J.P. Bell’s career has spanned 25 years of performing in theatres, comedy venues, at festivals, schools and on television in over 10 countries. Theatre reviews have described him as "a face that could launch a thousand laughs" "superb...virtuoso performance" "brilliant..." "extremely funny". His theatre background is in mime.
His comedy featured regularly on TV shows such as The Big Gig, Live and Sweaty, Hey Hey It’s Saturday and The Vizard Show and at venues such as Melbourne’s Last Laugh and Sydney’s Comedy Store. His credits include everything from dramas such as GP, Bordertown and Water Rats to children’s programs such as Playschool and films such as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Theatre credits include the role of ‘Brighella’ in the Nimrod production of Servant of Two Masters, and Assistant Director to Morris west for the Adelaide festival production of The World is Made of Glass. He has featured in numerous television commercials, corporate and educational films.
Remote aboriginal communities, Fijian schools, Belvoir St Theatre (Sydney) and The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (Brisbane) are among the diverse places that have staged his solo shows for young people and families. He has a wealth of experience in teaching mime, movement and clowning.
As a 19 year old saving to go overseas, JP worked as an orderly in St Vincent’s hospital cardiac unit. He found he was skilled at lightening the hospital atmosphere and diverting children about to go into surgery. From this experience he developed a comedy sketch ‘the operation’ that stayed in his repertoire and became a favourite of medical professionals in the audience. It was not until many years later that this small seed germinated.
Patch Adams was an inspiration. He first met him when he visited Australia in 1993, and corresponded with him regularly. While on tour throughout Australia, JP began visiting local children’s hospitals as a clown. Andre Poulie from the Swiss based Theodora Foundation came to Australia and met with JP, hoping to start a hospital clowning program in Australia, as in many other countries. This did not eventuate, but JP was inspired to set up the Humour Foundation.
He encouraged his long-time friend, Dr Peter Spitzer, to become involved. They had first met in London in 1975, when JP was taking a short break from touring Europe with London Mime Theatre. Peter founded Wintergarden Medical Centre and uses a variety of modalities, including humour, to treat his patients. They had long talked of ‘marrying the arts and medicine."
The Humour Foundation took all of 1996 to set up. The first Clown Doctor visit was to the Royal Hobart Hospital not long after the Port Arthur massacre. Morale was low, and pain and shock had touched everyone. The Clown Doctors helped everyone find their smiles again.
Sydney Children’s Hospital became the first hospital to host the Clown Doctors in January 1997. Now, five years later, the program is hosted by all major children’s hospitals in Australia, and Clown Doctors also visit metro & regional hospitals. In 2002, Clown Doctors visited hospitals in the Northern Territory. Clown Doctors also play a role in palliative care for adults and children with regular visits at Daw House SA, and Bear
Cottage, NSW. Clown Doctors also visit nursing homes.
In 2000, JP was joined Dr Sniggles and Dr Fruit-loop on a visit to hospitals, orphanages, towns and outlying villages in devastated East Timor. JP’s skills in mime were handy in performances to reinforce the importance of hygiene, the biggest health problem in East Timor. The Clown Doctors were inspired by the people rebuilding their shattered lives.
Also in 2000, he was invited to Switzerland to teach workshops at an international hospital clown conference.
As part of The Patchwork for Peace mission, in 2002 he joined a group of hospital clowns from around the world, including Patch Adams, in bringing fun and laughter to the people of Afghanistan. Repressed for so long under the Taliban, laughter was much needed. The group also took 14 tons of aid.
JP selects and trains the Clown Doctors and works with the Clown Doctor Units around Australia to keep creativity fresh and quality high. He is Dr B. Looney in the hospitals.
He is also in demand as a speaker and workshop presenter as part of The Humour Foundation’s LaughterWorks program. He speaks on humour as a coping strategy and using humour for self-care to health professionals, patient support groups and community organizations. For example, he has recently presented a series of workshops to medical staff in Emergency Departments in Melbourne hospitals.
Jean Paul’s Speaking Topics Include:
"Leading from the Heart, Not the Bottom Line"
Basically how a more heart centered approach in in the workplace will create better relationships with employees. He de bunks the "If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" attitude - encouraging management to create a sense of what he defines as "Emotional Shareholding" within the organization. Suggesting ways that businesses can keep their valued employees and avoid expensive retraining costs. Basically also how to have fun at work.
"The Heart Connection"
Focuses on the work Jean-Paul does with The Humour Foundation and the Clown Doctor program - in children’s and adult hospitals, nursing homes and palliative care. Lots of stories about people who are helping family with life threatening or they themselves suffering from illness.
Jean-Paul is basically an amazing story teller with outstanding visual skills. He has been to war torn places like East Timor and Afghanistan.
He makes people laugh when perhaps people here couldn’t or shouldn’t!!