the Clown - A silent, red-haired clown living in the circus
frontier town of Doodyville, USA on the live-action children's
program HOWDY DOODY/NBC/1947-60.
Dressed in a baggy, body length
green and white zebra striped costume, Clarabell Hornblow Clown (his
full name) carried a small utility box strapped below his chest in
which he kept his squeaky, Harpo Marx-like horn (He talked via "yes"
and "no" honks) and a bottle of seltzer water often used to squirt
Buffalo Bob Smith, the program's host.
Over the years three different performers played Clarabell. The
first was Bob Keeshan, a young NBC employee chosen for the part to
hold cue cards and to mingle with and control the kids of the
"Peanut Gallery" (the audience). Since Keeshan had no previous
acting experience, and non-speaking parts saved the program money,
he was given no lines on the show. The silent act also reminded loud
or unruly Peanut Gallery members to keep quiet during the taping of
Keeshan (died 01/23/2004) later left the program and became the star of his own
children's series, CAPTAIN KANGAROO. He was replaced by Henry
McLaughlin, Bobby Nickelson and finally by Lew Anderson (died of
complication from prostate cancer 5/21/2006).
Edwin Alberian (died of pneumonia 03/31/97) portrayed Clarabell
during public appearances with Buffalo Bob Smith and the rest of the
Howdy Doody gang during the mid 1950s. He also appeared on the show
making animal balloons as a character called Professor Gasbags.
During the early episodes of the American program, Bob Keeshan as Clarabell
originally wore only a green and white outfit and no makeup. When
Emmett Kelly, Sr., the famous tramp clown appeared on the show and
saw Keeshan with no "Clown" makeup, he created an original makeup
job for Keeshan on live television, giving him a rubber skull cap
with a fringe of red hair, greasepaint face and the official name of
"Clarabell." (Actor Henry Fonda starred as Emmett Kelly in his
biography "Clown" seen on the 3/27/55 production of GENERAL ELECTRIC
Edward Kean, later wrote a Clarabell theme song to the tune of
"Mademoiselle From Armentieres." Buffalo Bob and the Kids of the
Peanut Gallery would sing it to show their appreciation. It went
something like this:
||Oh, who's the funniest clown you know?
And Who's the clown on Howdy's show?
Well, his feet are big, his tummy's stout, but we could never do without.
Clarabell was once raffled off to a lucky fan during the 1950s. The
prankster clown visited the home of the fan who wrote the best
twenty-five words or less letter saying why he or she wanted Clarabell to stay with them. Another clown seen on the series was
the evil clown called Pesky who taunted Clarabell. After 2,343
programs, THE HOWDY DOODY SHOW left the air on September 24, 1960,
but not before Clarabell, silent for 13 years, uttered the closing
line, "Goodbye Kids."
Alfie Scopp played Clarabell the Clown in a Canadian CBC production
of the show that ran from 1954-59. William Shatner (of Star Trek
played the short-lived role of Ranger Bob in 1954.
Back to Top