Composed of superhuman circus performers from around the globe, Emergency Circus administers inspirational circus shows and workshops to  the hospitalized, the homeless, the imprisoned, and the undercircussed everywhere. This non-profit division of Dr. Patch Adams’ Gesundheit Institute seeks to inspire, entertain, and enliven humanity. Through spectacle and performance the Emergency Circus demonstrates the power of the human spirit to achieve seemingly impossible skills through dedication and persistence.





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“We believe in the healing power of laughter and empathy to elevate endorphins, relieve stress, build community, and diminish pain.”

-Emergency Circus Founder, Clay Mazing



War Zone of Squealing Glee

17 clowns sweat in the middle east bus heat of black curtains drawn. Outside, the Jordanian military are guarding the Syrian refugees of Za’atri Camp from our red noses, rubber fish, and humongous underpants. Za’atri is currently the third largest city in Jordan and home to over 120,000 people who’ve fled their murderous government in favor of near imprisonment. “Let’s just break in,” I say. “We can hide in the back of the tomato truck with just our noses sticking out.” Carl, the 6’6 pink flamingo therapist in a tutu latches on to the idea as an artistic statement. “Just think of it,” he says with his classic voice of a radio announcer. “The idea of us sneaking in, trying to be inconspicuous. What a statement that would make.” Earlier they told us they could allow only four clowns to enter. But that compromise was unacceptable to us. Patch Adams told our Jordanian medical student translators to let the general know that we are one clown, like the arms and legs of one body. But it seems now as if they are not buying it. For roughly 45 minutes we wait while our representatives try to make a compromise at the gate. We can’t help but peek out the windows and grab the attention of a few local boys. Chris, the cool chick, creates hearts with her fingers for them and they giggle shyly. Chris met the Gesundheit crew back in the hippie days.  She was 18 backpacking Europe when she stumbled across a bus full of colorful doctor clowns.  Now, her inner flower child is called back into... read more

Setting Fire to the Knife

Last night Lars and Jesse accidently entered a brothel across the street from our Amman hotel room.  They found it odd when they walked into “the Hangover” to find a bar full of beautiful eastern european women in the middle of Jordan.  They were confused until the bartender told them, “This is how it works, if you like a woman you can buy drink for 12 Dinar (like 15 USD) and she will talk with you.”  They just bought themselves a beer for 8 Dinar and left. Jesse is our guitar player and vice magazine correspondent, if you can call them that.  We’ve worked out a few songs together including “Billy Jean” and “Under My Umbrella.” Micheal Jackson doesn’t work as well as we assumed it would when we pull up to our first dusty refugee camp.   A few UN safari tents and an one ornate unfinished plaster building of yellow and white lie about 4o kilometers from the border of Syria in the middle of nothing.  A hundred beautiful smiling  children, women, and young men approach us. We share hands and smiles first. A small Spiderman shirt boy walks straight for me, tiny teeth and fingers, dust caked into the little lines of his hand. Very few men over the age of 22 can be seen.  An old grandfather has a glorious time playing with us, kissing Lars on the checks and dancing.  The children chase me around then I hang out with the older boys who laugh at my horrible attempts to pronounce Arabic words.  I try to teach them the lasso.  I get it started then... read more

Love Shot in Amman

I was only shot once today, by a 9 year old in the thigh while clowning in a football field. These children were mostly palestinian refugees who’ve been in Jordan for a while, some Syrian. While we boarded the bus to leave the stadium, a cheap yellow piece of plastic from a toy pistol bounced off my leg. Only because they didn’t want us to go. I think. Or maybe they were just little boys raised in violence. It’s a holiday. One where they kill a sheep and feed it to the poor. It’s like Christmas they say. But instead of christmas tree stands in parking lots across the city, there are sheep slaughtering stations. And instead of shopping, giving. On the bus to the stadium our awesome med student guides taught us the silliest Arabic song about a man asking a woman to hide him in the food store. This has become our first impression. Some kids ran up and hugged the bus when we parked while others held back. The heat couldn’t beat us, but a few of the kids did, with the juggling clubs I passed with Yahoo. Really there wasn’t much of a difference from being a 5th grade substitute teacher in the states, except that we couldn’t communicate or send them to the office. Patch removed his shoes and touched his forehead to the grass with the men when the call to prayer echoed across the field. Although a father of one boy put a stop to his son teaching Yahoo how to kneel his head to the ground. I had children sit down while I lassoed around them.... read more

Syrian Circus #1

My brain swims in coffee and sleep deprivation as I fly over a too bright to see sky. By the time I land in Amman I will have traveled back 10 hours back in time.  I nod off between takeoff procedures, coffee offerings, tray tables up, in-flight features, sharp bits in my egg bagel, darting between tickets and airlines.  Only split seconds of eye contact are accepted and no communication except for “Take off your shoes. Arms out. Look straight ahead. Have a nice day.” How’d I get here?  Sometimes the universe just plops sloppy luck on my lap and I don’t know what to do with it.  About a month ago I received an email invitation to clown with 15 others in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan from the Gesundheit Institute and Dr. “Patch” Adams.  Yeah, from that movie.  He’s a real person, I’ve barely known for a few years, who looks nothing like Robin Williams. I spot him in an O’hare hallway with his son Lars, both wearing shirts louder than a bus explosion.  He’s 6’6 maybe, blue and white ponytail, curly mustache, well spoken, and most likely legally insane (in a good way).   I’ve joined them to bring day-glo comedy  to Syrians who’ve abandoned their homeland for a safer life, in a city of UN safari tents. Weeks ago I mentioned my traveling to Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein (the only other vaudeville fake cowboy in the northwest) who told me, “I’ll be in Palestine doing Clowns Without Borders, just over the dead sea at the same time. Maybe we should keep in touch.” A few emails later, I have... read more

Swallowing Swords for the Elderly

“An Emergency! (circus).  Today at Shukson Healthcare Center.  Meet @ Co-op 2pm. Jambulance leaves at 2:30,” reads the this morning’s mass text.  I’m often surprised by the number of strange circus friends who jump at the chance to perform at a hospital or nursing home for free.   Strangely and Jeremiah pull $300 hats at the Saturday Market for a 7 minute show; Justin Credible is flown to Turkey to break the world record for pulling the longest amount of string out his nostril in one minute;  And yet they show up to cram into the Jambulance to spread joy to people in need.  The sign outside Shukson reads, “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.”  We arrive more or less on time. We pick a song and we’re off down the fluorescent hallway all smiles and singing.  The residents brim with joyful surprise.  We burst through the door of the what must be the physical therapy room to grins, laughter, and clapping and finish our parade into the theater, or rather, the all purpose room complete with piano, bookshelves, puzzles, tables, and a kitchen off to the side.  Our shows always seem to be placed in front of the Television, the usual focal point of most hospital or nursing home common spaces.  But the T.V. is off on this day.  Today the excited residents see Poki float his metal hoop around the room defying gravity with well trained mimery.  Today they hear Karla’s nightingale gale voice singing, “It’s all yours; you can have it,” while balancing on top of her little earth.  Today they see Jeremiah using Strangley’s feet as a... read more