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Clarabell 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.

Clarabell the Clown with Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob

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 the program.

Robert "Bob" 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).

Clarabell the Clown

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 THEATER).

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:

Buffalo Bob: Oh, who's the funniest clown you know? 
Peanut Gallery: CLARABELL! 
 Buffalo Bob: And Who's the clown on Howdy's show? 
Peanut Gallery: CLARABELL! 
Buffalo Bob: Well, his feet are big, his tummy's stout, but we could never do without. 
Everybody: CLARA-CLARA-CLAR-A-BELL! 

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."

Clarabell the Clown Book
Clarabell Book

TRIVIA NOTE: Alfie Scopp played Clarabell the Clown in a Canadian CBC production of the show that ran from 1954-59. William Shatner (of Star Trek fame) played the short-lived role of Ranger Bob in 1954.


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