As I have mentioned in my previous posts, hospital clowns should always work in pairs-for safety, for emergencies and for awareness, but also for bits, mini-shows and improv opportunities. A partner clown can also be used as the buffoon [or the straight-man], so that the patient or family member is never mocked. Since our goal is always to empower the patient, it is important that they do not become the “victim” of the joke.
Visiting clowns can and should play with clown “status”, i.e. taking turns being the high status or low status clown in different bits. Let me take this opportunity to mention that hospital clowns should always have a variety of gags, bits and skits ready, both to keep things fresh and fun and also to use for different situations. Sometimes kids just want to play, teenagers just want to talk and babies just want a distraction from discomfort.
Clown partners must always discuss possible skits and bits prior to starting a shift. Each clown brings different skills and talents, and they can complement each other nicely; there should never be competition among hospital clowns. One mini-skit that I came up with one day I will now call “The Good Juggler”. I have basic juggling skills, but my partner that day did not and I wanted to include her in the performance should juggling come up during the shift.
“The Good Juggler” easily incorporates a non-juggler with a juggler:
* The clowns walk into the room, and the juggler announces that the spectators are very lucky to have "the best juggler in the world" visiting them. She plays this up in a huge way, making a big production of presenting this fabulous juggler.
* As the spectators applaud, the non-juggler, with an attitude of false modesty mentions how much she’s studied and practiced and how not everyone can do what she does. When she finally juggles, it’s with one ball. The juggler is amazed and impressed, applauding enthusiastically (encouraging the spectators to follow suit).
* The non-juggler then hands the juggler the ball and stands in front of the juggler, losing site of her while speaking non-stop about where she’s performed and how many awards she’s gotten for this.
* The juggler then stares at the ball, “ finds” two other balls in her own pocket and starts to juggle. When the spectators react to this, either by speaking or clapping, the non-juggler turns around and sees the juggling. The juggler looks guilty, the non-juggler looks angry and chases her out of the room.
A chase usually inspires a laugh or applause, and this is a great way to leave a room or performance area. Hospital clowns do not spend equal amounts of time in all rooms, they do what is best for the moment.
Lucy E. Nunez has been a theatrical performer since 2002 and and improv performer since 2003. She created Nurse Lulu for the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program in 2014. For more information please visit: www.sunnybearbuds.wix.com/buds