Stand-up and Be Counted: Sitting down, standing up

Paul Young

1st Jun 2018

Oh the irony. I’m a sit-down cather but a stand-up comic. When others sit or stand, I do the opposite, facing the other way, going against the flow. A bit like a catheter really. (Sorry, is that too far? Us comedians, we never can tell.)

Occasionally you want to perform a comedy show that’s a bit different, maybe a bit more personal. I like jokey jokes and light-hearted fun, but every few years I crave more. So this year I thought, right, time to go public about that most private and potentially embarrassing of things: bladder conditions.

I’m perfectly placed to self-embarrass. More than any other job, us clowns are meant to air our anxieties and failings in public – not for the world to laugh at, but for the world to laugh with. Maybe we should realize that, like a second-hand book on Amazon, none of us are in perfect condition. We’re possibly a bit damaged, yet hopefully acceptable. But don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s our contents that count. (I don’t mean our bladder contents, in case that’s not clear.)

I’ve been unveiling my lack of bellybutton onstage for years. I found it quite a nice USP: a great way to break the ice and do something no other comedian could do and, perhaps, sober up a few bachelor parties.

At school, I had a love/hate relationship with my bellybuttonlessness. In showers after gym class I realized it was a bit different – I was a bit different – and one or two picked on me for that, and my scars. With hindsight though, they picked on anyone and anything. A classmate was called Squash because he once drank a squash drink.

My first realization that my ‘smoothie’ (compared with others’ ‘innies’ or ‘outies’) could be a good thing was at my first trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a teenager. Celebs (of the niche, geeky kind) were known to frequent a certain bar, so we headed straight there. Sure enough, we spotted Sophie Aldred. No idea? She played Ace, Doctor Who companion in the 1980s. And we wanted to say hi.

My pals tried and failed to disturb her quiet drink. (In retrospect, we should have just not disturbed her quiet drink). I jokingly suggested that maybe I should unleash the smoothie. Sure enough, I was pushed forward with calls of “Show her your bellybutton!”. I did, she got chatting and 20 minutes later, I wound up our conversation just because I’d run out of Doctor Who chat.

Now, I’m an Edinburgh Fringe veteran myself, and have shows at other comedy festivals too. So, time to address the comedy circuit’s last taboo – the C word – ‘catheters’…

 

The opinions expressed here are of a personal and anecdotal nature, and are in no way a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult your doctor or nurse if you have any questions.

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