Professor Bernie Warren wears two hats.

During the day he teaches drama and education at the University of Windsor. But off-hours he dons a colourful fool’s hat, complete with bells, and turns into “Dr. Haven’t-A-Clue.”

Warren is a clown doctor and this week he will share his expertise in promoting the health benefits of humour at a medical clown conference in Toronto.

Some 1,000 people are expected to attend workshops and shows throughout the week. About 50 are clowns, but don’t expect any red noses at this event. Medical clowning can be serious business.

“The symposium is looking at the connections between humour and healing and laughter, clown work,” explains Warren, who is researching the use of art and humour in the care of seniors with dementia.

He regularly visits hospitals and long-term care facilities in clown garb and has seen how patients connect with the character, with some even experiencing improved lucidity and memory. “Laughter has the amazing power to help people communicate and build bridges … It’s just extraordinary, the changes that can occur,” he says.