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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Joseph Grimaldi

Joseph Grimaldi (1778–1837) was the Regency era's most successful entertainer.  He was seen by one in eight people in early nineteenth century London.

He was born in Clare Market, London, into a family of dancers and comic performers on December 18, 1778.

Joseph appeared aged 3 on stage at Drury Lane as "Little Clown" in the pantomime The Triumph of Mirth; or, Harlequin's Wedding. As a result of his performance, he received further work offers from the management and became an established juvenile performer at Drury Lane.

Grimaldi created for his Joey the Clown character the whiteface make-up design still used in pantomime and by many other clowns today.

Joseph Grimaldi's catch phrase was "here we are again!". He used it as Joey the Clown in pantomime.

Grimaldi also was known for the mischievous catchphrase "Shall I?", which prompted audience members to respond "Yes!"

The numerous injuries Grimaldi received as a result of his energetic performances eventually led to a decline in his health and to his semi-retirement in 1823.

Living in obscurity during his final years, Grimalsi became an impoverished alcoholic.

Grimaldi died at home in Islington, aged 59 on May 31, 1837, having outlived his wife and his actor son Joseph Samuel. He was buried in 'Joseph Grimaldi Park', Pentonville Road, London.

Grimaldi is remembered today in an annual memorial service on the first Sunday in February at Holy Trinity Church in Hackney, London. The service, which has been held since the 1940s, attracts hundreds of clown performers from all over the world who attend the service in full clown costume.

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