Healthy laughter...

Comics on a musical tour of hospitals

A group of comedians is touring Scottish hospitals with a musical encouraging people to take better care of their health.

Written by stand-ups Raymond Mearns and Steven Dick, Health Scare: The Musical has been put together thanks to £45,000 of National Lottery funding.

Mearns says he drew on his own experiences for the role of ‘a middle-aged Scottish guy, eating all the wrong things, drinking too much, smoking, not really looking after himself and expecting the NHS to be there for him.

‘I’m 13 stone now but a year ago I was 18, my cholesterol was shocking, I was a mad alky, eating and drinking myself to death and my marriage disintegrated. So I wrote this and Steven added some jokes to it.

‘The NHS is undergoing lots of cuts, society is getting older and so not everyone can get treatment. The message is that you’ve got to choose to live. But in a tongue-in-cheek, non-patronising, “come on to fuck, get a grip” type way.’

The show also stars comics Viv Gee as a doctor, JoJo Sutherland a hospital administrator and Allen Chalmers, who provides piano accompaniment.

Dick plays a journalist, while Paul Sneddon, better known on the circuit as his alter-egos Vladimir McTavish and Bob Doolally, directed.

New comics with health issues will also perform short stand-up spots as part of the show.

Mearns, who co-starred in the first series of Limmy’s Show has a BBC Radio Scotland sketch pilot, Planet Mearns, broadcasting later this year. He previously made a film for the NHS about coping with stress.

Inspired by the current arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin, he plans to further develop Health Scare and take it to next year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

‘It’s amazing. [Superstar] showed me how much I’ve pissed away any talent I’ve been given. I was chatting to Allen and saying why don’t we make ours bigger, really ham and sex it up?’

The free show is touring 14 hospitals from now until November 15, and is being produced by the mental health charity Universal Comedy, which also runs comedy workshops to train people to face an open mic night in Glasgow or Edinburgh.

It's a tough graduation, says Mearns. ‘When they’ve only got three or four minutes and they’re still fairly fragile, there’s a chance that they’re going to be thrown into a bearpit and die on their arse. We’ve been advising them, "Look, if you’re genuinely going to do this as a profession, you’ve got to really want it and be prepared to be pummelled."

‘I say this without a hint of irony – you have to be mental to want to be a stand-up. And I don’t mean that in a bad way.’

-by Jay Richardson

Published: 28 Sep 2012

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