Clown Doctors in NYC

Across New York City, a troupe of clowns has made it their mission to bring their antics to the pediatric units of hospitals, where they entertain children and their families.  Their presence lightens the atmosphere of the hospital, making it a happier environment for the kids, their families, and the medical providers.  This article points out the numerous parallels between these clowns and the shamanistic healers of other cultures.  For instance, like many shamans, the clowns frequently perform magic tricks for their audiences.  This sleight of hand made spectators trust in the power of their spiritual healers; for the clown doctors, these magic tricks can either serve to captivate the children’s attention, or to build the confidence of children who see past the thinly veiled tricks.  While the hospital atmosphere can make a child feel powerless, calling the bluff of a clown, or just laughing at his goofiness, can make a child feel in control of her situation.  The wild clothing and make-up of the clowns is also similar to what traditional shamans wore.  Both this and the characteristic odd behavior of clowns and shamans has allowed both to break the cultural expectations of their society.  Ultimately, these clowns brighten the spirits of kids—allowing them to accept their situation and comply with treatment—as well as the spirits of medical workers, who may otherwise be fatigued from the bleak situations they see everyday.  In this way, the clowns represent how blending elements of traditional healing with the Western medical system can lead to optimum outcomes.

Clowns are a traditional character in American society, as well as in many other cultures.  Their society status is that of a bizarre, but staple, entertainer.  While they are rarely respected as healers of any sort, a clown in performance has the power to manipulate his audience, and has a unique ability to completely break the rules of his society.  The NYC clowns interact with their audience through music, magic tricks, puppetry, and jokes, all in an effort to create humor and distraction, and lightheartedly poke fun at the medical system, which can often seem intimidating to children.  While clowns are anything but conventional, they do this work in conjunction with an established hospital system.  These hospitals primarily operate through biomedical diagnosis and treatment, which requires licensed health professionals to define each disease through its biological symptoms and prescribe clinically proven treatment.  The clowns’ healing powers are not an alternative to this, but instead, an addition to it.

3 thoughts on “Clown Doctors in NYC

  1. This addition of clowns in the hospital to lighten the mood of the patients is a very strange one, but seems to work. The way that clowns help children feel more secure in an area that is normally foreign and seen as painful not only helps the doctors do their job more efficiently, but also takes some stress off the parents knowing they will not have to possibly help restrain their child to get a shot. Normally you do not think a clown would be a credible asset to a hospital because you see them in circuses or doing things to hurt one another. But when it is done in front of a child at the hospital it gives it some credibility. They are assisting the doctors by giving the kids peace of mind before seeing them, which in a lot of cases is all that is needed to help someone feel better. I also like how clowns are compared to shamans, who are another group of healers that are not taken too seriously. They may not partake in the same antics as a clown, but through their rituals they give their patient peace of mind thinking that they have been healed. They may not seem legitimate, but if it helps people to feel better, who should say they shouldn’t be there to help.

  2. The clowns of New York City help the children to not be so scared of the medical system that they must face at a young age. Many of the machines and new technology that physicians use can be terrifying to the young children so it’s nice that these clowns take some of the fear out of the children. The clowns sort of work in a placebo effect kind of way because it makes the children feel better which can lead to them actually getting better so they might think that the clowns are actually the healers. I think the clowns would compare to biomedical doctors because they both are seen as healers, just in different ways. Bringing happiness and joy to children can be just as effective as giving them the proper medicine and care they need to get better. I think the clowns of NYC definitely could be called healers in their own way, if the children really believe they can heal them. The mind is a powerful thing, and I believe that if you really believe and trust in something it could heal you. I don’t however feel they are credible because it all depends on the patient and how much faith they have in a clown as a healer. I think with doctors they have technology, medicine, and proper training to heal the sick when clowns just have training in making people laugh.

  3. This post was interesting and clown doctors are a creative way to bring hope and humor to children that are suffering from an illness in the hospital. From reading your post it seems like clown doctors appear to be the exact opposite of biomedical doctors. Biomedical doctors have to be a high level of professionalism and not show their true emotion in front of their patients. Since biomedical doctors cannot show their true emotion and bring humor to a situation, this makes it hard for them to make light of a situation that involves their patients. As stated in your post, “their presence lightens the atmosphere of the hospital, making it happier environment for the kids, their families, and the medical providers”. This makes clown doctors essential in aiding the psychological and mental health of the children and their family.

    As mentioned in post I do agree that clown doctors serve as entertainers to patients and they help heal patients through entertainment, jokes, and magic tricks. I do think these healers seem credible and effective when it comes to the psychological and mental aspect of healing within the medical system. I believe clown doctors healing powers are promoting humor and laughter within their patients as mentioned in your post. Humor and laughter are two effective ways to prevent stress and depression within a patient. What I found most interesting about your post is that you compared the NYC clown doctors to the Shaman and I do agree that they share many similarities as healers. One similarity that you mentioned was the clothing that they wore. My article was about the Shaman healers and I did notice that the Shaman wore bright and colorful clothing when treating their patients and clowns also dress up in such clothing to draw attention.

Leave a Reply