In a hospital, is best to clown with a partner for several reasons, as I stated in No “I” in Partner:
- Safety: your partner may notice a hazard or a grieving family you may have missed.
- Improvisation: you can play off a partner, especially when someone must be laughed at (it should never be your audience) or if you require a specific reaction for an improv gag.
- Skills: you can play off a skill your partner has for a gag (see The Good Juggler).
- Ideas: your partner may come up with a great gag you didn’t think of.
- Support: you may need encouragement or comfort, depending on your mood prior to a shift or something sad may happen during the shift.
Circumstances now have me clowning alone in a new hospital, however, and many things had to be adjusted for some gags to work. I have had to create gags that make sense for a single clown as opposed to playing off a partner. For status shifts to occur, I now depend on my audience and I play with what they do or say. I have to set things up so that I get the responses required for certain gags. It is challenging, but it has forced me to improve upon one of my weaknesses: initiation.
Skills are also something I must depend on myself for. It is necessary to occasionally show an impressive skill so that spectators (especially the hospital personnel who supervise the clown) are aware that the clown is always working on polishing the performance. Sometimes the only thing adults are impressed with is when I juggle, although I don’t just stand there trying to impress with my skill. I usually juggle down the halls with recorded music as I walk to each unit, but I’m definitely a beginner so I must incorporate a gag when I juggle. My favorite is the one my juggling mentor taught me which I wrote about in Dropping the Ball.
At the risk of boring the reader by repeating myself, I will now repeat myself:
Materials needed: bean bags for juggling
Step 1. When someone shows interest in your bean bag juggling, you may become self-conscious and drop one. Great! (If you don’t, drop one on purpose.)
Step 2. Ask the spectator very sweetly if they would please pick up the “ball” for you, as you hold the other two bean bags, one in each hand.
Step 3. As they pass you the prodigal bean bag, drop one of the ones you had and take it from them. Say “thank you” with lots of gratitude.
Step 4. Look at the newly dropped bean bag, apologize profusely and ask them to please pick it up for you. (Act like you have no idea how cruel this is.)
Step 5. Go back to step 3 and keep going until you decide to show mercy.
Many of the gags I've adjusted or created to do by myself can be found in lots of my blog entries. Take a look!
Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002 and an improv performer since 2003. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program in 2014. She is now Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds