The original Broadway production of "A Thousand Clowns" by Herb Gardner opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in New York on April 5, 1962, ran for 428 performances and was nominated for the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play. Jason Robards, Gene Saks, William Daniels and Barry Gordon recreated their stage roles in the filmed production. Gordon was nominated for the 1963 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Sandy Dennis who did not recreate her stage role, won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Two of the names Nick adopted temporarily are those of specific real people. Dr. Morris Fishbein was the very controversial editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) from 1924 to 1950. In 1947 Time Magazine described him as "the nation's most ubiquitous, the most widely maligned, and perhaps most influential medico." Rafael Sabatini was an author, and a few of his most popular novels were adapted for film. These films include Captain Blood (1935) and Scaramouche (1952).