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Emmett Kelly frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about the famous tramp clown, Emmett Kelly Sr., who performed with the Ringling Brothers, the Brooklyn Dodgers, on Broadway, in the movies, and elsewhere.

Where did Emmett Kelly grow up?

Emmett Kelly Sr. was born in Sedan, Kansas on December 9, 1898. His father worked the railroad, and his mother ran the family-owned boarding house. However, he didn’t grow up  in Sedan, but instead on a farm in rural Missouri. As a young man, he worked at various jobs, finally seeming to settle down working as a cartoonist for a silent film company in Kansas City.

What did Emmett Kelly do?

Originally, Emmett Kelly was an artist, who designed a sad clown character, Weary Willie. Later, he joined the circus initially as an acrobat, performing with his future wife. He wanted to perform in the circus as Weary Willy, but the circus owner initially refused, having him perform as a whiteface clown instead. Ironically, Emmett Kelly became famous worldwide for his now-famous Tramp clown, Weary Willie.

What is Emmett Kelly most famous for?

Emmett Kelly became famous, first in America and later around the world, as a sad tramp clown in the circus – Weary Willie. As Weary Willie, he had many classic routines, but the one that he’s most identified with is the classic “Sweeping the spotlight.” In it, Weary Willie would enter the ring with a push broom, and try to sweep up a spotlight on the floor, making it smaller, only for it to escape, etc.

When did Emmett Kelly die?

Emmett Kelly Sr. died of a heart attack on March 28, 1979, at his home in Sarasota, Florida, USA. After his death, his son, Emmett Kelly Jr. continued to perform as the circus clown tramp, Weary Willie. Years, later, his grandson, Emmett Kelly III continued the family tradition of performing as a clown, no longer as Weary Willie but as a happy hobo clown instead.

Who is Emmett Kelly Jr.?

Emmett Kelly, Jr. is the son of the famous circus clown Emmett Kelly. He was born in Dyersburg, Tennessee while his father was performing with  the John Robinson Circus. Emmett, Jr. spent his first few years traveling with his parents, but when he reached school age he lived with his grandparents during the school year and traveled with his family during the summer. He finished school during World War II, and joined the Navy at age 18 and Pacific participated in major operations in Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Despite his father’s fame, he didn’t pursue a job clowning until 4 years after his father’s retirement — and his choosing to portray the same character displeased his father, and caused the two to be estranged.



Computer nerd by day, professional clown on evenings and weekends (Raynbow), who combines the two by maintaining a bunch of websites dedicated to the history and performances of clowning, such as Free Clown Skits, and comedy such as Best Clean Funny Jokes.

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