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Gene Lee, aka. Cousin Otto – famous circus clown

Gene “Cousin Otto” Lee (1920 – 2016)

Inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1992, Wisconsin’s first Hall of Fame inductee, who was born in Milwaukee, logged his 50th year in clowning in 1991. Gene Lee’s clowning career included early stints in Cole Bros., Cole Bros.- Clyde Beatty and Ringling Bros. Circuses. His mentor, the famous Otto Griebling, helped give Lee his clown name, “Cousin Otto“, because he seemed like one of the family. Known as “America’s Favorite Relative“,

Uncle OttoThe Whitewater resident created the role of the Red Dot Potato Chip Co. clown. He was on TV, appeared at state and county fairs and in later years taught clowning on college campuses. He helped start the first clown alley in Wisconsin in 1970 in Delavan. Lee, a newspaper ad manager, is active in community affairs. He also edited two monthly national clown publications and was display director for the Clown Hall of Fame.

Cousin Otto was a supporter of  the Midwest Clown Association and the originator of 3 Ring News. Cousin Otto passed away on January 12, 2016.


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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