Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Trust me, I’m a comedian

COMEDIAN and GP Phil Hammond has a brilliant solution on how to survive a stay in hospital — wear a

COMEDIAN and GP Phil Hammond has a brilliant solution on how to survive a stay in hospital — wear a T-shirt that reads: “Don’t Touch Me Unless You’ve Washed Your Hands” or alternatively, “Please Try Not To Kill Me Today.”

He is adamant that this will not alienate the doctors and nurses who are looking after you.

“Most of them have a sense of humour and if you do something a bit dark like that they will find it funny,” he says.

Hmmm. Not entirely convinced — is this not a little flippant? But underneath the quick-fire wit, Dr Hammond is completely serious.

“The thing is, you’ve got to stand up for yourself,” he says. “British patients are far too passive about the NHS, and think ‘I’d better be grateful for it’. The fact is, hospitals are a dangerous place to be these days but there are lots of techniques you can use to survive in hospital. Read your notes, for example.”

Talking to Dr Hammond is like being on the receiving end of a verbal machine gun. To say that he is opinionated is a gross understatement.

However, he is funny, and he is definitely on the side of the underdog — in this case, the patient — and his views and ideas about health, disease, the state of the health service, NHS whistleblowers, antibiotics and obesity fly off his tongue in a rapid-rattle volley, as if his mouth can barely keep up with his brain.

Dr Phil’s Rude Health Show, which comes to the Kenton Theatre next Saturday, is a combination of “a bit of politics and a bit of anatomy,” he says. In fact, reviews of the show from the Edinburgh Festival 2011 and various other venues where he has played recently suggest that the anatomy bit takes centre stage. This generally involves him regaling the audience with stories of people who come into A&E with objects stuck in orifices where they didn’t oughta be. It might be the oldest trick in the Hippocratic book, but let’s face it, it’s one that can never fail to amuse and fascinate.

Hammond qualified as a GP in 1991 and now works with children and teenagers with ME, or chronic fatigue syndrome. He also writes for Private Eye, is a campaigner for the NHS, and is also a comedian, often appearing on TV shows such as Have I Got New For You.

It sounds like an exhausting regime, but he seems to thrive on the variety, and says he wouldn’t be able to choose any one of his jobs to do exclusively.

“I’d do a day of medicine, two or three comedy gigs, and probably do two days a week of investigative journalism for Private Eye,” he says.

“I’d do a week of five different jobs. It’s very interesting. And making patients laugh is always a great thing to do.”

He grew up in Australia, which may partly explain why he does not share the usual British coyness when it comes to talking about taboos such as sex and mental illness. In fact, he seems to relish causing a certain squeamish sensation in people with his risqué language.

One of his latest topics up for discussion, for example, is “How To Pleasure Yourself In A Safe And Sustainable Way”. But it’s not about what you might think. It’s actually about maintaining good health by regulating the amount of food and drink you consume, and giving up smoking.

“People have over-indulged,” he says. “They’re eating, drinking and smoking too much and not taking any exercise. A lot of the NHS budget is spent on treating preventable conditions. One of the solutions is for people to take responsibility for getting fitter. We just can’t cope with the level of unfitness and the lack of exercise.”

Mind you, he also has plenty to say about sex.

“If you get sexual health and mental health right, you are half-way there,” he says. “The trouble is we don’t like talking about these things.”

If you go to see him at the Kenton, it’s more or less guaranteed you will.

lDr Phil’s Rude Health Show is at the Kenton Theatre on Saturday March 23. Box office (01491) 575698 or www.kentontheatre.co.uk

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