i wonder what evolutionary niche clowns evolved to fill
No im pretty sure they started as a prey animal, that’s why their pupils are rectangles
Short answer: They are physiological designed to be the perfect children’s entertainer.
Long Answer: They didn’t really evolve at all. They were selectively bred alongside mimes, which share a common ancestor, the Jester. Jesters are, of course, the domesticated descendant of Bards, from which the entire Entertainer genus evolved.
Clowns were bred to be appealing to small children who would (theoretically) be more interested in the clown’s bright colors, silly antics, and slapstick comedy.
Mimes were bred to be more appealing to older audiences, for whom color and simplicity are as likely to be disinteresting as fascinating.
This is a dangerous oversimplification. Party clowns were bred to entertain children, and many modern circus clowns are crossbreeds with high party clown content (the party clown’s bright coloration being a desirable trait) but the party clown’s gentle nature and poor reflexes makes purebreeds a poor fit for the circus. The ones you see in the circus are generally crossed with mimes or acrobats.
Generalizing clowns as children’s entertainment leads to tragedy when people think they can trust any clown with small children when many breeds are temperamentally unsuited for that kind of thing - rodeo clowns are notoriously high-strung, funhouse clowns can be mean-spirited, and while the evil clown’s name is something of a misnomer you should still never leave a child alone with one.