With splitting his time between GP practices here and the UK, and comedy gigs in between, life is never dull for Dr Ahmed Kazmi.
He was a sell-out start of the Perth Fringe Festival earlier this year and as one reviewer put it, only a true artist can make mortality funny!
“I like to call my comedy routine, humour with a point! I try to be an all-round entertainer using story-telling, one-liners, singing and dancing. But it’s important that there’s a subtext behind the performance that leaves people thinking about some pretty important issues,” Ahmed said.
“In terms of our profession it would be nice if people left the show understanding doctors a little better, and maybe even having a think about how they could get more out of their next appointment. I always have a take-home message – last year it was ‘cancer awareness’ and ‘bereavement’. And in 2017, understandably, it’s all about Islamophobia.”
The one question you just have to ask a stand-up comedian is, ‘have you ever died onstage?’.
“My first-ever show was a comedy of errors in itself, everything from microphone failure, forgetting lines to getting so emotional that I had to leave the stage. Despite all that, there was a raw authenticity to it all and the audience seemed to enjoy it.”
“I’ve refined my schtick since then, thankfully, and moved on from that humbling beginning. Stand-up comedy is an important outlet for me because, although I do love being a GP, it can get a bit intense. Every doctor needs a hobby, and I don’t play golf and I’m terrible at Sudoko. To be quite honest, I started all this to get over my grief at losing my father to cancer. I needed a distraction, something fun preferably.”
“Now it’s about creating joy and happiness onstage in front of an audience. To have an opportunity to make people laugh, cry and perhaps reflect a little is a real privilege. The applause is such a rush, a bit like a giant hug. And who doesn’t need one of those in these troubled times!”
“And one of the really nice aspects is that all things health related, particularly the doctor-patient relationship seem to be universal. I’ve just been on a bit of a mini-world tour and there are cultural nuances, of course. But the show is essentially all about human nature.”
And is political correctness the scourge of entertaining, free-flowing comedy?
“No, not at all! I think too many people confuse the right to freedom of speech with the right to senselessly offend! In my opinion, you can be a good comedian and make jokes about a variety of serious topics without degenerating into misogyny or racism.”
One of the more obvious potential pitfalls of a show such as this is someone in the audience suddenly thinking, hey, he’s talking about Uncle Fred!
“I’m way ahead of you there! That’s a very real issue and yes, I had to consider the possibility of that happening. I think I’ve found a way around it by saying at the outset that I don’t compromise patient confidentiality and sticking to common scenarios that are part and parcel of everyday GP experiences.”
Ahmed doesn’t spring from a family-line of medicos, but he was probably always destined to be a doctor.
“My parents would have been happy with any career path I chose, as long as it involved a university degree and I was the best at it and won lots of prizes! Yes, I had ethnic parents – similar to American parents who enter their children in beauty pageants except that parents such as mine enter you into academic competitions.”
“I chose medicine because I wanted a job where other people would benefit from my privileged education, which was something my parents worked really hard to achieve!”
“I loved languages, drama and science. When I put them all in a blender, medicine seemed to be the best choice. And being a GP I get variety, the ability to have good work-life balance and I’m my own boss. I certainly don’t regret my decision.”
“If I had to choose between medicine and comedy it would be the former every time. I trained for over a decade to be a GP and it is part of the fabric of who I am. It brings purpose and pleasure to my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
“And anyway, comedy wouldn’t pay my bills!”
The travelling medico-comedian divides his time between London and Perth, and makes some interesting observations on the regional differences.
“I work in West London and I love the hustle and bustle and all the flashing lights. The demands on service provision in the UK’s NHS means there are a lot of protocols regarding consulting, but I think the NHS is a pretty impressive organisation. And I’m proud to be part of it.”
“The sun, the beaches and the relaxed vibe of Perth is pretty nice, too. It’s more fun to practice as a GP here because of increased practitioner freedom. Splitting my time between London and Perth is OK for now I’m going to have to decide where I’ll make my long term base.”
“I’m super-excited about the prospect of a cabaret show and hope to debut it in 2018 at the Perth Fringe. I’d also love to do some TV work, particularly medical documentaries and I’m working on that at the moment.”
“Oh, and I’m tired of being single and would like to find a partner!”