First Gig Worst Gig

Ed Patrick

Ed Patrick

Everyone attending this year's Edinburgh Fringe is probably a little concerned about the prospect of it descending into a calamitous virus-fest - or we should be, anyway - so it's good to have some doctors in the house.

Ed Patrick has varied skills in his scrubs pockets these days: anaesthetist, stand-up comedian, Witcher podcaster, and now author. He's got a book out about the ward work - Catch Your Breath - which shares a title with the Fringe shows he's doing. Please enlighten us, Dr Patrick.

"So the book is a funny and honest memoir about becoming an anaesthetist, because when I started anaesthetics (several years after being a qualified doctor) it was like starting medical school again.

"You do things VERY differently. Paralysing patients and stopping them breathing is generally frowned upon if you're a GP, but for an anaesthetist, that's a good job. The whole experience at the start was mind blowing, not to mention all the drugs. So I started to write it all down before it felt normal to be breathing for unconscious patients by squeezing a balloon, or regularly giving fentanyl or paralysing agents.

"I realised that not a lot of people know about anaesthetics, and all the things we do, ranging from emergencies in A&E to doing epidurals for expectant mothers, to manning intensive care units - which comes into focus during as the last few years struck."

A fascinating read indeed. But here's the major question: which Catch Your Breath would he recommend doing first?

Ed Patrick - Catch Your Breath

"You can see either the show or read the book first. The show shares the title for the work-in-progress run at the fringe, and touches on the book, but I've some other stories to tell too. Plus Blackwells will be visiting the show every day to sell audience members the book. You won't be allowed to leave without purchasing one, there'll be a menacing bookseller armed with a contactless machine guarding the exit."

And we all know how menacing booksellers can be. But now, back to the shows.

First gig?

My first gig was before I ever started doing it regularly, as I soon went to medical school in Aberdeen, which wasn't quite like London with the number of gig opportunities. So things were very irregular until after navigating my first few years as a doctor (although I did manage the occasional gig followed by a nightshift).

That first one was a showcase after a workshop with Logan Murray, which my brother bought me as a gift, primarily because I loved watching comedy and wanted to try writing. But the idea of performing hadn't quite hit me, so when the showcase happened suddenly I needed the toilet every 15 seconds until I went onstage (and even during).

The gig was just white noise, my mouth moved numbly and words fell out, but the audience made some noises that I realised later was laughing.

Ed Patrick

Favourite show, ever?

There's a few, but one off the top of my head is a gig at Newcastle Stand where I was having a good show, then someone laughed so hard at a joke they fell off their chair with a massive clatter. This came at the crescendo of audience laughing and the fall sent it on a second wave, thus it took a good while for people to calm down.

The gig flew by and I remember being onstage and people just loving it. I realised afterwards that I overran, so I spent much of the time apologising to The Stand staff, but once I realised I wasn't going to get banned, I managed to properly enjoy it.

Worst gig?

There have been a few of these too, but one was horrendous and surreal. It was when I was living in Scotland and before I was doing much comedy. There was a promoter who wanted to take me to a gig several hours drive away. On the way they kept saying it was going to be a great gig and everyone was looking forward to it.

When we arrived at the venue, which was a pub, we walked inside and it was a pub as you'd expect midweek, people having a quiet drink. No stage, no signs saying comedy night, indeed no sign of comedy. It dawned on me that there wasn't a gig, but a pub. A random pub we'd just driven to.

But said promoter convinced the bar staff, who were also baffled at our arrival, that this was a gig, and proceeded to part tables and chairs in the middle of the pub, plugged in a mic and speaker, meaning all the people out for a quiet drink became startled and unsuspecting punters. There were mainly smiles and it felt like a hostage situation.

Ed Patrick

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

I'm not sure there's one person, but I remember Ross Noble cutting my hair onstage at a Just The Tonic gig in Nottingham. I snuck into the gig with another schoolfriend. Then Ross asked for some volunteers for a haircutting competition, and we excitedly and stupidly volunteered.

There was a whip round from the audience and the prize of about £63 went to the person who let their hair get cut the most. As this was a fortune in pocket money, we agreed to split it whatever so we both won. Ross and Darrell Martin did the cutting duties.

After my hair had been mauled and made into a monk-like bald patch in the middle, I finally succumbed thinking it was all over and my schoolfriend's hair looked none too damaged, and we were quids in.

But alas, Ross announced that my friend had won BUT only after Ross had cut out his centre parting down the middle, leaving a crazy professor look. He came to school the next day with a grade one cut all over and was grounded for six weeks.

Ed Patrick

And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

The guy who drove me several hours to a pub that wasn't a gig. And Chelsea Birkby, she used to be so nice.

Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?

There was a bit about drawing genitals in patient medical notes. And that I had trained for years drawing cock and balls images all my childhood. Yet no one teaches you how to draw inoffensive, flaccid cock and balls. Whichever way the jokes were written, the audience simply nodded in acknowledgement and understanding of the problem.

Do you and the other doctor-cum-comedians ever get together and, er, compare notes?

Occasionally we bump into each other and exchange world-weary healthcare nods. Most comedians might look at other comedians getting gigs and think "which promoter books that?" whereas most healthcare comedians see another healthcare comedian with a gig and think "which NHS rota coordinator granted them annual leave?".

Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?

After being nominated for the Leicester Mercury award, Bruce Dessau wrote about me "If I was him I'd ditch medicine and do stand-up", and sometimes I like to tell people who see that quote that Bruce is one of my hospital consultants.

How do you feel about where your career - or careers - are at, right now?

Anaesthetics is going good, although the NHS seems to be forever imploding. Having a published book which combines the two careers has been a fantastic ride. There's still so much I'd like to do and achieve in comedy, so it feels exciting but also constantly daunting.

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