Clown Doctors in NYC

The article I am referring to is Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine. This article focuses on a professional group of clowns who work in a pediatric unit. The main point of the article is to make a comparison between shaman healers and clown ‘doctor’s. I did not overly enjoy the article; I’m not entirely sure why. Essentially, the article posits that clowns and shamans are similar because both employ strange costumes, props, and behaviors, in addition to sleight of hand, ventriloquism, music, and feats of skill that break natural and cultural laws. The point about breaking social/cultural ‘laws’ is repeated quite frequently throughout the article. The article also talks about how children are a better focus point because they are less “vaccinated” against belief in magic. While that may be true, I do not agree that children would believe the clowns to be normal doctors with special powers. While convenient in enhancing the analogy between clowns and shamans, it is conjecture only in the article.


The healers are clown ‘doctors’. Specifically, they are a group of professional clowns who work in a hospital in NYC with the children admitted to the hospital. In this context, their social status is not as relevant as it would be for other ethno medical systems, but I would hazard the guess that professional clowns are probably somewhere in the middle of the social status spectrum. These healers use comedy to try to cheer up children and their families, helping to make their hospital visit a little less scary. They interact with their patients by telling jokes or performing rehearsed skits with them.


These clown doctors operate in regular a NYC hospital, rather than in their own separate institution. Healthcare is delivered through what I would imagine is standard biochemical medical practice in the U.S. This setup focuses only on treatment via medicine or procedures. IT is because of this that the clowns are able to serve a useful purpose. Because the hospital is rather intimidating and impersonal for a child, the clowns are able to ease the tension by cheering them up.

2 thoughts on “Clown Doctors in NYC

  1. The post talks about a number of clown doctors that work in a hospital in New York City. When comparing these clown doctors to the biomedical doctors, there isn’t much of a comparison because the clown doctors are there for entertainment while the biomedical doctors are there to treat the individual of their illness. This is a small step in a different direction from where current healthcare treatment stands. Healthcare has mostly been viewed as physicians working to rid a person of their illness but it is now beginning to look at alternate methods that work to aid them in treatment of disease. In my opinion, these types of healers are legitimate and effective. Everyone has heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine” and studies have been done that put validity to that statement. Clown doctors provide a means for children that are sick to become distracted from their illness for a short time and concentrate on something that makes them feel good. When it comes to comparing clown doctors to shamans, I feel as though the comparisons between the two are small. Both are there to provide the sufferer as distraction from the disease but whereas clown doctors do it through a form of entertainment, shamans do it for a person’s spiritual beliefs. In the long run, if a person feels that a shaman or clown doctor can help them with their healthcare, I believe they should have access to them because as long as it is done in a proper, hospital sanctioned fashion, it can only be a benefit to that individual.

  2. I think that it is interesting to compare the clown doctors to their biomedical counterparts. This is because they both serve the purpose of making the patients (children) feel better and as many of us have heard laughter is the best medicine. Methods which the doctors use to help their patients are quite different while clown doctors hope to bring enough joy, laughter, and happiness to distract from the larger issue of their health; biomedical doctors run tests, scans, and preform surgery which may make the child feel uncomfortable and nervous but does (hopefully) improve the health of the child. Also the education background and level knowledge of the two vary obviously. Biomedical doctors have a rigorous training program full of years of education to teach them the ins and out of the human body so that they would be able to heal others. Clowns do not have anywhere need the same level of education and training experience. There are a few things which the two doctors have in common. They both have ‘costumes’ that they must wear while a work; for the doctor this is his white lab coat and stethoscope and the clown wear layers of make-up and brightly colored clothing. These two also really care about the well-being of the patient and try to do what they can to make sure the patient remains health and happy.
    I think that both of these professions are legitimate but each in their own way.

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