Outside of David Shiner's appearance in Nouvelle Experience my favorite Cirque clowning is that of Russian-born Serguei Chachelev and his Canadian partner Michel Deschamps in La Nouba.
Chachelev is very unique in that he has been deaf and mute since childhood.
Most performers learn to listen for audience reaction to gauge how well a gag is going over. They adjust the act accordingly. Chachelev simply watches Deschamps for subtle cues. Because so much of clowning is about body language, he sees no reason to call his deafness a disability.
"I was born to be a clown," he signs.