Cut The Funny Business — You’re A Doctor!


Most people who know me well know that I was (briefly) a professional comic.

Long before I became a psychiatrist, I wanted to be funny.  I copied TV comics as best I could and quickly learned that when you were funny, people seemed a bit more likely to enjoy your company.

As I look back on what happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when I was down from Fargo, North Dakota, for a fellowship in neurology, during my residency in neurological surgery.  I have little doubt that I fit the criteria for clinical depression.  Let’s just say that the city seemed “cold” in every sense of the word.

I started to cruise comedy clubs and took little time to decide that I was easily a lot funnier than the folks who got up there.

Next thing I knew, I was turning down offers for national auditions because I was scared stiff of becoming a “flash in the pan” after compromising my reputation as a doctor and neurosurgeon.

That was because my opening line on my very first night had pert near brought the house down, and which opened a monologue of scandalous honesty was:

“Relax.  You don’t have to laugh  That’s because I don’t have to do this for a living.
I really am a brain surgeon.”

I don’t think a single person in the house believed anything I said was true, although I really was most of the way through residency training and genuinely believed  I would be doing that for the rest of my life when I said it.

It was so much fun, and seemed so easy at that time, that I never really stopped doing it.  One thing has changed a lot, though.  The phenomenon described in this lovely British article about the future of comedy.

I love to perform in workshops and such.  The great thing about aging is that I really think people seem to find it a bit easier to believe I am a doctor.

In psychiatry and related fields, starting with Sigmund Freud, Father to us all) I am one of lots of folks interested in laughter.

It has become the subject of academic study in non-medical fields as well as medical ones and seems to fascinate everyone from evolutionary biologists and anthropologists to sociologists and neurophysiologists.

In general, it makes people feel better.

Rest assured I crack up my patients as much and as often as I can.  I have not forgotten how, in what seems long ago, in another existence, my study and practice of comedy “cured” me of mine.

I have directed many patients toward workshops, open nights, and even some of the basics of writing comedy.

I have long dreamed of running a comedy workshop.

As always, stay tuned.

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