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Patch Adams in Russia
SRAS students find that humor and love are international
by Lisa Horner,
Student Relations, SRAS

   Patch Adams in Russia
Patch Adams
recently gave a
presentation in
Moscow which
was attended by
SRAS students.

Patch Adams, in a colorful clown get-up with half-blue hair and a fork earring to top it all off, stood in front of a small audience of mostly businessmen and women in Moscow on November 10, but has surprisingly little stage presence for being a world-renowned clown.

Patch has traveled 300 days out of the year for 26 years, and has not been in the same spot for more than a couple of weeks within that time. He goes on "clown trips," visiting orphanages, hospitals, and cities and spreading cheer by, in his own words, making a fool of himself. 

He has become so comfortable in his clown getup that it doesn't stand out on him. He speaks quietly and deliberately. Conscious that not everyone in the audience was a native-English speaker, he articulated his words carefully and slowly. He began the conference by talking about ways people in the audience could help his cause and answered questions on topics such as how he managed to create a hospital with costs 90% lower than those of a regular hospital, his views on the state of health care in the US, and his own background.

It wasn't until somebody asked him "how to be funny" that Patch really got animated. He stressed that you don't have to do much to be funny. You can put a red ball on your nose or a stick a dentist contraption in your mouth to keep your jaw and lips open wide, and that's usually enough to make people smile, if not laugh outright.

"For instance, yesterday on Arbat I didn't do a single intelligent thing," Patch said. "Basically what it's about is self-humiliation, but humiliation in the best sense."

When asked about his philosophy of "laughter is the best medicine," he said he actually believes that friendship is the best medicine, while humor is "the best social grease."

"Clowning is a trick to get love close," he said, going on to explain that people will let you in more easily through humor.

Moscow is a special trip to him because it was the first foreign city to which he made a "clown trip".

"I didn't like the message I was getting at the time, from Reagan and others," Patch said. "I thought, 'Let's go hug the enemy.'"

Since that trip in 1974 Patch has been back to Moscow regularly, every year since 1986 with his troupe of clowns, even though Moscow is now three times more expensive than any other "clown trip" destination.

"We see it as our Mother Trip that started it all," Patch said. "I imagine we've hugged and kissed more Russians than Russians have kissed Russians, because we're aggressive huggers and kissers."

This year, because of the swine flu, several hospitals and orphanages are in "lock-down" mode, meaning family members and friends – including Patch – are not allowed to visit right now.

"That's ok. That just makes everyone else out in public unsafe," Patch joked. "Now we're out accosting people in the street and in the metro."

Yesterday Patch spent the day on Arbat and in the metro, playing the clown.

"You can see when people are resolved not to laugh," Patch said. "But then I pull up my pants like this [he pulls up his pants up into a mushroom skirt, baring his legs from the knees down], and I put this thing in my mouth [he puts the dentist contraption in his mouth which opens the lips and jaw wide], and I do this [he sticks out his tongue, makes bug eyes, and stares at his fingers one at a time in fascination] and it becomes a little harder [not to laugh]," he says. "But then, when I put this in my nose [he sticks something in his nose that looks like a string of snot hanging out] you have to laugh."

SRAS obtained last-minute tickets for three guests to attend the conference with Patch Adams through a partner organization in Moscow. To read more about Patch, his projects, and how to help his cause, see the official website.


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