It’s the note no one ever wants to get — an email from human resources unexpectedly telling you to show up to a brief meeting. Sometimes the note comes with no context at all; other employers may use language to let you know that the meeting is important and serious and, most of all, mandatory. As the employee, you already know what’s going to happen: you’re going to be told that you’re losing your job. It’s an awful experience, and hardly a laughing matter.
Unless you make it one.
Just ask Joshua Jack, who, in 2019, was working as an advertising copywriter for FBC, an advertising agency. But one day, he got the email. It told him to show up the next day for a “serious” meeting with HR — and that he didn’t have to come alone. Losing your job is difficult, and under local law, employers have to make certain accommodations for those receiving the bad news. One of those accommodations is that the impacted employee (that’s HR-speak for “fired person”) can bring a shoulder to cry on. Specifically, per the BBC, “the human resources department at FCB New Zealand encouraged [Jack’ to bring a ‘support person’ to help cushion the blow, an option that is legally required in New Zealand.”
Jack was sure that the meeting would be his final one at FCB, but he must not have been too upset by the news. While most people would bring a friend or relative to the meeting (or go it alone), Jack decided to do something different. Here’s a picture from the meeting, below.
That’s Jack, in the pink shirt. Across the table from him are his soon-to-be-former employers, giving him the bad news. And next to Jack is his support person: a professional clown. (Here’s a better picture of Jack and the jack-in-the-box sitting outside the meeting room.)
Jack paid Joe, the professional clown, for NZ$200, or about $125 at the time. And Joe sat in while Jack was given his pink slip. There weren’t any real tears in the meeting, perhaps in part due to Joe’s efforts; according to CTV News, “Joe the clown made balloon animals as the meeting played out, making a unicorn and a poodle to help bolster Jack’s spirits.” But there were fake tears, per the New Zealand Herald, which reported that “the clown mimed crying when the redundancy paperwork was handed over to the staffer.” No one seemed to mind that there was a clown in the room, for the most part; Jack told ABC News that “it was rather noisy him making balloon animals so we had to tell him to be quiet from time to time” but his bosses were otherwise fine with his invited guest. In fact, Jack said to ABC News, the meeting went off without a hitch: “I mean I did get fired, but apart from that it was all smooth running.” He also told the press that he highly recommends hiring a clown if you’re ever in the same situation, as it really did help lighten the mood.
Jack landed a new job shortly thereafter and has also started a career as a comedian. He doesn’t dress up like a clown, though.
From the Archives: Beware of the Unicycling Clown: More like “be aware of,” if I’m being honest.