Posted on September 10, 2018. Interview Series.

The Humour Foundation is a charity dedicated to promoting and delivering the health benefits of humour. It incorporates clown doctors, elder clowns, laughter boss and laughter works and it spreads fun and laughter to people in need across Australia, improving the quality of life for people in hospitals, health and aged care facilities.

Tony Warner joined the Humour Foundation as the new Chief Executive Officer at the beginning of 2018. In this short time, he has built plans for the future direction for the organisation, established new professional relationships with Australian and international partners and witnessed the stimulating and magical impact that the clown doctors bring to sick people and their families.

We talk to Tony about where the concept of the clown doctors and elder clowns originated, what it takes to become a clown doctor and the priorities for The Humour Foundation over next 12 months.

What attracted you to the CEO role at The Humour Foundation?

The mission and the programs. Clown doctors: There are countless good causes that exist but bringing laughter to children and their parents in hospitals across Australia is one of the most direct and meaningful things I can think of. I feel privileged to be a part of it.

In our elder clown program (working with people with dementia), we use a range of tools and techniques to empower some of the most disempowered people in society. How lucky am I that I get to play a part in an organisation with a mission like that!

What are your major responsibilities?

My major responsibilities are to keep everyone focused on the vision of the organisation while managing the risks. It is my job to ensure that we are vigilant regarding our fundraising activities, we use funds appropriately, delivering what we have committed to and ensuing that we comply with legislation. I engage with many of our supporters and I have the very best job, which is hosting stakeholders when they observe the clown doctors in the hospitals.

Where did the concept of Clown Doctors and Elder Clowns originate?

Patch Adams is the most famous clown doctor which was based on a true story and played by the remarkable Robin Williams, but clown doctors and elder clowns exist in many countries and we are part of a unique network. The bottom line is that if there must be treatment and illness then there should also be the bubbles, ukuleles and the red noses of the clown doctors.

What training is involved to become a Clown Doctor or Elder Clown?

You don’t choose the clown life, the clown life chooses you! It is a very rigorous process because the quality standard is high but being able to play a ukulele is a good start. Seriously though, there are auditions and an internship process, or as we call it, a clownternship process and then, only then, you might make the cut.

What have been your biggest achievements in the role to date? 

  • Working with the board and staff to bed down the future direction for the organisation
  • Exploring new opportunities and establishing new professional relationships with Australian and international partners
  • Getting to see the clown doctors and elder clowns in action across Australia

What are you finding to be the biggest challenges?

Working for a smaller organisation that remains focused on investing heavily in programs is fantastic but we can’t forget the systems and hardware that we rely on to deliver our services are important too. Developing an asset replacement register has been helpful to plan more effectively.

What are your priorities for the next 12 months? 

It is going to be an exciting 12 months for The Humour Foundation with some great new staff in place and some big events planned so we can roll out even more laughs to where they are needed most. We have our conference in September when we will launch some new initiatives, then really start to explore the potential of the clown doctors programs.

How did you first come across NGO Recruitment?

I applied for a job advertised through NGO recruitment earlier in my career and I remember how supportive they were then, they were just as supportive when I applied for this CEO role.  Now, as the customer engaging NGO Recruitment I find them to be sincere, committed and honest in their approach resulting in not just great candidates but great candidates with the right motivation for the roles that we are recruiting.

Thank you so much Tony.

If you would like to help support the Humour Foundation and improve the quality of life for people in hospitals, health and aged care facilities, click here.