The doctor turned stand-up talks Monster Munch, sweet potatoes and embarrassing himself in front of AOC
Remember life before COVID? Back in 2017, before Clap For Carers (and a global pandemic) helped renew everyone’s appreciation for the NHS, Adam Kay was doing his bit to drag the best and worst of the medical profession into the spotlight. 2017’s This Is Going To Hurt turned the real diaries of a junior doctor into a funny, painful and essential memoir that went on to sell over three million copies, win an armful of awards and get itself a BAFTA-winning TV adaptation.
“Where I’ve ended up is absolutely bizarre,” Kay told The Guardian, speaking just before his follow-up book, Undoctored, was released in 2022. “There is a version of my life where I don’t do any shouting or supporting of causes or being noisy on social media or harassing politicians. But I’ve been given a platform and it might help others.”
Now the author of eight books (including his latest, Amy Gets Eaten, a picture book for kids about the journey of a piece of sweetcorn through the human digestive tract), Kay has also built a career as one of the UK’s best-selling live acts. Mixing comedy with confessional, This Is Going to Hurt sold out everywhere it went on tour in 2018 – with Kay now returning to stages again with Undoctored: This Is Going To Hurt… More.
Before Kay starts opening up even more old wounds, we got stuck in a lift to ask the important questions.
Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
How long are we talking? At some point I’m going to have to do a sh*t in front of them, and that really limits the pool of people. But, assuming it’s a relatively short stoppage, then Bill Bryson – hilariously funny and infinitely knowledgeable. And if it’s going to be more than a month then Chris Hemsworth.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
My husband. I mean, I like the bloke, but he’s one of nature’s panickers and I’m not sure I can bear an hour of a man screaming, trying to calculate how much oxygen he’s got left and wondering whether the cable’s going to snap. That said, I could probably sh*t in front of him.
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?
I once asked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “And what do you do?” She was very polite about it. I imagine that when she’s asked this question then she says me.
What was the last gig or show you went to?
Pulp at the Hammersmith Apollo – I’ve been a fanboy since school and watched them live at least a dozen times. This was my favourite gig of the lot and I sang along to every single word. (Sorry if you were sitting near me.)
What’s on your rider?
Haribo, Monster Munch and a bottle of cheap (but cold) white wine. If I’ve got guests coming after the show then Annie, my stage manager, makes sure the dressing room is full of fruit platters and bowls of posh truffle crisps so I appear vaguely like an adult. (Still cheap wine though.)
What did 12-year-old you imagine you’d be doing now?
I’m not quite sure, but he’d be f*cking thrilled that I’m still eating Haribo and Monster Munch.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
“It’s just a phase.”
If you had a theme song playing every time you walked into a room, what would it be?
‘Yakety Sax’ would be lovely, although it might mean I can’t go to any funerals in future.
What’s your most controversial food opinion?
Sweet potatoes are vile, and the tendency of restaurants to replace normal chips with sweet potato fries is no different to replacing a bowl of soup with a bowl of lukewarm vomit.
What film have you rewatched the most times?
Excluding pornography, probably The Shawshank Redemption.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Medicine managed to be the best and worst job of my life. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked, the mostly emotionally draining and psychologically damaging, and ruinous to almost every aspect of my life. But I’ve never done anything so rewarding. (Plus, I got a lifetime of disgusting anecdotes and a banging live show out of it.)
What’s the skill that no one else knows that you’re great at?
I can play the Jonny Briggs theme tune on the trombone.