For many years, Otto
Griebling served as a principal clown
with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum
and Bailey circus. Otto is regarded among
both the cognoscenti and the professional
clown community as the clown's clown.
Many professional clowns learned their
basic technique from Otto. Because of
the randomness of the media and Hollywood
publicity machines, many clowns feel that
credit which was given to Emmett Kelly
would more appropriately rest with Otto
Otto was the epitome
of the character
clown. Much of the rich history and
characterizations of the tramp clown is
due the pioneering work of Otto Griebling.
Ironically, Otto began his circus career
as an bareback rider, and only taught
himself clowning after an injury.
Otto originated many
famous sequential routines where he would
appear before the audience many times
throughout evening trying to deliver ever-changing
props. Examples range from a constantly
shrinking block of ice which eventually
becomes an ice cube to a very small plant
which becomes a gigantic tree by the end
of the evening. In addition, Otto was
famous for deft hat prestidigitation.
Otto was also a preeminent instructor
for many years at Ringling Brothers Clown
College in Sarasota Florida.
Otto Griebling was born
on April 28, 1896 in Germany. Otto died
tragically of throat cancer in April 1972
at Saint Clare's hospital in New York
city. Otto is buried with his favorite
deck of pinochle cards at Sarasota Memorial
Park, which is off highway 41 between
Sarasota and Venice in Florida. At the
time of his death, Otto was still teaching
at Clown College, and still performing.
Otto had accumulated over fifty years
of circus service.
Read about Otto Griebling's
induction into the
international clown hall of fame.