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Don't laugh
Send in the clowns? Not to everyone

Date published: 5/2/2012

IMAGINE: You are sick. Helplessly lying in a hospital bed. Full of drugs, pierced with an IV, and dreading the tests to come. And in walks someone with a pasty face, a brightly colored wig, and a big red nose. You smile.

Or maybe scream. Because clowns aren't for everyone.

No doubt Dr. C. Nile (aka Frank Ringquist of Stafford County) and his co-clowns ["Hospitals prescribe a dose of laughter," April 28] are sensitive about approaching the hospitalized. A scurried retreat under the bed, for example, would be a clue to a patient's predisposition regarding clowns. So would frantic calls to 911, a hastily thrown bedpan, or a pillow-stifled shriek.

Because clowns, to repeat, aren't for everyone. Where some see Bozo, others see The Joker. Some cherish fond memories of Ronald McDonald, but others recall Pennywise, Stephen King's demonic clown from "It," who lived in the sewers and ate children.

The extreme form of an aversion to clowns even has a name: coulrophobia. Rumor has it that rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has a no-clowns clause in his contracts, though he insists that he doesn't have coulrophobia.

Still, what is it that explains the clown-repelled minority? The masked features? The outrageous hair? The big, floppy feet? No. It's this: Clowns insist that you be happy. Demand it. Do outrageous things in their fanatical quest to get a laugh. Clowns impinge on legitimate emotions. Often there are very good reasons to be sad, morose, grieved, and lugubrious. Respect feelings, you Bozos!

So, let us take the part of those patients, manfully forcing smiles, for whom "Do Not Send in the Clowns" is just what the doctor ordered.