There now seems to be something Beijing has that Shanghai doesn’t — hospital clowns. The clowns work in several hospitals, including the large Women and Children’s Hospital, as well as orphanages and schools for the children of migrant workers. Magic Hospital, the Beijing-based charity that organizes this, was the brainchild of German Claudia Vogg. The article notes that the hospital clown is a more familiar figure in the West than in China. Certainly China does not yet have anyone like Shobhana Schwebke (try saying that five times fast!), aka Shobi Dobi the Clown, who publishes the Hospital Clown Newsletter , which is probably one of the most informative sites you can find on anything relating to hospital clowns and the therapeutic effects of clowns and laughter. You can find out where clown conferences and festivals are being held or buy Japanese books on hospital clowns.
In the United States, hospital clowns from an organization called Red Nose Relief worked in shelters with the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area. Catastrophe victims are much complicated to work for than regular hospital patients — consider this tip we found on their website:
3. Fear of clowns can be multiplied in a shelter environment. Full make-up and full costumes are not recommended. Wearing just a red nose and clown shoes will be enough to identify you as a caring clown.
Every generation has been traumatized by a scary clown — for Shanghaiist, it was Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s It, while younger generations are no doubt still having nightmares about Robin Williams in Patch Adams.
Photo from the Associated Press.