Kwame Asante: 'It's possible to talk about the risks of obesity without body shaming'
- Marissa Burgess
- 26 July 2018
This article is from 2018
Medic and comic aims to strike the right tone about material on weight issues
For many comedians, their initial inspiration is found in obsessively watching a video / DVD / YouTube clip (delete according to age) of their favourite stand-up until it wears thin. Kwame Asante's is more personal and nostalgic. 'When we were kids my little brother and I used to spend our summer holidays with our grandparents in Ghana, and grandad always used to tell us stories about Anansi the Spider. These were traditional African fables, in which a spider gets up to no good but always gets his comeuppance in the end. The stories made people laugh without compromising on their deeper meaning. That's a skill I've long appreciated and try to bring on stage.'
Asante is one of those ultra-organised comics who also happens to be a trained doctor having cultivated his stand-up career while studying a degree in medicine. Last year's debut Fringe show, Open Arms, was about that journey but this year's show, Teenage Heartblob, turns its attention to obesity and how being overweight in childhood has affected how Asante communicates with patients who struggle with their weight.
'My personal and professional experiences have hammered home how multifactorial weight issues are. The biological, psychological and social elements are not only vast, but deeply fascinating. It also aligns with the current debate on whether or not some topics are off-limits for comedy. I've always believed that it boils down to striking the right tone.'
Certainly, the line between warning people of the health risks of carrying too much weight and 'body shaming' is a fine one. 'It's perfectly possible to talk about the risks of obesity without body shaming. Success lies in the ability to give information in an empathetic and non-accusatory manner, to receive and process information objectively, and maintain a basic level of respect for one another.' And you can't argue with that.
Kwame Asante: Teenage Heartblob, Pleasance Courtyard, 1–26 August.