Life

Jake O'Kane: A funny thing happened when I had CO2 pumped into my posterior

What you see on television or theatre is an act – we are acting funny. If I had a pound for every time someone said to me, 'Smile, big fella, it might never happen,' then I'd be rich, and a lot of people would still have their teeth

Adventures in getting old continue – and seem to involve more visits to hospitals and having probes inserted into various orifices
Jake O'Kane

THERE is a misconception comics are ‘fun'. I know where this originates; it's all down to the persona we project when appearing on television or stage. Let me once and for all dispel the myth of convivial comics – the reality is that most of us are on the spectrum, and pretty far out on it as well.

What you see on television or theatre is an act – we are acting funny; we are being funny so you will come along and very kindly give us your money. This most definitely is not how we are in everyday life.

If I had a pound for every time someone said to me, "Smile, big fella, it might never happen," then I'd be rich, and a lot of people would still have their teeth. My long-suffering wife has long adopted a particular smirk/smile/grimace when people, learning of her relationship with me enthuse, "Oh, it must be so much fun in your house, being married to a comic".

I also hate the moronic myth of the crying clown. In reality, most of us are pretty average, we just have a rather dysfunctional view of the world. As stand-up comics we mine our lives for stories we relate back as material on stage, and nothing is off limits – the more dramatic, tragic or ridiculous the better.

You can judge where comics are in their lives by their material. The young Turks will be telling hilarious tales of drink, drugs and sexual exploits. Ten years later they'll be talking about marriage, children and the lack of sexual exploits. I am in the next stage – which few comics reach, due to our very unhealthy lifestyle: my material is about age, illness and an inability to remember what sexual exploits are.

I've noticed over the last couple of tours I've begun shows by giving audiences an update on my health – or, should I say, a check-list of what has gone wrong with me over the preceding 12 months.

This I know – getting old is too tough for the young. I've had probes inserted in every orifice apart from my nose and ears, though I'm sure they'll be next. It all began with my coeliac diagnosis which involved a colonoscopy and endoscopy. If you'd like a fuller description of these procedures, I refer you to a column I wrote in March.

I've been having a bit of tummy trouble over the last couple of months so last week I had to endure yet another probe. Before the actual procedure I endured what medics call a ‘colon preparation', which is a euphemism for a medically induced bout of diarrhoea. I won't elaborate; suffice to say I spent hours glued to the toilet. Acceptably evacuated, I limped my way to the hospital.

On this occasion I wasn't getting a full colonoscopy but instead a CT colonography. This involves having carbon dioxide gas pumped into your posterior, inflating your lower intestine before a scan is taken.

As I lay being inflated, the strangest thoughts entered my head. What if the consultant pumping in the gas had a stroke and nobody noticed – could I explode? And where did the gas go when they removed the tube? I had visions of what happens when you let a balloon you're trying to blow up go before tying it off. Would I be bouncing off the walls and ceiling, or worse, would I turn into a human slurry spreader?

Thankfully neither happened. Tube removed, I lay waiting for the consultant to come and tell me the bad news. Being a bit of a hypochondriac with neurotic tendencies, I always presume the news is going to be bad.

When he appeared I anxiously scanned his face for any inkling of what was to come. Thankfully it was good news, he told me nothing sinister had been found, I breathed again. And so the adventure which is getting old continues. I've no doubt it will involve more visits to hospitals and ever-longer waits to see my overworked doctor.

My main point in relating all this is to prove that even the worst of experiences aren't wasted if you're a comic. While we aren't the happy people you'd expect us to be, we do practise a rare form of alchemy in taking the detritus of life and transforming it into laughter. This magic more than compensates for us being slightly odd and grumpy, sarcastic and miserable – or at least that's what we tell ourselves.

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