Tears show that there is a child within us
who will never grow old.
Laughter is that inner child’s heartbeat.
Smiles and looks of wonder
are signs of life.
I’m starting this blog because I believe people will never know the value of humor in the healing process until we learn to tell them! So far, the Hospital Clown/Compassionate Clown/Healing Power of Humor industry has not done a very good job of telling OUR story—the story of clowns who practice their craft on behalf of people who are ill or living in eldercare facilities. Yes, we talk to close friends, colleagues and relatives, but I hope this blog will speak to patients, their families, elders, medical staff, and other artists.
One thing we compassionate clowns have in common is our audience: Our audience is people who don’t want to be in the hospitals or aged-care homes where we work. Yet they really need the most effective wonder drug known to man: laughter. Like any medication, it should be dispensed by professionals – us!
Scientific studies have been done. I have read some of them and find them lacking. Anytime people write about humor and laughter in the healing process, they start talking about the immune system, endorphins, and other things I know nothing about. I wouldn’t know an endorphin if I tripped over one! But I do know what FUN is. In this blog, I will share some real-life stories from my work as Nurse B.B., a hospital clown to children and old folks. I learned a lot walking the halls in my starched cap and size 38 shoes. So here goes:
As a family entertainer for more than 27 years, I have studied with the very best in the business. I have learned my craft from Paris to San Francisco and points in between. I absorbed the finer points of hospital clowning from the Big Apple Circus, where Michael Christensen started the “Clown Care” program that is in many children’s hospitals today. Teaching became part of the business because grown people wanted my advice and loved to hear my experiences. People say, “How nice – I want your job – How do you do that?”
The key to any effective medication is the proper dose. This is true with laughter, too. The key is to let it work, and don’t overdo it. Giving it in the wrong amount or at the wrong time can be damaging.
I have seen many clowns inappropriately use oversized props, rubber dog turds, fake puke, whoopee cushions, balloon animals and stickers, stuffed animals and off-color humor. All of these can be funny if you know how and WHEN to use them. Hospital clowns are taught to “read” the room, to be sensitive to the patient’s physical condition and anxieties. But traditional performing arts and family entertainment education does not properly prepare us to interact with and entertain sick, injured or life-challenged people. Clowning in hospitals and nursing homes should be a continued study. We will never have it down to a science, but there is an art to it.
Compassionate clowning, or humor for healing, is a service embedded in an experience that will last a lifetime. It’s time for us to talk about it. Here at BBClowns, I will tell what I know.