Improvisational acting training is helpful in almost any kind of occupation. Indeed, it is a vital skill when hospital clowning alone or with a partner. It is necessary to think on your feet and be ready for anything that comes up so that you can use it to create a comedic moment. This does not mean, however, that we don’t plan ahead before performing in hospitals.
Magic tricks should be practiced and planned and should have a reason for being-namely they should ultimately entertain and empower your patient. Skills like juggling should have a comedic twist to them, but you should endeavor to become proficient in order to provide a quality show. It is necessary to also have some objects that are part of your clown persona that you can use in your act if it comes up.
One of my former clown colleagues walked around with a top hat, tails and a cane. Sounds pretty formal except he wore shorts, clown shoes and a tiara underneath his hat! When asked about the cane, he would swirl it around in such a way that it looked like it was floating without his help; it was a trick cane. It was part of his persona and he wouldn’t necessarily draw attention to it, but it was a prop that was perpetually ready for action. When playing up his gentleman clown persona, he'd tip his hat to reveal the tiara, but would always act puzzled when people laughed and pointed it out (especially when children would say that boys don't wear crowns!).
A former clown supervisor connected a flat, upside down felt rabbit to the rear edge of his lab coat. He never acknowledged or addressed this. If anyone pointed out that he had a rabbit hanging from his jacket, he’d look at me and say “Let’s get out of here...they’re seeing bunnies now” and he’d act like they were nuts and he was supposed to appease them.
I have several cute enamel pins on my lab coat when I do clown rounds, but my clown badge is strategically placed so that someone will ask about it.
When people notice it they love to read it out loud, so when they do, I’m ready:
Reader: “Quit looking at my button”
Nurse Lulu: (Deeply offended ) “Why are you looking at it? Stop looking at it!” Covers it up.
Short and cheesy, but it always gets a laugh-it’s in the delivery! (My former artistic director said I should cover up the "O" and the "N" in "BUTTON" with my lapel, but it's a family show!)
Always have a go-to piece that people can be curious about and be ready to surprise them with a clever (or cheesy) bit!
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 Unit in 2014. She is now Baptist Children's Hospital first-ever resident clown! For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds