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- John Lennon

Upon graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Andrew Hammer needed a job. He wanted to use his newly-minted degree in acting, directing, and playwriting to secure a performance-oriented position. One of New York City’s biggest children’s entertainment companies was hiring. At the interview, the Clown Boss asked Andrew if he knew karate. He answered, “No, but I can fake it,” and the Clown Boss immediately demanded to see some moves. Without delay, Andrew jumped up and improvised a few over-the-top karate moves.


He got the job and Looney Lenny was born. The Clown Boss said he knew he’d succeed because Andrew didn’t hesitate. 


It proved a natural fit. Children of all ages gravitated towards Looney Lenny’s magnetic energy and quick-witted, stand-up style. Entertaining children at birthday parties was rewarding and encouraging. It was thrilling to be a heroic character who brought joy and laughter into a room.


A year into NYC party clowning, Looney Lenny brought his funny magic show to the pediatric unit of St. Vincents Hospital. Starlight Children’s Foundation sponsored the gig, which was a huge hit. 


Through the years, Looney Lenny entertained thousands of children. There were those who came in once for appendicitis or a broken leg and there were others with chronic diseases, like cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia, who spent their whole lives in and out of hospitals. Kids with cancer sometimes remained hospitalized for months at a time — for years. In any of these instances, a visit from Looney Lenny was a distraction. It became a momentary pause on pain and an opportunity for a human connection in the clinical space. 


Through hospital clowning, Andrew witnessed the impact of both the magic and medicine of laughter. And from that laughter, his batteries were recharged. The Starlight Foundation recognized the mark Looney Lenny left on the patients and families and the one hospital gig turned into twenty, with five clowns supporting Looney Lenny’s work. At the peak of the hospital program, Looney Lenny and friends were making over 800 visits a year.


Fast forward to 2020. All in-person hospital visitations were restricted on pediatric floors and continue to be restricted to this day. Hospitalized children were isolated and received minimal or no non-essential services. Looney Lenny conducted weekly Facebook Live magic shows, made YouTube videos, and like everyone else on the planet used Zoom to make virtual hospital bedside magic shows. Ultimately, though, even clown programs fell victim to the nefarious nature of super-villain Covid-19.  The clown program was discontinued at the end of 2021.


It was devastating. After a quarter-century of entertaining at the bedside, Andrew was not ready to retire Looney Lenny delivering the medicine of laughter. Life, it seemed, had presented another one of those karate moments: jump up and do what was required…


In 2022, Andrew Hammer formed Laughter Happens with his wife, Galina Nemirovsky.


Their mission is to restore the clown program and grow it so every pediatric unit of every hospital can have its own regular delivery of laughter medicine.

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