Award-winning comedian Adam Kay will be sharing entries from his diaries as a junior doctor in an “electrifying” evening of stand-up and music, Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt (Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor), running at London’s Palace Theatre from 21-27 June 2021.
The show has been seen by over 200,000 people, including absolute sell-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs from 2016 to 2019, plus UK tours and multiple West End runs between 2017 and 2020.
‘Intersperses horror stories from the NHS frontline with a catalogue of sublimely silly spoof songs, and some blissfully brilliant wordplay’ – Mail on Sunday ★★★★★
‘Hilarious and heartbreaking’ – Charlie Brooker
The multi-award-winning accompanying book, This is Going to Hurt, spent over a year at No. 1 in the Sunday Times bestseller list and has been translated into 37 languages. It is currently being turned into a major BBC series starring Ben Whishaw. Signed copies will be available for purchase at the theatre.
Kay’s other books include Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas and Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You (as editor). His second children’s book, Kay’s Marvellous Medicine: A gross and gruesome history of the human body will be published in September 2021.
Presented by James Seabright, Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt (Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor) is also touring the UK.
Below, Adam Kay explains more about his journey from a career in medicine to a successful role as an author and performer.
You’ve been interested in stand-up for a long time, performing whilst in medical school, but when you quit being a doctor, did you fully intend to end up full-time in comedy and writing?
There’s a long tradition of medical students putting on (generally pretty terrible) end-of-year shows, making fun of the consultants and professors – I got involved with those a lot when I was at med school. I guess encouraging medical students to enjoy a bit of gallows humour is the closest thing we have to teaching them some kind of coping mechanism for the bad days at work.
When I had my own extremely bad day at work and left medicine in 2010 (sorry – I’ve ruined the ending of the show) I realised that writing jokes and getting up on stage was the closest thing I had to any kind of skill-set beyond working on the wards, so I thought I’d give it a go. I fully expected it would end up being a failed six-month experiment, but to my ongoing surprise it’s still how I pay the gas bill.
Your book and tour describes the ups and downs of being a junior doctor. Was there ever such a thing as a mundane day at work?
I worked on a labour ward and, as anyone who’s ever been on a labour ward in any capacity knows, the days there are never mundane – you end up with twice the number of patients you start with, which is unusual for any medical specialty. I guess on a mundane day you manage to leave within two hours of when you’re meant to, no one threatens to kill you, and you only throw away one pair of boxers following a tsunami of blood soaking through your scrubs.
Aside from the anecdotes, is there much about being a doctor that helps in being a stand-up comedian? Dealing with the pressure? Late nights?
I’m certainly very good at the late nights. I can stay up 48 hours writing a script that I’ve failed to do in time, and body is now just trained to get on with it. I don’t get stressed or nervous these days either – my barometer for stress has been totally ruined by working on the wards. Obviously, the big difference on stage is that the stakes are zero.
You’re not the only ex-medical comedian, with Harry Hill and Paul Sinha also former medical practitioners. Is there any particular reason why a number of you have made that journey, or is it the result of a secret comedy cabal?
Rather than recruiting people who are psychologically fit for the job, which you might think would be a sensible approach, medical schools choose people who have lots of extra-curricular activities – for example, I had a couple of grade VIIIs in music and worked on the school newspaper.
If look at the Wikipedia entry for any famous doctor it’s always been the case: “He proved himself an accomplished rugby player in youth leagues. He excelled as a distance runner and in his final year at school was vice-captain of the athletics team” – and that’s Harold Shipman, so it’s potentially not a totally rock-solid system. As well as medics leaving for the stage, there are also huge numbers who’ve had hugely successful careers in sport, such Roger Bannister. If you recruit people with outside interests I guess some of them will pursue them after their degree.
Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt (Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor) runs at London’s Palace Theatre from 21-27 June 2021. Performances are at 8pm with Saturday and Sunday shows also at 5pm, the running time is one hour and 10 minutes (no interval) and tickets are from £20 (age recommendation: 12+).
This Is Going To Hurt will be touring the UK from June 2021. Full details of the nationwide tour can be found at adamkay.co.uk.