gualemala.
CWB Artists Darina Robles and Lars Uribe perform for migrant families in Paradise, Guatemala, 2022. Photo by John Rudoff.

Clowntemplation: Questions to Help You Find Your Best-Fit Clown School

“Clown” means something different for everyone.

You may not know what kind of clown you want to be, or what kind of clown school you want to attend. And that’s okay.

To get a clearer picture, we encourage you to continue learning about clowning, how it can foster play and connection, and influence culture. This kind of investigation will give you direction, or at least get you asking interesting questions.

Here are five questions you can ask yourself right now to help bring clarity to your school search.

Clown School Clarity:

Get Nosey About Your Clown Type

  1. Why do I want to study clown?
  2. What kind of clowning do I most connect to?
  3. Do I want to perform or am I looking for an outlet to expand my creative horizons?
  4. If I want to perform, am I interested in the stage, party shows, street performances — or some combination?
  5. How much time and money do I want to invest in training?

Wait! What about the Rainbow Wigs and Full Makeup?

If you dream of putting on big shoes and full makeup, definitely check out MooseburgerClown Camp, and other listings via the World Clown Association.

You won’t find that style of clown taught in the places listed below.

What will you find?

  • Inspired locations
  • Talented artist-teachers
  • Passionate students with whom you can share the journey

Let’s do this!

CWB’s Founder Moshe Cohen on tour with fellow CWB Artists in Guatemala, 2019.
CWB’s Founder Moshe Cohen on tour with fellow CWB Artists César Humberto Toje Hernández, Miguel Ángel Guzmán, and Juan Pablo Flores Perez in Guatemala, 2019.

The Funniest Education You’ll Ever Get: Top Clown Schools in the US

1. Dell’Arte International – Blue Lake, California

Dell'Arte International logo obtained Apr 2023

Dell’Arte International is a school for theater training, research, and performance of the actor-creator.

Carlo Mazzone-Clementi and Jane Hill wanted to share the European traditions of physical theater training with North American artists and performers. So they founded Dell’Arte in 1971. Since then, Dell’Arte International has gained international recognition.

Its School of Physical Theater teaches actors to develop their use of physical spaces, gestures, and movements while approaching stage performance as poetic expression. Instruction guides students to explore and produce creative works.

Offerings

Physical theater education is at the core of Dell’Arte’s offerings, which include a Clown Core program, a professional training program, a summer intensive, and a study abroad in Bali. Scholarship opportunities are available.

The campus is replete with studios, gymnastics/acro classrooms, mask construction area, costume shop, theater, amphitheater, as well as an outdoor wilderness space along the Northern Coast of California.

Many Dell’Arte graduates fill the Clowns Without Borders roster.

Learn more at https://dellarte.com/.

“My experience at Dell’Arte kind of blew my mind. I started to understand what it might mean to be an artist and not just an actor. I started to understand my strengths and where I needed to grow.”

— CWB Artist Hannah Graff

Woman with clown glasses looking off screen

2. Center for Movement Theatre – Washington DC

Center for Movement Theatre with Dody Disanto logo. Clown School

The Center for Movement Theatre is a large, gorgeous workspace for practitioners, teachers, and trainers.

Dody Disanto instructs students in her physical approach to acting based on the work of the late Jacques Lecoq. Physical theater training compels a student to learn the space — how to use it and body gestures to communicate with maximum clarity and intention for the audience.

At the core of this style of theater is the use of neutral masks.

The Neutral Mask

To best understand neutral mask work, we recommend you sign up for a course. Ha!

A cursory explanation?

Students wear the neutral mask during training. As soon as they don the mask, pupils must be “at the ready” in the words of Dody Disanto. Ready to play, create, and broaden the physical senses.

Lecoq’s neutral masks gradually become smaller as the student’s theater skills become more refined. Eventually, you’ll just wear a clown nose.

Offerings

Dody Disanto teaches a monthly drop-in movement clinic, 5-day summer intensives, a bouffon laboratory, neutral mask, and a dynamic studies class.

The Center is complete with a gym, treatment rooms, and a natural light-filled studio.

Learn more at https://www.thisisthecenter.com/.

Clowns Without Borders artist interacts with kids after a clown show in The Philippines, 2014.
Clowns Without Borders artist interacts with kids after a clown show in The Philippines, 2014.

3. Celebration Barn Theater – Western Maine

Celebration Barn clown school logo.

Celebration Barn Theater offers intensives in a beautifully restored horse barn in rural Maine. It’s a neigh-sayers game-changer.

Tony Montanaro opened the Celebration Barn in 1972, creating a hub for mastering mime, improvisation, storytelling, and other skills that make great performers shine.

Alumni of the Barn have taken the skills they learned there and have gone on to amazing careers in theater, film, and television. Think Sesame Street puppeteers, writers for Between the Lions, and performers with Cirque du Soleil.

Offerings

Come prepared to play!

Participants receive quality instruction from talented teachers and exposure to other exceptional actors. Workshops and residencies focus on collaboration and pushing the artist’s creative exploration to the edge.

You can polish your performance at a retreat with Robert Post; try something new with Principles of Eccentric Performing; dive deep into bouffon and mocking; trigger your imagination with Spymonkey’s Creating Clown Material.

The Celebration Barn also holds shows on its grounds and features a traveling comedy play.

Learn more at https://celebrationbarn.com/.

Clowns performing in Turkey as a rainbow appears in the sky

4. Pig Iron – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pig Iron clown school logo obtained Apr 2023

Pig Iron is an award-winning theater company, best known for its experimental theater.

Touring with its unconventional in-house productions since 2004, Pig Iron Theatre Company creates unique and challenging performances, trains new artists, and asks tough questions about the world around us.

Offerings

Pig Iron School focuses on performance acting with full-impact creativity. There are seasonal workshops to help actors, students, and professionals develop flexibility, presence, and collaboration skills. The summer sessions tend to be the most clown-focused.

Pig Iron School also offers an MFA/Certificate program in Devised Performance through a partnership with the University of the Arts-Ira Brind School of Theater Arts.

Learn more at https://www.pigiron.org.

Clowns Without Borders artist Carolina “CoiCoi” balances on a ladder during a Colombia coastal tour, 2018.
Clowns Without Borders artist Carolina “CoiCoi” balances on a ladder during a Colombia coastal tour, 2018.

5. USC School of Dramatic Arts, Institute for Theatre & Social Change – Los Angeles, California

USC school of dramatic arts clown school logo obtained Apr 2023

The clown, a pure embodiment of vitality, transports the patient from the confines of the hospital room into a world without limitations.

Zachary Steel, Program Director

USC School of Dramatic Arts is a clown school that believes that medical clowning is transformative and healing.

Medical clowns help patients feel better by reducing stress and boosting emotional well-being. The Medical Clowning Program at USC uses humor to improve the patient experience in local hospitals, and to shape a “healthier humanity.” The program has certified 25 undergraduate medical clowns and 10 professional performers.

USC Medical Clowns work outside of hospitals too. They’re partnering with The Children’s Bureau to provide emotional support to children through support groups, making them the first program in the US to use medical clowning in this therapeutic setting.

Learn more at https://itsc.usc.edu/mc-program/about-medical-clowning-2/.

Clowns Without Borders artist Kolleen Kintz shares her guitar with a boy in Lesvos, Greece 2016.
Clowns Without Borders artist Kolleen Kintz shares her guitar with a boy in Lesvos, Greece 2016.

6. Clown Gym – New York City, New York

clown gym clown school logo obtained Apr 2023

While it sounds like a fun place to work out, Clown Gym is actually a great place for high-quality actor training in NYC.

It started as a collaborative experiment. It’s grown over the years to become one of the city’s most reliable sources for connecting artists in a community of experimentation, laughter, and play.

Julia Proctor, Director of Clown Gym, draws on her training with respected instructors such as Christopher Bayes and Philippe Gaulier to help students access their natural creativity and generosity in their acting. She encourages students to connect with their spontaneous impulses and build their skills in a supportive and playful community.

Offerings

Tuesday night drop-in classes are open to all, just register online before actually dropping in. These classes will help you strengthen your existing acting muscles and help you discover others you didn’t even know you had.

In addition, Clown Gym offers intensives, bootcamps, mentors, and shows. There’s even a monthly “Clown Jam” where you can practice your material with help from an experienced coach.

Learn more at https://www.clowngym.com/.

Kids enjoy the clown show in Lebanon
Kids enjoying a Clowns Without Borders show in Lebanon, 2022. Photo by Charbel Sammour.

7. The Pandemonium Studio – Brooklyn, New York

The pandemonium studio clown school logo obtained Apr 2023

Ready to unleash your inner clown?

Master teacher Christopher Bayes will guide you to explore new ways of doing, thinking, feeling, and expressing yourself — whether you’re a total newbie, a seasoned actor, or a complete clown (pun intended).

Pandemonium classes use rhythm, kinesthetic response, and impulse exercises to help actors develop expression. By unlearning societal filters and listening to your body, you’ll unleash playful impulses. The result? Performances that are bold, dynamic, and unforgettable.

The theatre is a live event and dangerous by its very nature. It should be. That is what is thrilling about it. How do we capture that beauty of chaos and the thrill of pandemonium that is so full of life and possibility?

Christopher Bales

Offerings

Pandemonium offers summer intensives, teacher trainings, and classes. Classes titles include Clown for All, Clown, Advanced Clown, Extra Super Advanced Clown (!!), Acting as Play, Shakespeare as Play, and Improv with Ralf!

Learn more at https://www.thepandemoniumstudio.com.

Artists from Circus Katmandu, a Nepalese organization, perform in partnership with CWB in Nepal, 2015.
Artists Sharmila and Payel from Circus Katmandu, a Nepalese organization, perform in partnership with CWB in Nepal, 2015.

8. The Actors Gymnasium – Evanston, Illinois

The clown is resilient. Even when it doesn’t win, it always survives the experience, and the audience sees that it’s possible to go through the fire, to transform, and to thrive.

Adrian Danzig, Clown Program Lead Teacher and Curriculum Creator

If you’re looking to hone your foundational circus and performance skills, definitely check out The Actors Gymnasium (AG).

AG’s Artistic Director, Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, grew up touring with circuses like Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey as a second-generation performer. She is also an ensemble member of the Lookingglass Theatre.

AG’s leadership and staff have created a community of physical performers who support each other emotionally, physically, and creatively.

Offerings

AG classes are open to people of all ages and all abilities (Yes! Beginners are welcome!).

If you want more structure, check out AG’s Professional Circus Training Program. The program has two concentrations: aerobatics and clowning. 

The clown concentration is based on Ringling Bros Clown College and includes various disciplines such as circus arts, mime, dance, physical comedy, devising, and object manipulation. The curriculum also focuses on developing skills in clown dramaturgy and direct audience relationships.

Financial aid is available for anyone, with scholarships covering 25% to 95% of the program cost.

Learn more at https://www.actorsgymnasium.org.

CWB artists look on with admiration at a boy performing a trick at a clown show in Cairo
A boy from the audience shows a bit during a Clowns Without Borders show in Cairo, Egypt, 2022. Photo by Zach Doleac.

9. The Clown School – Los Angeles, California

The Clown School logo obtained Apr 2023

The Clown School wants your clown to come out and be creative, playful, and fearless.

Using ancient and modern methods to teach clowning, The Clown School pays tribute to everything from indigenous clown rituals to the modern-day circus. They offer unique classes that inspire actors, performers, and comics.

David Bridel and Orlando Pabotoy founded the Clown School in 2007, and presently, David and Mike Funt lead the classes, accompanied by various guest teachers.

We test and examine their capacity to be spontaneous and work in a troupe, and also to allow themselves to make fun of themselves.

David Bridel, Founding Director, The Clown School

Offerings

The exercises and improvisations build skills that are useful on stage, in film, and in life. The students receive individual attention and face targeted challenges, making the classes disciplined, rigorous, and fun.
Learn more at https://www.theclownschool.com.

Clowns Without Borders artists in Turkey, 2022.
Clowns Without Borders artists Meredith Gordon and Josie Mae with kids from the audience in Turkey, March, 2023. Photo by Zeynep Secil.

10. The Idiot Workshop – Los Angeles, California

Idiot Workshop logo obtained from FB Apr 2023.

Get ready for some serious silliness at The Idiot Workshop! Their website proudly declares them as champions of “upholding, nurturing, and catapulting Idiots.”

Leading the pack is John Gilkey, a legendary clown, acrobat, and performer with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry, including stints with the Pickle Family Circus and Cirque du Soleil.

But here’s the twist: The Idiot Workshop ditches the traditional hierarchy and offers an ongoing class structure that prioritizes continued practice and lets students switch things up whenever they want.

Offerings

The Idiot Workshop emphasizes the importance of play, fun, and creativity in the learning process, and its instructors provide individual attention and feedback to their students. The school’s courses are suitable for anyone interested in physical comedy and performance, including actors, comedians, and theater students.

In the Intro class, performers learn to improvise organically without following rules or formulas, discovering their own comedic voice. Extra-Idiot classes include Body Brain Smoothie (a movement class), Devising and Idiot Dance, Red Nose Clown, a video-making class, and Acting as Disaster.

Learn more at https://www.theidiotworkshop.com.

Four Clown Me In clowns point in four different directions while looking at a map.
Artists with Clown Me In, a Lebanon-based organization, performing in partnership with CWB in Lebanon, May 2022. Photo by Charbel Sammour.

11. Giovanni Fusetti

Get ready to ignite the stage and unleash your inner artist with Giovanni Fusetti! This rockstar of a teacher and performer brings a holistic approach that blends physicality, emotions, and wild imagination.

With training from prestigious schools and collaborations worldwide, Giovanni has become a renowned teacher, pedagogue, and director. His work in movement-based theater has taken him to numerous countries, where he has shared his expertise with leading theater companies, universities, and schools.

Giovanni’s passion for theater as a transformative experience extends to his work with hospital clowns and his exploration of personal healing through the Red Nose Clown.

Offerings

Giovanni Fusetti has an exciting lineup of workshops worldwide in places like Italy, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Join him for immersive experiences in Theatre Clown, Physical Comedy, Movement Analysis, Psychological Types, Contemporary Australian Types, Psychodrama, Physical Theatre, and the Pedagogy of Movement Theatre.

Keep an eye on the evolving calendar and join the mailing list for updates on new workshops.

Learn more at https://giovannifusetti.com/workshops.

“Giovanni is skilled at creating ensemble and teaches partner work beautifully. At every opportunity, Giovanni incorporates music into clowning. He structures the class within a professional standard that reminded me of ballet master classes and acting conservatories. He gives his students every ounce of his attention and expects the same in return, which created a hugely gratifying and respectful environment.”

— CWB Artist Olivia Lehrman Sblendorio

Woman next to kids in a clown shirt

Conclusion

Finding the right clown school is like finding the right clown nose — it may take a while, but the search is worth it.

How else might we help you on your journey to bring more laughter into the world? Please let us know in the comments.

Also, do you think another clown school program should be on the list? Leave a comment and let us know what we might want to consider adding (and why) for our next update!

Learn more about CWB’s 2022 tours.

49 Comments
  • Anna
    June 23, 2023

    I’m in the middle of classes right now with Cheerful Clown Alley and I would not recommend them to anyone. They do very little actual teaching and everything is super outdated and corny. Very little artistry in it.

    • Anonymous
      October 30, 2023

      I graduated from there in the past and I agree with you- two of the best teachers left right before your class started unfortunately 🙁 I wouldn’t give up on clowning though! There is sooo much to learn and we can utilize a ton of online resources in the meantime

  • James K Bradford
    June 18, 2023

    The Northeast Clown Institute runs a 3 day school every January in Plymouth, MA. It is a good, affordable basic clown school. Its original purpose was to train Shriner clowns, but now anyone can enroll. I have been an Instructor there for 24 years.

    • Naomi
      June 19, 2023

      Thanks for sharing this resource for those who are looking for an introduction to clowning.

  • Courtney Ng
    August 20, 2022

    I love to become a clown

  • Kevin Perry
    July 12, 2022

    Looking for a school in clowning in Michigan or close by. I am a MBA candidate with dual honors majors.

  • Kaden, "Ripples"
    May 18, 2022

    Yo. Clowning is my calling. I’ve recently discovered how cracked I am at juggling – seriouslu, I’m not clowning around. I might send some videos of me juggling soon, but I can’t right now. My friends were making fun clown college, and found a site. They don’t support the lifestyle, but I don’t blame because I’ve yet to come out of the jester-closet. I’m glad to get this off my chest, I can’t wait to see my new goofy peers at Mooseburger Clown School!! ❤

  • Sticky Mcguffins (my clown name)
    May 18, 2022

    Y’all have inspired me to pursue a clown career. My parents want me to be a doctor but I told them “mummy, daddiums. I can’t do what you want I must be my own man and pursue clowning.” They can’t control me and I will be a clown. Thank you all for being my true inspiration.

  • Gerald Flower Sprayer
    December 20, 2021

    wow

  • John Coyne
    May 13, 2021

    I am trying to get some information on the Bont’s International Clownschool located in Menorca, Spain. Do you know where I can find anything abou it? Thank you

  • Tyler
    September 21, 2020

    Any clown schools in the northwest?

  • Shanti Asiatic
    May 6, 2020

    At Shanti Asiatic School Jaipur, we believe that the Guru – the Teacher is the mentor for a child. Thus, it becomes imperative for us to provide the best of faculty from across the nation to nurture our children. We are in the top 10 Schools in Jaipur.

  • Pooja
    April 2, 2020

    Hey Tamara, thanks for these recommendations of clown schools. Theatre acting always brings the hidden artist inside you. Education is important for each individual but not on the cost of passion. Passion always leads to satisfaction from within. So, in my opinion age is just a number and if you have the passion then you must join a clown school to know your another side of positivity.

  • Diane Hyde
    March 10, 2020

    Do you know if there are any schools or classes you can take for 1 week? I wanted to gift my Sister . She has always wanted to take a class Thank You Diane

    • Leviticus clownwall
      May 18, 2022

      Wow. I’m speechless. The incredible, raw nature of this page lured me in to my true calling. Before, I never knew what I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, or how I would get there. This page changed my life for the better. I have dropped everything now for my calling. My newfound PASSION in clowning. I am so thankful for all of the incredible people in this community who have helped me along the way! Happy clowning y’all!

    • Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
      March 12, 2020

      Hi Diane, your best bet is to search online for local clowning, circus, or physical theater classes in your area.

  • Don Kimble
    December 3, 2019

    I’m retired and looking for something meaningful to do with some of my spare time. Do you know of any clown schools near me in the Jacksonville, FL area? I was thinking of maybe clowning for kids in hospitals near me. Learned to juggle in high school and I have big feet so i have that going for me.

    • Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
      December 9, 2019

      Hi Don, It looks like Gator Clowns is located in Jacksonville, FL. A quick Google search will give you more information.

  • Bruce Grover
    September 27, 2019

    Looking for a clown college around New England. I live in Freeport Maine. Any information would be really appreciated. My email address is Mandosonthemarsh@gmail.com Thanks Bruce.

    • Naomi
      October 2, 2019

      Check out Celebration Barn Theatre and New England Center for Circus Arts.

  • dr. punit goyal
    June 25, 2019

    thanks for sharing this such a great post

  • Eshal Fatima
    January 26, 2019

    I really like your post.

  • Jo Blickers
    December 11, 2018

    I am co-president of a Rockaway NJ Women’s Club and my Program Committee is thinking to invite a clown in 2020 to speak on his/her training/experiences/how face designs are derived at/and how do you ever walk in those shoes!? (Actually, some years ago I performed w/my daughter around Mass. & NY but only special people know that fact.) Our presenters normally talk about 45 minutes. We have a budget to cover performers’ charges. Thank you for any help yo can offer me. Many of our programs are in the evening but members are beginning to ask for afternoon meetings; during a summer month, we could include grandkids in our audience.

  • Lamar Williams
    November 29, 2018

    How can I sign up for clown school

  • Joy West, or Toodles the Clown
    October 24, 2018

    Thank you so much for helping me discover my calling. Before stumbling upon this great website, I was lost, but now I know that this is my future. I’ve started reaching out to all the clowning schools, and cannot wait for their reply. This website has taken my clowning dreams to the next level. I feel so professional! Wishing y’all happiness and joy in clowning endeavors. Thanks, Toodles the Clown

    • Nova
      October 4, 2022

      I love you man <3

  • ComplianceKEY
    July 6, 2018

    Good gesture! Schools like this always praise or motivate to fulfil there dream.

  • Jezzibelle murphy
    February 14, 2018

    Considering career in clowning, this website definitely helped me in my search for a quality clown school. Thank you, Peace 2018

  • Clown
    February 12, 2018

    Send in the clowns

  • Victoria fowlkes
    November 11, 2017

    I would love to know more I love clowns and want to be one someday

    • Naomi
      November 16, 2017

      awesome!

  • ripleys entertainment league for seniorcitz
    November 10, 2017

    can you train clowns to entertain lonely nursinghome residents

    • Naomi
      November 16, 2017

      There are some great programs doing just that – check out our friends at https://www.teatrodosopro.com/

  • kimberly yoakum
    August 13, 2017

    904-208-8286 would love to know more, as i am a clown and am trying to get my boyfriend to be one too.

  • Red nose girl
    November 9, 2016

    You’ve left out Moosecamp, NY Goofs, and American Clown Academy….. There are so few clown educational programs that exist in the first place that you need to included ALL of them.

    • Kevin S Perry
      March 22, 2021

      Have clown college brochures?

      • Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
        March 24, 2021

        Hi Kevin, you can email or call schools and ask for more information on their training programs.

  • Kenny Ahern
    November 8, 2016

    We request that you consider Clown Camp for your Top Clown Schools list. The program was founded in 1981 and has trained over 6000 people from around the world. The program will be presented at Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI June 11-16, 2017. Former Circus Center/Clown Conservatory Director, Joe Dieffenbacher is on our 2017 staff.

    • Kenny Ahern
      November 8, 2016

      You can learn more about Clown Camp and register for our June 2017 program at http://www.regonline.com/clowncamp2017

      • tonda williams
        March 8, 2019

        my name is tonda williams if some one get ged can come at clowns college

        • Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
          March 17, 2019

          Hi Tonda! Your best bet is to call the admissions offices of clown schools you’re interested in, and ask them about their admissions requirements. Each school will have different requirements for incoming students.

  • Pam Blacklock
    September 28, 2016

    Cheerful Clown Alley #166 in Houston, Texas has been having a clown school for over 30 years! Check out http://Www.cheerfulclowns.com

    • Tamara Palmer
      September 29, 2016

      Thanks, Pam! Looks like the 2016 class recently graduated. Any word on when the next session will begin?

      • Pam Blacklock
        September 29, 2016

        Our clown school usually starts sometime in June and they graduate on the first Saturday in August. It goes 6-8 weeks, one evening a week and 2-3 full days on Saturdays. http://www.cheerfulclowns.com

        • Tamara Palmer
          September 29, 2016

          Great! Thanks!

  • Rex Nolen
    September 19, 2016

    Where is Mooseburger Clown School it’s been around for 20 years and produced many Ringling clowns

    • nolen meyer
      October 27, 2020

      Hi my name is Nolan and you are an absolute inspiration to me. I aspire to be the next REX!!!!!

    • Tamara Palmer
      September 19, 2016

      Thank you, Rex! There will be another round of clown schools that will be added to this blog in the near future. Thank you for bringing this school to our attention. We’ll be sure to add it!

      • Honker
        July 15, 2019

        Thank you, Tamara! Can’t wait for the update. Keep clowning around!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *.