Lou Jacobs
Lou Jacobs
1903 - 1992

As one of the few Master
Clowns in the entire world,
Lou Jacobs is a legend.

     Immediately recognizable to millions of people, with his bulbous nose, conehead topped by a tiny fedora hat with a shock of bright red hair around his ears and the ever-present oversize plaid coat, Lou Jacobs personified clowning for Children of All Ages. He entertained audiences at Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey for more than 60 years before retiring from performing at age 84.
     Lou Jacobs attained the revered title Master Clown, a distinction that few have achieved. His clown face appeared on a 1966 U.S. postage stamp. Jacobs was also honored at the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo for his contributions to the art of clowning. When Jimmy Stewart played a clown in Cecil B. DeMille's movie production The Greatest Show On Earth, Lou Jacobs was his tutor. Yet, with all of these honors, Jacobs always said that his greatest reward was the laughter of children.
     Born in Bremerhaven, Germany, in 1903, as Jacob Ludwig, the son of a shipbuilder, he got his theatrical start as the rear end of an alligator costume. By age 11, Lou Jacobs saw his first clown act in a German circus. When he was 15, he started practicing acrobatics and comedy.
     Lou Jacobs immigrated to the United States in 1923 and began working as a tumbler and acrobat with a small performing troupe in New York.
     "The next year I got hired by John Ringling," recalled Jacobs, "and I never left. He told me that I could choose between acts. One down here, and one up there (on the trapeze). I wasn't ready for 'up there' because it was 30 feet up, so I became a clown."
     Distinguished by his trademark "Auguste" makeup, Jacobs was one of the first clowns to use the rubber ball nose. Always an original, Lou Jacobs designed his own props and created his own gags.  Jacobs created the worlds tiniest car and folded his six-foot frame into it. Audiences will remember watching Jacobs' small canine partner, Knucklehead, who served faithfully for 14 years as star, sidekick, and foil for the gags and shenanigans of his clown master.
     The Jacobs family is a circus family in every sense of the word. In 1953 Lou married Jean Rockwell, a former model and aerialist with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey. The Jacobs' daughter, Dolly, is a featured aerialist.
     Lou Jacobs taught clowning techniques and shared secrets of the clowning profession with aspiring clowns at Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College each year.
     Lou Jacobs passed away at his home in Sarasota, Florida, in September of 1992.