A LADY wearing a pink sparkly hat is walking around an East Coast conference room.
Someone starts playing the ukulele, and a man is juggling billiard balls.
There's a tale being told of a clown doctor who did laps of the spa.
It's the last day of a four-day clown training conference for about 60 clown doctors, hailing from the Humour Foundation.
No, they aren't trained medical doctors, but they do work happy miracles.
Clown doctors bring comic relief to kids and their families who are living through medical realities in Australian hospitals.
Using slapstick humour, melodrama, music, magic and dance, the doctors work in pairs, traipsing wards, looking to bring about their next smile.
These expert improvisers are all professional actors.
A successful audition leads to a 15-month "clown-ternship", which then lands them in what they say, is the most privileged job in the world.
Humour Foundation co-founder Peter Spitzer said clown doctors were not just entertainers.
Dr Spitzer is also the medical director, and said the doctors provide humour, which in turn assisted pain, medical healing and recovery.
He said it was hoped a new clown doctor PhD scholarship, currently being offered by the Humour Foundation, would elicit hard evidence of these benefits, and in turn generate more funding to operate more frequently.
"Clown doctors work in a magical translation that helps children better deal with that medical model," Dr Spitzer said.
Applying humour in this situation has a number of psychological and physiological effects.
"The minute you have taken the psychological fear away there is a whole raft of physiological things that happen," Dr Spitzer said.
"You are in creative mode, you are feeling better, and you have shifted away from that place of pain.
"Physiologically you are reducing stress hormones which then affects the rest of the system ... now you are open to some other health possibilities that weren't available before."
Dr Spitzer said increasing trust, and an acknowledgment by the medical fraternity of the benefits of clown humour, had led to a burgeoning relationship with hospital staff.
The acceptance of clown doctors as a profession is currently being developed in a New Zealand university, which will next year offer a bachelor degree in medical clowning, to study performing arts, health science and psychology.
"When we first started up the program [in 1996] we had excellent lessons of rejection," Dr Spitzer said.
"They didn't get it.
"Now, one of the most common comments we get are `why aren't you here more often?'
"We are professional fools, they are professional medical staff, but above all that, we are working for the same goals."
Humour Foundation artistic director David Symons said clown doctors acted to stimulate the imagination and make hospitals a less scary environment.
He said it was about adding a dose of happiness to a serious and solemn place, for the benefit of the children, their families, and even the staff.
"A lot is about reducing fear and anxiety and letting them know that in this scary and alien world there is still friendliness and playfulness," Mr Symons said.
"The kids are in a room full of people trying to do things to them. We are the people that come in, very separate from all that, still wanting to play in their world."
Mr Symons provided an example of a little girl on the burns ward whose mother was finding it extremely difficult to get her to hospital for treatment.
"The mother was having trouble getting her daughter out of bed, and to have breakfast, to get her into the car to get to the hospital for treatment," Mr Symons said.
"We met her in the burns clinic and then suddenly it was a different world ... the next week she was urging her mother into the car, to get to hospital."
The clown conference is a yearly event for the Humour Foundation, and provides a chance for every clown doctor to swap skills and increase their professional development.
Mr Symons said continued artistic development was crucial for every clown because greater skills meant better success.
"It is important to walk into walls safely so we don't end up in hospital," he said.
"The thing about hospital is that it is so unpredictable. The people in it are from all walks of life, all have different senses of humour, and things can change, just like that.
"You can do something hilarious, but have to drop it all and leave."
Mr Symons said some of his experiences within hospitals had been extraordinary.
"So often I come out from being a clown doctor feeling better than when I arrived. I find it easier to visit a hospital as a clown.
"This role of the clown is so important ... we need this person who finds the humour in things, to debunk, and if we don't have that we are all going to be locked in to a particular way of seeing things."
Tasmania's clown doctors work two days a week at the Royal Hobart Hospital, and make five visits to the North and North-West each year. To donate and fund- raise to increase their presence in our hospitals visit www.humourfoundation.com.au.