Gaulier is notable for his work in Physical theatre, particularly in the areas of Clown and Bouffon. Gaulier is generally recognized as the world's leading teacher in Bouffon, an artform which he holds as a sort of inverted Clown, where a balance is struck between Grotesqueness and charm.
Gaulier teaches Jeu, and clown all over the world.
According to Gaulier, Bouffon is an art form which originated with the 'Ugly People' of France during the French Renaissance. Gaulier said excessively ugly people, lepers, and those with disfiguring scars or deformities were "banished to the swamp." The exception was during festivals, when the bouffon (or ugly people) were expected to entertain the 'beautiful people'.
During these performances, the buffon's goal was to get away with insulting or disgusting the beautiful people as much as possible. Typically, the Bouffon would target their attack on the leaders within the mainstream of society, such as the government or the Roman Catholic Church.
The ideal performance for a bouffon would be one where the audience is wildly entertained, and then go home, realize their lives are meaningless, and commit suicide. This of course is a theoretical ideal instead of an anticipated outcome.
Founded in 1980 in Paris, L'École Philippe Gaulier is a theatre school where the focus is placed on enjoying oneself during the creation of live theatre. In 1991, The Arts Council of England invited Gaulier to move his school to England. He accepted, and the school was based in England for eleven years. In 2002, the school returned to Paris. It celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. Former students at the school include the theatre director Simon McBurney, whose company Theatre de Complicite has been influenced by Gaulier's work, and the actors Emma Thompson, Marcello Magni, Kathryn Hunter, Cal McCrystal and Sacha Baron Cohen.