'There is a story told of me, even of me, the Great Buffo, as it has been told of every Clown since the invention of the desolating profession,' intoned Buffo, 'Told, once, of the melancholy Domenico Biancolette, who had the seventeenth century in stitches; told of Grimaldi; told of the French Pierrot, Jean-Gaspard Deburau, whose inheritance was the moon. This story is not precisely true but has the poetic truth of myth and so attaches itself to each and every laughter-maker. It goeth thus:
'In Copenhagen, once, I had the news of the death of my adored mother, by telegram, the very morning on which I buried my dearly beloved wife who had passed away whilst bringing stillborn into the world the only son that ever sprang from my loins, if "spring" be not too sprightly a word for the way his reluctant meat came skulking out of her womb before she gave up the ghost. All those I loved wiped out at one fell swoop! And still at matinee time in the Tivoli, I tumble in the ring and how the punters bust a gut to see. Seized by inconsolable grief, I cry: "The sky is full of blood!" And they laughed all the more. How droll you are, with the tears on your cheeks! In mufti, in mourning, in some low bar between performances, the jolly barmaid says: "I say, old fellow, what a long face! I know what you need. Go along to the Tivoli and take a look at Buffo the Great. He'll soon bring your smiles back!"
'The clown may be the source of mirth, but -- who shall make the clown laugh?'
'Who shall make the clown laugh?' they whispered together, rustling like hollow men.
(text from Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter, 1984)
(images from Watchmen #2, 1986)