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Adam Kay, Amateur Transplant-er: Why doctors leave medicine for comedy

By | Published on Monday 24 June 2013

Adam Kay

So, why exactly would you give up a career in medicine to try your hand at comedy full time? Amateur Transplants man Adam Kay is one of a number of former medics to now be found in the comedy biz.
Though this Fringe he plans to rebalance things a little by using his comedy show to turn you into a doctor. Well, a Bogus Doctor, but that counts right? Adam explains more…

I’ve made my mother cry four times in my life. Explaining that I’d been sick inside her grand piano (age 16), telling her I was gay (age 19), admitting I’d run over her brand new kitten (age 24), and telling her I was giving up my career in medicine to be a full-time comedian (age 29).

I’m one of a number of former doctors in the world of comedy – and that’s why I’m discussing this phenomenon here in ThreeWeeks (next week I’m writing a feature on how to best drive over cats).

Some people are puzzled as to why a doctor might want to jack it all in; the job’s fairly well paid, you sometimes get upgraded to Business Class, and you have plentiful access to morphine. But those perks are quite monumentally overshadowed by the 80-hour weeks, the regular splatterings with the body fluids of strangers, and the constant phone calls from friends and relatives wanting on-tap medical advice. So it’s no real surprise that vast numbers of doctors realise they’ve made a terrible mistake and look for a Plan B.

In fact, from my year at med school, fifteen people have left the profession, with Plan Bs including flying commercial planes, working for the Prime Minister’s office and serving a twelve-year prison sentence. As my skill-set doesn’t include flying, lying or criminality, I decided to turn my part-time existence as a comedian into a full-time job (I say full-time – my days are mainly spent wanking and watching daytime TV; it’s more of an evening thing).

Other former doctors in the world of comedy include the late Python Graham Chapman, the currently alive Goodie Graeme Garden, Harry Hill, Paul Sinha, Mike Wozniak, Simon Brodkin (Lee Nelson) and Phil Hammond. Although I know Phil still works part-time in a sexual health clinic because he likes to keep his hand in.

A question we each get asked fairly often is whether we’d ever go back to working in medicine. Personally, I don’t think I would. I feel like I’ve drawn a line under that chapter of my life. (Plus the number of times I say “fuck” on stage probably counts as “bringing the profession into disrepute”). In fact, I’ve barely ever talked in my shows about my old life as a doctor – it felt like looking backwards rather than forwards.

But that all changed a few months ago when I came up with a brilliant money-making scheme – I could charge people to teach them how to be doctors themselves. My new show, ‘How To Be a Bogus Doctor’ tells you absolutely everything you need to set up in private practice, for the price of admission to Pleasance Beside.

I’ll teach you how to fob off, rip off and strip off members of the public in just sixty minutes of half-remembered semi-facts. You’ll learn everything from how to perform a colonoscopy using a Polaroid camera and a Slinky, to how to defibrillate a patient using a toaster and a set of jump leads. Plus of course I’ll run through the diagnosis and management of every ailment known to man. Much like Gillian McKeith, you too can be an unqualified success.

And if only eight people who come to my show decide to set up fraudulent medical clinics as a result, then I’ll have made up for the eight doctors who left medicine for comedy. And then maybe my mother will be proud of me.

And if you were wondering, it’s seventeen years on, and the piano still smells faintly of vomit.

Adam Kay’s shows ‘How To Be A Bogus Doctor’ and ‘Amateur Transplants – Adam Kay Is Going For A Number One’ were performed at the Pleasance at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

LINKS: www.adamkay.co.uk

Photo: Idil Sukan