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2022 Edinburgh Fringe

Michael Akadiri: Performing comedy or NHS work - which is more stressful?

Michael Akadiri. Copyright: Garry Carbon

When not performing comedy, Michael Akadiri works as a junior doctor on the frontline. We thought we'd ask him what is more stressful: Working in the NHS during covid, or heading to the Edinburgh Festival for a debut show. Here's what he wrote back with...

Trying to answer this question diplomatically was even more stressful!

I'll preface this piece by saying a bad gig - one where the audience don't laugh, which comics colloquially call a 'death' - pales in comparison to a bad day in the NHS where someone could actually die for real. So surely, the answer to this question is obvious right?

Not quite.

The covid frontlines were a grave challenge. Especially initially, as it took a while to get to grips with the mammoth task we were facing. Long arduous days wearing full PPE were mentally and physically exhausting - We earnt those claps, that's for sure!

Capacity issues notwithstanding, once the early pandemonium settled and protocols were established, things became a bit less stressful and more manageable. It's easier to enact a plan when there is one, as angst develops when one's lacking or isn't clear... as the British public found every time Boris gave a speech.

When developing a debut festival show, you have complete creative control - there is no set protocols, no rules to follow (well, bar the dramatic bit at the 40 minute mark), and there's no homogeneity - what may work for one act, may not for you and vice versa. You can enlist the help of a director; like I've had the fortune of working with Dec Munro to provide some structure and narrative.

Michael Akadiri. Copyright: Garry Carbon

Producing an hour of stand-up that's funny, interesting, original yet poignant is no mean feat. I commend anyone who does it. It's demanding, it's stressful and challenges the artistic side of your brain, which for me hasn't had the rigorous tutoring and education my scientific side has the advantage of.

I began medical school in 2011 (for avoidance of doubt, I've since left... by graduating!). I've been in medicine for over a decade whilst my comedic brain is barely 5 years old. Whilst I'm no sage, through experience alone, medicine is going to come 'easier' to me than comedy.

Ultimately, the stakes are higher in medicine... which makes it more stressful. However, in terms of day-to-day challenges - e.g. prescribing antibiotics, working as part of a team is less stressful than (as in my show) figuring out an entertaining way to introduce the audience to Prophetess Josephine, a woman of God who apparently at birth envisioned that I'd become a doctor and she's been taking credit ever since. I've been trying to perfect her introduction for months. My hairline has moved back an inch during that period, it's been that stressful. I think I've nailed it now though.

There it is, British Comedy Guide - you got your answer out of me!

And in the most Come Dine With Me fashion, I hope you're happy as now you've made me open the floodgates for comics to claim that comedy is harder than medicine. Sigh.

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