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Jim Howle, tramp clown, artist and teacher

Jim HowleJIM HOWLE (1939 – )

Jim Howle is one of the most versatile clowns performing today. In addition to his performing skills, which are finely honed, he is also a famous artist and expert on clown make up.

Jim is a native of Darlington, South Carolina, where his mother was an artist, and Jim was pulled into clowning through art. While attending the Ringling School of Art, he learned of the creation of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College. He applied, was accepted, and was graduated from the original class in 1968.

He then toured with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey for seven years as a tramp clown (Hobo Jim), working with some of the great circus clowns such as Lou Jacobs and Mark Anthony. He was selected as the Big Show’s official artist. He left the show in 1974 to pursue his painting career.

Hobo Jim - Jim Howle

Hobo Jim – Jim Howle

Through the Contemporary American Clowns and Red Nose Philosopher series of paintings, the first three Clown Hall of Fame Inductee posters. and other paintings, Jim has captured the heart and soul of clowning. His work is included in the Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute and the Leningrad Gallery. There are clown collectible cards of his work available at Planet Mirth — well worth a look, even if just to appreciate his craftsmanship. A popular instructor, he has taught at Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College and the University of Wisconsin Clown Camp. He was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1993.

Jim Howle, aka. Hobo JimOn a personal note, I was fortunate enough to meet Jim at the UW Clown Camp in 1998 — he was one of the funniest men I ever met, as well as one of the most giving. He was (and is) a gifted instructor, and was instrumental in helping me craft a clown face that I was comfortable with – in addition, he created my wife Ellen’s Auguste clown makeup, as part of his “It’s Your Face” session. In fact, he custom created both of our clown noses, and makes his own line of clown makeup, which is available on-line at Clown Antics. Jim is truly an artist, in every sense of the word, as well as a gentleman, a teacher, and a truly great clown. I’m privileged to know him.



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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