Military retirees usually turn to industry when beginning a second career. Louise Carnesale turned to clowning, a choice that last year earned her top honors in the Single Skit Competition at the 37th annual World Clown Association Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The first-time attendee, to her surprise, excelled against seasoned professional clowns, including Ringling Brothers and Cirque Du Soleil jokesters.
Life was not always about clowning around for Carnesale, who grew up on her grandparents’ farm in upstate New York and joined the Air National Guard to afford nursing school. She later became part of the U.S. Air Force, but left to start a family with her first husband. When he passed away, Carnesale became the breadwinner for a family of seven.
"Having lived a life that has seen more than its share of heartbreak and tragedy, I know the value of a smile," she said.
One of her jobs included public speaking on the foster care initiative for the New York Governor’s Office. When a boss suggested her delivery was too serious, Carnesale enrolled in a clowning class at a local community school.
While there, her humorous but empathetic alter ego, LuLu, was born. She later joined a Clown Alley to bring smiles to patients at hospitals and similar facilities.
"LuLu is a very caring clown," Carnesale said.
After moving to Viera in 2014, Carnesale continued her love of clowning by leading the formation of the Colony Clowns at Indian River Colony Club. Part of the troupe is LuLu’s romantic interest, Spare Parts, aka Peter, Carnesale’s second husband. A 36-year Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Peter started as a somewhat reluctant clown substitute when regular troupe members couldn’t make it.
"We were doing so many shows, we needed someone who could do several characters," Carnesale said.
Described by his wife as a multi-faceted, serious yet comical clown, Peter proved to be a natural. He has since attended school to hone his clowning skills and added a room to their home to store clown paraphernalia.
The couple and their fellow Colony Clowns have a busy schedule that includes regular appearances at nursing facilities and Christian day centers. Carnesale considers clowning to be a ministry.
"I love making young people happy and making elderly people feel young again," she said.
She believes her nursing background dovetails well with her LuLu persona.
"Laughter is the best medicine," she said.