However, French buyout firm Activa Capital is clearly more of a believer: it’s the founding patron of the Ecole International du Rire Medicin, which according to PEI’s in-house French speakers, translates as something like ‘The International School of Curing Laughter’. Believe it or not, this is an initiative aimed at getting more and better-trained clowns into French hospitals (insert your own gag about declining standards at French medical schools here).
The school, which has just celebrated its first anniversary, is intended to churn out professionally-trained ‘hôpiclowns’ – who, as the name suggests, are clowns that go into hospital with the aim of cheering up sick children. To this end, aspiring fools are put through no fewer than 665 hours of lectures, workshops and exercises – with tuition provided by both comedians and medical staff – to make sure they’re fully equipped for the rigours of the hospital clown world. Twelve more carefully-selected would-be jesters apparently started their training in April.
So far, initial outcomes are promising: Activa says that of the first 10 graduates from the course, “six found temporary work as hospital clowns and four obtained work in the show business world”. The school is already eyeing international expansion, with tie-ups currently being considered in Tunisia, Brazil and Mexico. And let’s not forget the annual meeting of the European Federation of Hospital Clown Organizations, where denizens meet up to exchange notes on best practice (before squirting each other in the face with their name badges and falling over).
It’s an undeniably admirable initiative. But speaking as one with a lifelong fear of strange men with deathly white faces, giant red noses and oversized shoes, First Round must admit to being kind of grateful it will never experience a hôpiclown first hand.