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.
- Bobcat Goldthwait as Shakes the Clown
- Julie Brown as Judy
- Blake Clark as Stenchy the Clown
- Paul Dooley as Owen Cheese
- Kathy Griffin as Lucy
- Tom Kenny as Binky the Clown
- Adam Sandler as Dink the Clown
- Jack Gallagher as Officer Crony
- Florence Henderson as The Unknown Woman
- Scott Herriott as Floor Director
- LaWanda Page as Female Clown Barfly
- Robin Williams as Mime Jerry
- Johnny Silver as Clown Tailor
Shakes the Clown was not a financial success, earning only about $115,000 in ticket sales against an estimated budget of $1.4 million.