Shakes the Clown

Shakes the Clown

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Produced by Paul Colichman
Ann Luly-Goldthwait
Written by Bobcat Goldthwait
Music by Tom Scott
Cinematography Bobby Bukowski
Elliot Davis
Edited by J. Kathleen Gibson
Distributed by IRS Media (Theatrical)
Columbia-TriStar Home Video (Home Video)
Release dates
  • August 28, 1991 (1991-08-28)

(Boston Film Festival)

  • March 13, 1992 (1992-03-13)


Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.4 million[1]

Shakes the Clown is a 1991 American black comedy film[2] directed and written by Bobcat Goldthwait, who performs the title role. It also features Julie Brown, Blake Clark, Paul Dooley, Kathy Griffin, Florence Henderson, Tom Kenny, Adam Sandler, Scott Herriott, LaWanda Page, Jack Gallagher, and a cameo by Robin Williams as Mime Jerry (using the pseudonym "Marty Fromage", an homage to an earlier film they worked in together called Tapeheads in which Goldthwait used the pseudonym "Jack Cheese").

The movie is a dark comedy about a birthday-party clown (Goldthwait) in the grip of depression and alcoholism, who is framed for murder. Different communities of clowns, mimes and other performers are depicted as clannish, rivalrous subcultures obsessed with precedence and status. This was Goldthwait's bitter satire of the dysfunctional standup comedy circuit he knew as a performer.[3]



Shakes the Clown was not a financial success, earning only about $115,000 in ticket sales against an estimated budget of $1.4 million.[4]

Critical reaction to the movie was mixed: Leonard Maltin gave it his lowest rating, while Betsy Sherman of The Boston Globe called it "the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies".[5] Roger Ebert gave Shakes 2-out-of-4 stars, writing that while some isolated scenes were "very funny" the plot was scattered and the performances often seemed under-rehearsed.[6] As of mid-2011, the movie has a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews.[7]

In an interview with Conan O'Brien, Goldthwait revealed that Martin Scorsese had defended the movie from detractors. When a film critic derided the movie in order to make a point about good and bad movies, Scorsese revealed, "I like Shakes the Clown. Haven't you heard? It's the Citizen Kane of Alcoholic Clown Movies!" [8]


  1. Shakes the Clown (production budget), Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 02, 2015.
  2. Sandra Brennan. "Shakes the Clown". AllMovie.
  3. Rabin, Nathan. "Interview: Bobcat Goldthwait". AV Club. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  4. "Box office / business for Shakes the Clown". IMDb. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  5. Blowen, Michael (December 2, 1997). "Rigors of family life are taming Bobcat Goldthwait". The Boston Globe. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  6. Ebert, Roger. "Shakes The Clown". Chicago Sun-Times.
  7. "Shakes the Clown". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  8. "Quotes & Trivia". Scorsese and His Films. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
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