Being a professional clown requires more than makeup and performance. There is a great deal more to the art, including choosing the type of makeup and costume to use, and determining the best method to elicit laughter, such as creating balloon animals or doing magic tricks.
I once was asked to teach at the International House of Humour and Satire in the city of Gabrovo, Bulgaria. My role was to teach young people the art of “clowning” so they could enter hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the residents. I taught the difference between “street” and “circus” clowning, as well as what works best in different healthcare scenarios. Each method of clowning has its own performance nuances. For example, a hospital clown must adhere to a high level of hygiene and use performance items that are easily cleaned and disinfected.
One of the stops during my Bulgarian trip was a children’s hospital. My colleagues and I did not speak the local language, and except for a few adults, they did not speak ours. In full costume, my fellow clowns and I were privileged to entertain a large room filled with children in hospital gowns using balloons and kazoos. Within seconds the entire room erupted in laughter as we continued to make crazy balloon twists and funny sounds, even pulling the nurses in to help. We did not speak each other’s language, but this was a memorable example of how laughter transcends words and connects with people across cultures.
Tammy A. Miller, DTM is a member of State College Toastmasters in State College, Pennsylvania. She is a Past International Director, and a Toastmasters Accredited Speaker, professional auctioneer, and speech coach. She is also the co-author of The Joyful Journey of Hospital Clowning and the author of The Lighter Side of Breast Cancer Recovery. Learn more at www.tammyspeaks.com.