Wellington: A man in New Zealand was called into a work meeting and feared the worst. So he hired an emotional support clown to join him.
For Joshua Jack, the suspicion he might lose his job was right.
Speaking to Newshub NZ on a video call, Jack confirmed his employer, advertising agency FCB, let him go this week. But having Joe the clown along for the ride definitely “lightened the mood,” he said.
When his supervisors scheduled the meeting, he said he “thought it’s either a promotion or worse.”
“I thought it’s best to bring in a professional and so I paid $200 [Dh467.9] and hired a clown,” he added.
By the time the meeting was over, Jack didn’t have a job. But he did have two balloon animals: a unicorn and a poodle.
The process to blow them up and shape them got “rather noisy,” he said, and the meeting attendees “had to tell [Joe the clown] to be quiet from time to time.”
FCB could not immediately be reached for comment. But the New Zealand Herald obtained a photograph showing a man with his face blurred out sitting in an office next to a clown, who is wearing, well, a clown outfit, and what appears to be an inflatable hat. The clown reportedly also mimed crying expressions as Jack went over the paperwork describing his termination.
When asked by Newshub NZ how his former colleagues reacted, Jack said they “thought it spiced up the meeting.”
Emotional support clowns are typically used in situations with children that require a bit more, well, emotional support.
The US branch of Clowns Without Borders opened in 1995, and describes itself as an organisation that “brings laughter where it’s needed most.” The group sends clowns on missions to conflict zones, refugee camps and places experiencing emergencies to play with children and offer them an opportunity to momentarily escape their suffering.
Not everyone, however, perceives clowns as a source of joy.
In recent years there have been increased reports of frightening clowns threatening people in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2016, a school district in Ohio even shut down schools after reported clown sightings caused widespread panic.
The American clown craze soon spread to the United Kingdom, where police said clown sightings increased in 2016.
“We believe this to be part of a much larger prank which is currently sweeping across the USA and parts of the UK,” British police said at the time.
In the United States, it’s more common to hear stories of emotional support animals gone awry.
It’s safe to say Dexter, an emotional support peacock, for example, ruffled a few feathers when he tried to board a United Airlines flight last year, despite repeated communications between his owner and the airline that confirmed the peacock did not meet boarding standards.
A spokeswoman for the airline told The Washington Post at the time that Dexter’s weight and size made him incompatible for the flight.
“We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport,” she said.
Last year, Frontier Airlines asked a woman to deboard a flight after it emerged she had brought along her “emotional support squirrel.”
“Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights,” a spokesman said in a statement at the time.
In 2016, Wisconsin resident Carla Fitzgerald managed to bring her “emotional support duck,” complete with a Captain America diaper and red shoes, on board a flight from Charlotte to Asheville. When photos of Daniel the duck went viral on social media, she said she was surprised by the attention. “Having an emotional support duck is normal — it’s my new normal,” she said.
Delta Air Lines tightened restrictions on emotional support animals last year after the number of passengers trying to bring them on board skyrocketed, which in turn led to a dramatic uptick in incidents where passengers were attacked by animals on board.
As for Jack, he has since found a new job and starts next week, he told Newshub NZ. The Post has been unable to confirm if Joe the clown will be by his side on his first day.