I’m very lucky to be a professional fool. Wherever you are in the world, I’d like you to take a silly selfie, post it online and you can help the Clown Doctors bring smiles to sick kids in hospitals across Australia. Until April 2 (yes, less than 24 hours away), for every silly selfie that you post on Instagram or Twitter (or a public post on Facebook) with the hash tag #ClowningForKids, the Commonwealth Bank will donate $10 to Clown Doctors Australia. You don’t have to use your own money. Make a funny face, post the photo, tag it and the bank pays. So simple a fool could do it.
Share this post with your friends. My day job makes me so joyful I could almost turn into a happy clapper.
Today the Australian Clown Doctor community say farewell to our beloved leader, ever-smiling, humble, generous, warm hearted Peter Spitzer, the son of Czech Holocaust survivors who became a doctor then started The Humour Foundation charity in Australia. In 1996 I remember sitting in the gym of a sweaty police boys club in Erskineville with a handful of other fools while Peter explained what a Clown Doctor program could look like. Peter’s vision made our work a reality. Over the years I had the privilege of working with Peter at Sydney Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Royal North Shore Hospital, as well as sharing meals at our conferences and hours doing workshops and training where he taught us more ways to help those suffering. We were always inspired by his love for all the fabulous families we are lucky enough to meet in our hospital Clown rounds. Peter Spitzer approached all human life forms with an open heart, eager to learn their stories, connecting with everyone, young and old, whether the head of the hospital or a small kid in need of some distraction. He had the sharp mind of an eager scientist, always enthusiastically sharing his findings with us, always looking for ways to better our work.
My years as a Clown Doctor were punctuated by visits to Peter’s house after the Bowral Ball, where he worked his magic and made people laugh, while the lovely locals raised money to continue our programs. I treasure the memories of staying over at Peter’s house afterwards, and grand breakfasts with Peter and his darling wife Judy as we discussed our work and new ways to fundraise with his beautiful band of supporters. Later I was lucky enough to work with Peter on the pilot Elder Clown program, where Peter shared his passion for making life better for adults living with dementia.
Dear Doctor Fruit-Loop (see I didn’t forget the hyphen) you gave us a purpose for our work. You never grew tired of seeing the joy on a sick child’s face. You gave our performing lives so much meaning, we weren’t there to show off, we were there to empower sick children and frail elderly people. It is always about them, not us. Clown Doctoring is not a job, it is a calling, and you showed us the way. We are so sad you have left us but we vow to continue your work, we want you to be proud of us. Adios Doctor Fruit-Loop, I will think of you and the twinkle in your eyes when I carry far too many props in my coat, whenever I see a rubber chicken, or see a child’s face change from fear to laughter. I’m so glad I told you how much we all loved you the last time i saw you. I have a job and a life of meaning thanks to you. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, you have left a magnificent legacy.
When my colleagues and I tell people we are Clown Doctors people usually say, “Oh like Robin Williams in that movie? What was the name of that film?” Patch Adams, and he’s a real doctor and a funny person. Thank you Robin Williams for bringing the idea of taking humour therapy into hospitals into the mainstream.
I first fell in love with Robin Williams when he starred in Mork and Mindy. Then I saw him live at the State Theatre in Sydney in the late 80s and I couldn’t believe his talent. To be in the room with this rapid fire stand up comedy genius was incredible. Then he starred in movies.
They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society.
Thank you Robin Williams for sharing your gift with us, for your wonderful films and all the laughter and tears you gave us. I hope you realised how much you were loved. I’m sad that your demons became too much for you to bear. In these dark days, the world needs laughter more than ever. Nanu Nanu
One month from today on Sunday August 10 I will be walking 14 kilometres from the city of Sydney to Bondi beach in my best Calvin Clown tracksuit to raise money for Clown Doctors Australia. The Clown Doctors treat sick children in hospital with smiles, fun and laughter when they need it most. We touch the lives of over 155,000 people a year, and ‘operate’ in partnership with 21 hospitals around Australia. The entire hospital community benefits – patients, family and staff. The Humour Foundation provides this service free of charge to hospitals. The work of the Clown Doctors is extremely important and the healing power of humour has been recognised in many studies. Everyone knows that “Laughter is the best medicine,” and research has found physiological and psychological benefits to patients. The outcome of making a child smile at a very difficult time is instant, but one that can have a long lasting effect for both the child and their family. Having an intervention which is able to provide humour and improve health can often be a strong coping technique for a sick kid. I love my job and I love talking and walking so I’d better start bulking up on my carbs (do donuts count?), I need to be ‘match fit’ in one month.
You can donate here: https://city2surf2014.everydayhero.com/au/drquack
Today is Smile Day, a national Clown Doctor celebration day; also known as April Fool’s Day. My colleagues and I are very silly every day but today we invite normal people to join us in commemorating this special occasion. It is very important that you take your whoopee cushion to work and tell your friends a fart joke on April 1st. The word silly is derived from the German selig, meaning “blessed“. “Blessed” went from “blessed fool” to simply “fool” later in English. When someone tells me I’m a fool, I take it as a compliment. My funny, warm hearted Sydney Clown Doctor team workmates never fail to make me laugh; I love Dr Dotty, Dr P. Brain, Dr Have A Chat, Dr Dingbat, Dr Tickle Me Please, Dr Know-It-All, Dr I.M. Crackers, Dr Sniggles, Dr Fruit-Loop, Dr Silly Billy, Dr Colourfool, Dr Paperwork, Dr B. Looney, Dr Tickle and Dr Nick Nack.
Happy Fools’ Day
This is an article I wrote about being a Clown Doctor. For more information go to http://www.clowndoctors.org.au