A nice chat with Dr Phil Hammond: Edinburgh Fringe
Andrew Mickel12 August 2011
We may have gotten a bit fanboy when we chatted to GP, standup and Private Eye columnist Phil Hammond. In fact, we very definitely did. SORRY PHIL. Still, read on about his new Edinburgh show...
Tell us a bit about the show.
The original strapline was Dr Phil's Rude Health Show – how to pleasure yourself in a safe and sustainable way. The idea behind it was saying that no health service is sustainable no matter how we reorganise it if everyone is an alcoholic, risk-taking, chain-smoking lardbuckets. You just need to rein it in a bit. There's a fair amount about policy and a fair about anatomy and a fair amount about sexual health, and pleasuring yourself sensibly. I often give the audience a choice about whether they want the political or the anatomical.
Which do they tend to go for?
The anatomical. So then, I give them the political. Always give them the opposite of what they ask for.
Do you ever attempt to do one on one interventions on people's lifestyles, if you see them downing drinks?
I don't preach to people, but they do bring their lumps and bumps along. Somebody once bought a jam jar full of scabs that they'd picked off their head. They wanted a second opinion. I've had a urine sample thrown at me by someone who couldn't see their GP. I had my bag with me so I was able to diagnose a urinary infection.
That's very Embarrassing Bodies.
Yeah, I don't really like Embarrassing Bodies. I didn't like Street Doctor as well, the idea of people getting out their testicles in the street. There's something slightly peculiar about it.
There's something so odd that they don't realise the NHS is free and they can go and do that in private.
Embarrassing Bodies, the whole premise is that I'm too embarrassed to go to my GP so I'll get my old chap out in front of six million people doesn't seem to make sense. I know people who do that sort of thing, actually, and they say about one per cent is people genuinely want to deal with their prolapse in a way that helps other people, some of the people are fast tracked for treatment, but quite a few just want to get on television, and they think showing off their scabby scalp will help them get on Big Brother.
Anyway, I don't preach or tell people how to live their lives. I do it quite tongue in cheek and it's up to you to choose how quickly you want to self-destruct. And there's a fair bit of autobiographical stuff as well. I was bought up in Australia and my father was an academic chemist who took his life when he was quite young, so I talk a bit about suicide and depression and mental health. Most shows generally don't go into that. But the good thing about having anatomy up your sleeve is that when you do the serious stuff, you can bring it back again to that.
With a show like that, have you made anyone leave in floods of tears during the performances at all?
No, not yet. Talking about my dad taking his life has been quite difficult. But I think talking about mental health, especially amongst men, is really difficult. My thinking is you get your top and your tail right and the bit in the middle sorts itself out. You get your head right and your sexual health right and generally your pancreas and your liver will look after yourself.
And Polyoaks, has that finished on Radio 4 now?
Yes. It was pretty well reviewed and got good feedback, and we've cleared two of the three hurdles to get a second series. When we originally had it commissioned it was when GPs were all going to be moved to work in polyclinics, which was the idea of having giant health centres. But then Labour got kicked out and we were stuck with the title. But it's really about GPs trying to cope with health reforms. My favourite character is Doctor Jeremy who's a rather dodgy media doctor who is actually quite dangerous but people quite like him so he gets away with stuff.
Is he based on anyone particular?
He's based on an amalgam of every TV doctor I've ever met, actually. Although I can't name any of them for legal reasons. He's brilliant, always plugging his own products, and looking up images on Google Images. What traditionally happens in medical sitcoms is you get really awful people but they are brilliant at diagnosing things so we forgive them – House, people like that. But Doctor Jeremy is likeable and loveable but he's a really shit doctor.
And it was also a chance to work with your old comedy partner Tony Gardner again.
Yeah. He's been doing some pretty highbrow theatre lately. But Tony is particularly fantastic on the radio, because he's quite understated with his delivery. He's very good at playing a slightly terse, bitter character.
Lastly, we're doing a lot of previews, sell your show in three lines.
I would say, it's a unique mix of the anatomical and the political; if you want to learn how to pleasure yourself Doctor Phil has all the answers; and if he doesn't, he'll make some up.
Your rating: None
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