Fringe 2011 comedy blogs - Laurence Clark
Exploring American fears about the 'socialised medicine' of the NHS
This article is from 2011.
The National Health Service may seem like an odd subject for an hour’s comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. So why make a show about the NHS? Well for one, my own life has been profoundly shaped by it. Also it’s a subject that’s always in the news. Indeed when I started working on the show two years ago, little did I imagine that, by the time I came to perform it in Edinburgh, David Cameron would have made my chosen topic so topical. But let’s face it, you’re probably thinking the real reason is it’s an easy way to get arts funding... and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
What's more, I can’t honestly pretend part of my motivation wasn’t the chance to travel round America with a film crew for two weeks recording the American public’s fears of ‘socialized medicine.’ It amazes me that, whilst we British view healthcare as a basic right, to many Americans it’s still seen as a commodity for those lucky enough to afford it. I encountered a multitude myths and stereotypes about the NHS, many of which made it into the show.
Along the way I did a few gigs too, some of which didn’t always go to plan. At the first one in Philadelphia, unbeknownst to me, the event had recently become a four hour memorial service for a deceased local gospel singer. I learnt that night that gospel choirs are a pretty tough act to follow! At a cabaret night in Chicago I followed a guy who managed to seamlessly blend a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Richard III into a rendition of Shirley Bassey’s I Am What I Am. And on my fantastic final night in Tallahassee, a town seemingly so right-wing that I fully expected to be stoned to death upon arriving on stage, my expectations proved false at the Mickee Faust Club on the outskirts on the town. It seemed like all of the outsiders and dispossessed from that community turned up to my show that night and couldn’t get enough of me.
I suppose, in many ways the NHS is like that mad, old auntie everyone else in the family moans about, yet the minute outsiders criticise her we all leap to her defence. As someone who’s had their fair share of dealings with it over the years, I’ve been as guilty as the next person for slagging it off. But I hope that, as well as making audiences laugh, my show this year also makes them realise what they may have previously taken for granted.