Gail’s Story

“Inside, we all are clowns. We simply need to let them out.”

“I learned to be a professional clown from Patch Adams, yes, the doctor Robin Williams played in the movie. I attended a conference back when I worked for an insurance company and Patch Adams was the speaker. I knew that clowning in hospitals was the right thing for me.

I remember feeling like I was a Patch Adams groupie when I wrote him a letter on my plane ride home from the conference. I had to write him; his speech was life altering. He and I started corresponding. I began my career as Tootsie the Clown and began clowning at Holy Cross Hospital then Miami Children’s Hospital. I am good with kids, have four of my own and I know that kids are just kids whether they are well or sick.

Nearly three years after I heard him speak, Patch Adams invited me to come to Russia and clown in hospitals there. We sang to kids, hid under their beds, told them stories. When you are first a clown you think you need the big shoes, crazy hair, red ball nose or lots of makeup. You don’t. My own kids will attest that Gail their mother and Tootsie the Clown are essentially the same person. Tootsie is merely Gail with a lot of caffeine.

That was 20 years ago. What a total joy it has been for me to make people laugh and entertain them in a place that is not much fun.

I had to stop clowning full time as I got into my 50’s because it was taking a lot out of me. I was getting physically tired because clowns don’t sit still. We are always dancing, climbing, singing. Every time we lost a kid at a hospital, it got harder for me to bounce back.

As my clowning days wound down, I started up my education and got a political science masters degree from Florida Atlantic University where I am now an adjunct professor. For years before, I also had my Tootsie’s Reading Challenge for second graders at 17 different Broward County elementary schools. My clowning skills come with me to all the parts of my life. Occasionally, I still clown for kids who are in treatment. I used to play the ukulele for the kids but one of them wanted to learn to play it so I gave it to him.

What clowning has given me, however, is amazing. Clowning has given me unbridled permission to laugh and spread that laughter around. I am not an actress. Although I am spontaneous, there’s no way could I ever memorize lines or anything like that. My stage is everywhere. Once I stood in the first class cabin of an airplane and held a limbo dance contest. There is room for clowning even on a Delta flight.

We are all clowns. We are born laughing and being spontaneous. We learn to control ourselves. We learn to be serious. We teach our kids to be quiet. Raise your hand. Stay still. Then we are surprised when the kids are angry or lethargic. I love being the person who gives permission to have fun.

Being a clown is the sweet spot in my life.“

Gail’s Treasures

“The books are for the comparative government class I teach at Broward College. And I carry the constitution of the United States with me just in case I need some information for my political science classes.

The plastic container holds my bus fare. I try to use public transportation whenever I can and that is an entire story all by itself.

I am always listening to music or books or podcasts so the earbuds stay in my bag.

Although clowning comes from within, a red clown nose still comes in handy.

I keep a personal journal and always have it with me.”

2 thoughts on “Gail Choate: Clowning Comes from Within

  • Dr. Monica PedemonteMay 10, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Please tell Gail that the kid in this 69 year old heart is grateful that she gives permission to other kids to let go and laugh and play and have fun.

    Reply
  • Karen RancourtApril 25, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Gail is a reminder of all that is good — dedicated to bringing laughter and joy to others, especially to children facing difficult challenges. A clown with a huge heart!

    Reply

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