Life and Death (But Mainly Death)

In spite of the morbid title, Dr Phil Hammond’s stand-up show makes mischief of the macabre. I was already taken in when he tells the audience that those who have seen a play with ‘death’ in the title are statistically more likely to die (no correlation of course).

Laughter is thinned out tactfully to address a range of issues that include Jeremy Hunt and the state of mental health

Dr Phil’s act comes with a powerpoint. This set-up is not unfamiliar to the audience, who may have seen him before on Have I Got News For You and various media productions on the BBC. Though the majority of the viewers are more mature and elderly, there is no shortage of young viewers who, I’m sure, immensely enjoyed this show.

The entire routine is a narrative effort, as Dr Phil starts with his little known family history, tracing the past to explain his lifelong desire to work for the NHS and Private Eye. There are memorable wisecracks along the way about family dynamics, and about deaths to loved ones that are commemorated with a humour seldom flippant, but which shone with a hindsight that is particularly heartwarming.

It is rather rare for a comic to sustain momentum throughout, yet Dr Phil manages so by segueing into more worldly terrain later on, as he muses upon our society at large. Laughter is thinned out tactfully to address a range of issues that include Jeremy Hunt and the state of mental health in this country. Comedy makes way for tribute to a compassionate society.

Dr Phil delivers a hugely enjoyable hour of well-crafted stand-up, a welcome reprieve from other performers these days who dabble with too much at once. This veteran of the comic circuit revels in the poignant, and provides just the tonic for the aged.

Reviews by Timothy Leonine Tsang

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★★★
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The Blurb

Dr Phil reflects on life, the death of two dads, and his mum still gate-vaulting at eighty. And he considers his own death. Is it possible not to kill yourself before your time, yet die gently when your time comes? Can we live and die with pleasure, purpose, compassion and modest medical interference? Laugh and plan your exit. Dr Phil is an NHS doctor working in chronic fatigue, a Private Eye journalist, BBC broadcaster, comedian and author of Sex, Sleep or Scrabble? 'One of the most entertainingly subversive people on the planet' (The Guardian).