Clown Doctors in NYC

This article highlighted the work of a special group of clowns in NYC. The CCU is a group of clowns that work in pediatric sections of various hospitals in New York. They serve to lighten up the mood of parent’s in distress over their children’s conditions, the nurses who are overworked and dealing with emotional stress, and most importantly the children who are constantly poked and prodded on a daily basis. These clowns acknowledge that they don’t heal these children and they know that without biomedicine their practices would have no physical healing effects. Instead, the CCU clowns and similar groups, such as the Shaman, work collaboratively with biomedicine to emotionally heal the patients while the physicians work to physically heal the patients.

The healers in this article were the CCU clowns. While the children perceived them as sort of magical doctors, their real social status is lower than that of an actual doctor. This hardly affects how the clowns are viewed, however. In the hospital the doctors enjoy and respect the clowns’ work as it helps them relax during an overworked day. The clowns are sometimes even viewed as higher than doctors in the children’s eyes, as they provide comic relief from being poked and prodded all day. Their techniques include going around the hospital with props and toys and directly interact with the children by putting on puppet shows, preforming “squeakectomies”, and allowing the child to for once feel in charge. They make the child feel important and empowered by assuring that they are the ones that control some of the acts.

The clowns perform in New York City hospitals in the western medical system. In this culture and in the western medical system, the physical aspects of disease are the main focus. Doctors and surgeons don’t focus on the feelings and the experience of the illness. They focus on the physical experience of the illness. The clowns provide relief by focusing entirely on the experience of the children and their families.


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  1. Amber Schmenk says:

    Obviously, the clown doctors at various New York City hospitals are not “real” doctors. However, they do provide emotional relief to their patients and are able to distract them from painful or intimidating procedures. They allow young patients and family members to feel empowered when they otherwise have little control over medical procedures and decisions. Their delivery of “healthcare” is much different from that of biomedical doctors in that it is a source of enjoyment rather than uneasiness and discomfort.
    Though you state in your comment that they have no physical healing effects without medicine, I think they should be able to accept more credibility in the healing aspects of their young patients. Though medicine and surgery is surely the most effective way to cure serious illnesses in patients, studies have shown that mood can have an effect on a patient’s health. In an article on the website for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the effectiveness of laughter therapy in promoting health is discussed. For example, laughter has been shown to provide such physical benefits as pain relief, stimulation of the heart and lungs, and relaxing muscles among others. It may also decrease stress, improve sleep, and provide a better sense of well-being.

    Cancer Treatment Centers of America. 2013. “Laughter Therapy.” Accessed July 21.

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