Hospital Clowning Props, Schtick &  Sight Gags

   By Kathy “Huggles” McLaughlin

            I have found that the best prop that I possess for Hospital Clowning is my mind. Not that my mind is greater than most, it is just that I have trained myself to look at things through a clown’s eyes. My favorite prop shop is the “Dollar Store.” It always amazes me what I find and how I can use it. I have bought many expensive things through the years that haven’t worked out for me. I don’t mean to say they aren’t good props, but they just don’t work for my character or me.

            Think about your character and how you want to present it. My character is Dr. B. Fuddled. I can never get things quite right. I carry a bag that people use in the garden to carry all their tools. You know the kind that I mean, the ones with all the pockets on the side. I found a bunch of children’s toy cell phones in the “prop shop” and put three red ones on one side and three white ones on the other. I walk in saying “Don’t worry I’m not your real Doctor, but I’m here to help. I brought extra red cells, and extra white cells (Holding the bag up, showing both sides with the cell phones). I even brought extra platelets if you need them. With that I take out a bunch of toy doll dishes that I strung together like a small mobile. I then use the CAT scan, lab report, and sleeping pill schtick. These are all not quite right medical things that I do, but it serves and even more important purpose. I have used this schtick so many times that it just flows. While I’m doing this I am scanning the room to see if there is anything that I should be aware of or alerted to. It only takes 15 seconds, but gives me time to evaluate the situation.

            A while back one of my students asked me to write down some of what I do in the hospital. The list grew to about 130 things and it is still growing. Some are things I developed myself, some I have learned in classes, and even more I have gotten from friends and use with their permission. If you see a gag and like it, ask the clown/person if you can use it. Many clowns have put a lot of time and effort into their schtick, and this sets them apart. It would be very unfair and unprofessional to just take it and use it. Most clowns are honored that you like

it enough to ask and are very willing to share.

            The following are just a few on the list:


            I got a roll of raffle tickets at the prop shop and as I walk down the hall or in the main lobby I walk up to someone, hand them a ticket and say “Keep this ticket, you may be a winner” when they question me, I tell them to just check at the information desk to see if they won. Then I just walk away. After the first few stopped at the desk, the info person asked where they got the tickets. As soon as they start to explain that the clown gave it to them, they stop mid-sentence and say “Never Mind” and walk away laughing. The info desk person also getts a laugh without me even visiting. I have also been known to stand outside the elevators and pass them out saying they will need this ticket to ride the free elevator.


            I put a small piece of “Penne’ Pasta” in a nurse’s hand and say “Penne’ for your thoughts”


            At an office supply store I got one of the pens with a chain on it. You know the ones you see at banks and store counters. Whenever I stop on a floor I head to the nurse’s station for room numbers and instructions. I take out my “FREE” pen and explain that I got it at the bank, they have them all over, you just have to give them a yank and they are yours.


            Small music boxes with hand cranks on them are great for the isolation rooms. If you just crank them they are very soft, but if you hold them against the glass they get louder and with the vibrations the tunes transmit to the other side.


            Small hand puppets are also great for the isolation rooms. At one of the hospitals where I go, on the pediatric ward in the isolation anti rooms they have a mirror angled so you can see the patient. I use the puppets, and watch the reaction of the child. This way the child can still lead me, even if they don’t know it’s really me there.


            Always carry bubbles. Just remember that “Bubble Juice” on a tile floor can be very hazardous. If you do use them be mindful of this and carry an old facecloth to wipe up after yourself. They are best used in a carpeted area.


            Carry a few magic tricks that fit into your pockets. Just remember that if the patient gets tired or you notice the energy level is not there, quickly excuse yourself by saying your elephant is double-parked or something similar. Keep in mind it is not about you or your performance. If the patient is not up to it…Leave.


            Don’t just carry a prop bag…be creative. I have several. I have a giant box of Cheer Detergent that I cleaned, vacuumed out and de-scented. I tell them I was told to bring Cheer to the hospital, but do you think I can find someone to do my laundry for me……..Nooooo! I also made a briefcase out of a giant pair of men’s tighty-whitey underwear. Keep in mind that it has to be able to be laundered, and you shouldn’t be placing it down, so straps or an over the shoulder strap is needed.


            Find some old joke books and go through them for jokes. You may have to go through several books to get a few good usable jokes. The same goes for one-liners, I got two good ones off a page of over 100. Silly music is also great. Do the work, it is well worth it. There will be times you run into a rough spot and are at a loss, these can get you out of a jam.


            Napkin Roses are easy to make and easy to carry in your pocket. They now have colored ones that are 3/4 green and the top is another color. The green becomes the stem and they look great. If you make and give one to an elderly lady it becomes magical.


            When I work with a partner, I break away and start snapping my fingers. Of course, my partner gets very disgusted with me and asked “What are you doing?” I explain that I am removing elephants from the room. My partner gets even more perturbed and states that there are no elephants in the room. “Of course” I answer “I just removed them all”

            There are many, many more things to do out there, but remember that it is not about your performance. You are there for some light entertainment. Never use anything that could be taken wrong or be offensive.

            Start going to the “Prop Shop” and stretching your clown mind. And if you come up with any good ones don’t forget to share with me, I am always looking for new material.


                                                Above all………HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!

            Kathy has been clowning since 1974 and is a member of the W.C.A. Caring Clown Advisory Committee. She has traveled extensively throughout the world bringing smiles to the children of developing countries. She presently clowns in three hospitals in Connecticut on a regular basis. She is the founder of Northeast Caring Clowns. 



(Posted by N)