Hospital Clowning: See?! Now You’ve Made Me Look Stupid Again!

Tuesday, February 27th 2018


2018-02-28 09.15.12

Drs. Be Bopper and Bahfoo at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence R.I.


1)  Lulling Babies

teddy bear.pngThe morning at Hasbro Hospital with Dr. Bahfoo starts with lots of babies and little toddlers, many of whom respond soulfully to ukulele lullabies, much to the delight of the Child Life Intern shadowing us today.  Thanks to Dr. Bahfoo we sang my “Song About Your Name”  a fair amount today, medlied with a fair amount of “Doo Dee Dah.”  In addition to being a brilliant clown, Dr. Bahfoo is also a beautiful singer, and IMHO it sounds amazing when we sing together and harmonize and stuff.


2)  Or Just To BE


Playing with Bahfoo reminds me it’s more important to BE than to DO.  I am becoming ever more comfortable and confident in providing focus and attention at times when he is being brilliant.  Or brilliantly stupid.




3)  Blood Draw Song 

blood draw.jpgA Child Life Specialist downstairs relays a story of a child who requested me specifically.  She was reluctantly getting a blood draw and cried out “I need the people dressed up as elves who sing the SONG!”  I’ve only been at Hasbro twice before but each time I did have the opportunity to perform and sing enough total distractions to assist a couple young patients through unwanted blood draw procedures.  So it was one of them.  She even suggested we perform something on her PHONE so she could show it the next time its needed in our absence.  We know it wouldn’t be the same as performing and responding in the moment so, for now we’re thinking about what a pre-recorded Blood Draw Song might be like.


4)  Things Are Not Always What They Seem


There is a baby fussing at his mom and I instinctively play soothing music from the door.  Baby settles right down, but when mom has to run to the bathroom he starts hollering again.  I realize he’s not just fussy, he’s demanding!  Robust, bossy, fantastic.   We move on feeling we made a difference.  When we happen back by and he is fussing again, I am told not to enter the room even though no precautions are posted.  Turns out the mom is having G.I. problems and that is why we need to practice precautions.  Also come to find out the baby is deaf!   It’s possible the baby was responding to the energy we created in the room but also possible we were having no effect whatsoever.  #Woops! 


5)  Dr. Bahfoo Bafflements W hands bones.jpg

Among other things from Dr. Bahfoo today, I learn the hand signals for “Wicked Major Whatever,” a 1,2,3 trick with just a scarf and fingers, and that bubbles can make sounds (although naturally he tends to mis-identify what those sounds are).  In short, I love this clown!


6)  Did You See That?

A nine year old girl is in the Psychiatric Department accompanied by a security guard due to a very choatic home life situation, including having been burned.  It has been challenging to learn that this is not uncommon; that many children literally get burned –on purpose– by those who are supposed to be their caretakers (although we pick a carddon’t know if that is the case with this girl).  All we know is she is vibrant, delightful, and hilariously scandalized by our apparent inability to wear our eyeglasses correctly or work out out whose are whose.  Our glasses end up all tangled up together, and I resolve the situation by finally placing them both on my face even though Dr. Bafu’s finger is still stuck between them.  Ah, there!  (Probably my favorite clowning moment today.)

Once that is settled, this amazing girl performs a card trick for us!  Then Dr. Bahfoo performs one for her, involving the nice security guard in order to help foster their relationship that day.

7)  Point Taken

The day ends with teenagers as it began with babies.  Back to back we visit two 15 year question mark.jpgolds, a boy and a girl, each intelligent and charming with humor on full display.  After some rudimentary questions, Dr. Bahfoo repeatedly asks Devin “Do you have any questions?”  After Devin demurs several times I press Bahfoo what he’s getting at.  “Well if I had two clowns come to my door I would have some questions,” he says,”Like what are you doing here?  Do you call that a real job?  What life choices did you make to end up here?”  etc.  Point taken!   By the time we leave I am inexplicably speaking in a fake Russian accent, we are coaching this 15 year old on how best to tell his dad when he needs to “make a fecal matter,”  and his adorable Dad is still wearing the red nose we put on him.


8)  Since You Asked…shire.jpg

The next 15 year old is a bookish mental powerhouse that reminds me of my son in a few years.  After quite a protracted set of failed introductions and some indiscrete clown-squabbling from behind the curtain, we finally present ourselves to her.  Her favorite author is Dan Brown and J.R.R. Tolkein.  When Bahfoo asks if she has any questions she doesn’t hesitate;  Where did we get our degrees?  and while we’re at it, What is the meaning of life?  (She’s working on that one right now in her life she tells us.)  We give her our sincerest subjective answers and afterwards I’m wondering as I so often do who was really more enriched by this encounter anyway; the patient or us?


9)  These Clowns

The final teenagers are up in a secured collective Psychiatric wing.  This is my first time.  Instinctively I understand what Bahfoo tells me later; that his best notion how to approach these kids is to just be real.  That doesn’t stop one girl from stomping off in a huff muttering, “I am not talking to these clowns.”  A couple other girls stay with us; the conversation feels edgy and precarious but is intriguing and compelling.  Another girl eventually tells us she left her visitors -mom and aunt- down the hall because she felt “bad no one was hanging out with the clowns.”   I tell her that while pity is not exactly what we’re after, it is very thoughtful of her, lol.

Golden-Retriever-Dog-Face-PhotoThen along comes Cooper, an exuberant Golden Retriever Therapy Dog  (different from the one in Boston).  Per usual I drop decorum and gush over the dog with squeakers, kazoos and juggling as is now customary for me.  Cooper predictably becomes the most rapt juggling audience ever, and I am able to position us such that his amazed face is right up near the girls, and they love it.

We end on this note and call it a day.  Looking forward to more work and absurdity with Dr. Bahfoo to come, to making him “look stupid again,” and to more singing.

2018-02-27 09.49.22

Dr.  Be Bopper, Dr. Bahfoo & Jessica the Child Life Intern




About circuskitchen

performing artist, mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece... just a regular extraordinary person
This entry was posted in art, childhood, comedy, education, faith, Friendship, Hospital Clowning, Laughter League, learning, love, making art, mental health, music, parenthood, patience, Performing Life, ukeoke, ukulele, work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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