Ah, Christmas: mistletoe, wine. Crackers, Quality Street, Wham. A double shift in hospital, removing something unwanted from the stomach of an engorged Christmas reveler.
While the former is what we’re all looking forward to, the latter is the lot of someone who’s missed six Christmases in a row. It’s the darkly droll world of Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas; the latest behind-the-paper-curtain offering from Adam Kay, erstwhile junior doctor and current comedian and TV writer.
Comedy and medicine might seem to be strange bedfellows, but for readers of This is Going to Hurt, diarised in the downtime between Adam’s stand-up performances, they proved to be a natural fit. “There was so much misinformation in 2016, when junior doctors came under fire from the government – that doctors were greedy, lazy, wanting more money,” explains Adam. “But there was nothing from their side, because they were in hospital 100 hours a week. I wanted to amplify their voices. So, I read my diaries on stage at Edinburgh, telling people about life on the wards.”
The rest, you could say, is our collective history – as Adam describes, “My books are, at their heart, love letters to the NHS – and as a country we’re united in this love. But it’s in a time of slight peril and there are some important things that need to be said.” These messages of hope are a beacon throughout This is Going to Hurt. But, its success hints at other, less lofty pleasures: “Humans love hearing about all the ways we can impair ourselves, don’t we?”
“It’s not unexpected that we’re interested in how we get fixed when our bodies stop working. Then there’s the ‘superheroes’ who go above and beyond to look after us. Television too is all about crime, medicine and sex; we’re obsessed. I adore shows like Scrubs and Getting On with Jo Brand.”
It’s little wonder then that This is Going to Hurt has been tapped for the watershed, with Kay at the helm. There is no news yet about who will play the doctor himself (“Someone much more handsome than me,” Adam muses), but the show will no doubt incorporate some of the book’s thought-provoking, sometimes hilarious, vignettes.
In the meantime, those eager for a dose of comedy remedy can grab a copy of Twas the Nightshift before Christmas – and come along to the stage show. Just as guffaw-inducing as its predecessor, it shines a light on our inability to withstand the excesses of the season – with painful consequences.
Thinking of one graphic incident involving Sharon fruits that features in the book, I have to ask: Why are we so prone to weird maladies around Christmas?
Adam’s laugh is a tuneful carol. “I don’t know... maybe it’s because the mulled wine is flowing. People have more time on their hands. And they think, ‘I’ll just let my hair down a bit.’”
Adam presents two shows of Christmas stories on Friday, 13 December, 5.30pm and 8pm, Brighton Dome. Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is available from all good bookshops. Tickets for the live show at adamkay.co.uk (book included in ticket price).