1540s, "metaphor, parable" (a sense now obsolete); 1550s, "word-play, joke;" 1610s as "passing or casual reference," from Latin allusionem (nominative allusio) "a playing with, a reference to," noun of action from past-participle stem of alludere "to play, jest, make fun of," from ad "to" (see ad-) + ludere "to play" (see ludicrous). An allusion is never an outright or explicit mention of the person or thing the speaker seems to have in mind.
c. 1600, "to play the clown onstage," from clown (n.); colloquial sense of "to behave inappropriately" (as in clown around, 1932) is attested by 1928, perhaps from the theatrical slang sense of "play a (non-comical) part farcically or comically" (1891). Related: Clowned; clowning.
"to play the demagogue," 1650s (implied in demagoguing), from demagogue (n.). Related: Demagogued.