Benji Waterhouse

Benji Waterhouse

Finalist in the So You Think You're Funny? and Leicester Square New Act competitions in 2014 and winner of the Beat The Frog World Series competition the same year. He originally performed under the name Benji Waterstones but became Waterhouse before the publication of his 2024 memoirs, You Don't Have to Be Mad to Work Here, about his day job as an NHS psychiatrist
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Benji Waterstones: You Don't Have To Be Mad To Work Here

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

I’d wager this is the first autobiographical comedy shows to include the line, said in a gently reassuring Northern English lilt: ‘…And so I had to section Barbara.’

For as well as being a stand-up, Benji Waterstones is an NHS psychiatrist who says he has put this show together to explain more about his job – given a surprising number of people seem to think it’s about mind-reading – and to talk openly about serious mental illnesses. And surely the prospect of even a sniff of Adam Kay money might have motivated this particular junior doctor, too.

With its mix of darkly comic anecdotes and incidents that are just plain dark, the warts-and-all picture of the NHS front line, and damning condemnation of years of underfunding, You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Work Here is a This Is Going To Hurt for the mind.

Waterstones’ soft, sympathetic tones must stand him in good stead in his day job, and here help draw the audience into his world of delusional Harry Styles fans, would-be werewolves, and dangerous paranoid schizophrenics who refuse to take the meds.

His delivery is static calm, standing bolt upright, arms by his sides. However, he does animate some of the other characters in his stories, such as his own kindly therapist, which allows Waterstones to dust down the old definition of a Freudian as someone who ‘says one thing when they mean a mother’.

It’s therefore not quite a case of ‘physician heal thyself’ since Waterstones sought help after recognising what effect the long hours and emotionally draining nature of the job was having on his mental health, and any ambition of finding a partner one day.

As these themes come to the fore, and the patients in Waterstones’ casebook become more troubled, the show becomes more of a dramatic monologue than a comedic one. His assured storytelling skills, honed by Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Jordan Brooks, who directed this, have you fully invested in all the strands, told with minimal additional flourish, until the explosive finale.

When every comedian and their dog has been getting ADHD diagnoses, this is an enlightening – and gently but darkly funny –  look at much more extreme mental illnesses. Like Kay’s work it also serves as a potent wake-up call as to how the decimation of NHS services has been devastating for patients, and society.

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Published: 22 Aug 2023


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