The son of a deranged Italian immigrant, Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) was the most celebrated of English clowns. The first to use white-face make-up and wear outrageous coloured clothes, he completely transformed the role of the Clown in the pantomime with a look as iconic as Chaplin's tramp or Tommy Cooper's magician.
One of the first celebrity comedians, his friends included Lord Byron and the actor Edmund Kean, and his memoirs were edited by the young Charles Dickens. But underneath the stage paint, Grimaldi struggled with depression and his life was blighted with tragedy.
His first wife died in childbirth and his son would go on to drink himself to death. In later life, the extreme physicality of his performances left him disabled and in constant pain. The outward joy and tomfoolery of his performances masked a dark and depressing personal life, and instituted the modern figure of the glum, brooding comedian.
Joseph Grimaldi left an indelible mark on the English theatre and the performing arts, but his legacy is one of human struggle, battling demons and giving it his all in the face of adversity.
About the Author
Andrew Stott is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York, Buffalo, where he specialises in comedy, popular culture and the history of the theatre from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. In 2005 he wrote Comedy, an academic study of the art, and has since become a comedy pundit, offering commentaries to New York's WNYC radio and Slate magazine.
'A round of applause is due to this exuberant, impassioned portrait, for bringing the great Grimaldi, 'Joey the Clown', into the limelight again.' Observer
Number Of Pages: 433
Published: 1st December 2010
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9 x 3.3
Weight (kg): 0.34
Edition Number: 1