Auckland adman Josh Thompson's decision to bring a clown offered the perfect foil to the absurdity of redundancy meetings.
Anyone who's been in one of these meetings will tell you there's an aspect of pantomime at play. It starts with the ominous invitation that carries the advice to bring a "support person" along to the meeting. Once you're there, carefully scripted explanations are flawlessly delivered in a sincere speech, which can basically be summarised as "it's not you, it's us".
The point of these meetings is really to let us down lightly, to let us know that they're there for us and that we matter. As considerate as this might be, it's still a break-up and it sucks for everyone involved.
Rather than go through the motions and offering the generic "thank you for giving me the opportunity" responses, Thompson ripped up the script and stole the show.
It's only fitting that one of the most common representations we have of a clown is of an individual down on his luck, most often without work, but who maintains an infectious optimism that makes the audience root for him.
We laugh at his bumbling misfortune, but no one wants to see the clown's demise. We want him to trip, fall, accidentally pop some balloons, but we ultimately want him to reach his chosen destination – whatever that might be.
We can laugh so easily at Thompson's story only because he and his colourful compatriot were able to walk away from that meeting okay.
Thomson landed another job at a reputable ad agency and Joe the Clown potentially has a new side hustle attending redundancy meetings around the country. This allows us to see comedy where there would otherwise just be tragedy.
Mel Brooks, one of the masters of extracting comedy from calamity, was once asked: "How do you differentiate between tragedy and comedy?"
To which Brooks answered: "If I'll cut my finger, that's tragedy … Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die."
The human sense of humour often finds laughter in the darkest places. It's part of the way that we process the darkness and make sure it doesn't swallow us up.
By bringing a clown to his redundancy meeting, Thompson gave a nod to everyone who has been given a script they didn't want to read.
And for that he was given a standing ovation.