mga awit ug yawit sa kasingkasing bisaya

Just send in the clowns

A visit to the peryahan along Osmeña Blvd. last week convinced me of my calling to write only about things of profound significance to humanity—like the Ferris Wheel, a carnival ride that appeals deeply to our basic longing to reach out to the skies and never succeed; and the Horror Train, a ride that cheerfully reminds us that what we see in the mirror every day is not the scariest face on earth yet.

Which brings us to today’s topic: clowns. If you think wriggling a red nose in front of your little friends makes them happy, skip this column because it will make you doubt your calling. But if you are like me who can’t make up his mind whether unusually large footwear is cool or stupid, read on.

A study by a London university showed children “universally dislike” clowns. Researchers looking at what decor to put in hospital children’s wards found that youngsters hate these comic characters in outlandish costumes. Even older ones think they are scary, the report that came out last Wednesday said.

“We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable,” said Penny Curtis, senior researcher at the University of Sheffield which questioned 250 children aged four to 16. Curtis, by the way, is a long-time friend of mine since yesterday, when I searched the Internet for information about the “most stupid professions of all time” and her name popped up.

When Curtis says “universal,” she usually means it. She’s saying sick children in any hospital in the world get sicker once an adult in red polka dot overalls enters the room. Why is this so? The study didn’t say. It also didn’t explain why it chose to interview sick children who may not be in a particular mood to talk about hair and makeup.

The study angered clowns from all parts of the world. They flooded Reuters with emails insisting that grownups in afro hairdo really cure the sick. Quoting the Bible, they said, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

“The ‘universe’ of 250 children used for the Sheffield University study was miniscule compared to the 250,000 one-to-one bedside visits made by Clown Care to hospitalized children annually,” said Joel Dein, director of communications at the Big Apple Circus in New York. Dein is another childhood friend of mine. . . Hey, I’m not kidding.

The Clown Care program has involved two million hospital bedside visits since it started 21 years ago. It employs more than 93 professional “clown doctors” and has been copied in countries, such as Italy and Brazil, Dein said.

Dein forgot to mention Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City. In 2003, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams showed the sick in VSMMC that a lipstick can also be applied on the cheeks and urged fellow doctors to practice their profession with humor. Dr. Adams’ compassion for the sick, if you remember, inspired the Robin Williams movie “Jumanji.”

So, if Hollywood believes in slapstick comedy, how do we explain the London survey? Here lies the profundity I was talking about. Wikipedia explains that “clowns spread in cultures of any time and place, because they meet some deeply rooted needs in humanity: violation of taboos, the mockery of sacred and profane authorities and symbols, reversal of language and action, and a ubiquitous obscenity.”

Are you following yet? I told you I’m deep.


( cebu, january 22, 2008)


7 Responses to “Just send in the clowns”

  1. you’re deep. :p

  2. ka-remember nalang ko kato ni-visit mi ug orphanage last xmas da..hehehe

    mga kuyas and ates: kids, behave na mo.. mg-start na ta kay nana atong CLOWN..
    (pag-abot sa clown sa ilang atubangan)
    kikay (orphan): bayot man na!

  3. clowns are always happy… and gay, chow. 🙂

  4. I think the movie was “Patch Adams”, not “Jumanji”.

    And maybe the kids interviewed got to read/watch Stephen King’s “It”.

    Thank you. 🙂

  5. I think the movie was “Patch Adams”, not “Jumanji”.

    And maybe the older kids that were interviewed got to read/watch Stephen King’s “It”. I’d be sure develop a general distrust for them, too.

    Thank you. 🙂

  6. hahahaha.. good lead!

  7. i remember that i have a 6-year old cousin who is really scared of clowns…he even cried when a clown went near him during a birthday party…poor clown…hehe

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