“An Unhealthy Man” Proves Laughter Is the Best Medicine
In “An Unhealthy Man Lectures You On Medical Issues,” a man with diabetes who’s suffered several strokes offers health advice. His comic advice is along the lines of staying away from doctors because they make you more sick. Vincent Clark has a style similar to Johnny Carson and Rodney Dangerfield. He is a throwback to an earlier era of standup comedy, when it was more about puns and zingers. For example, “My doctor told me to watch my drinking. Now drink in front of a mirror,” is a classic Dangerfield one‑liner. Some might groan; others will slap their knees. Mr. Clark says that he recently got amnesia from being hit in the head, and can now cross it off his bucket list. “All the greats have gotten it: Hoss from ‘Bonanza,’ Mr. Drummond from ‘Diff’rent Strokes,’ and Major Roger Healey from ‘I Dream Of Genie.’” The intended age of the audience becomes clear. But then a light shines on a desk covered with pill bottles. Mr. Clark says, “Give us this day our daily meds. Adderall, yippie! Ambien, oh baby.” One of the show’s funniest moments was when Mr. Clark was told he’d need a catheter. He begged the doctor for another chance to produce a urine sample. When he went to the bathroom, he prayed to God. “I’ll never do another bad thing again if I can just pee now.” As someone who’s asked God for a miracle on more than one occasion, I can relate. There are times when life truly feels like it is crashing at your feet. He manages to pee but it’s not enough, and he needs a catheter put in anyway. Asleep in bed that night, his wife accidentally pulls the catheter out of him. Recounting this, Mr. Clark screams on stage extremely loudly. I freaked out, caught off guard. His visceral stories made me go from imagining what it would be like to beg God to let me urinate, to imagining the pain of having a catheter yanked out. Tallying up his medical bills, Mr. Clark wondered what it would be like for an even older person to undergo this medical emergency – a possibly uninsured senior at home with paperwork piling up. This was a touching moment in which Mr. Clark turned his joke dial to zero, laid truth on us, and then moved on. For all of his goofy jokes, he has his finger on the audience’s pulse and knows how to orchestrate an impactful, serious moment when he wants to. As a slide show projected covers from a Diabetes‑themed monthly magazine, Mr. Clark roasted the happy people on the covers. “Look at this baby. Is he so happy because he’s never going to be able to eat cupcakes and cookies and chocolate milk? Look at this woman making jazz hands. Maybe she’s trying to show us how often she has to prick her fingers.” This was funny and sad. Mr. Clark developed diabetes as a side effect of one of his medications. Now he must take twelve pills a day to prevent organ failure. Though they might fail even if he takes the pills. Then he got quiet and listed the body parts that hurt: his enlarged prostate, knees, back, kidney, throat, and mind. Because of Psoriasis, now and then he bleeds while out in public and it shows through his clothes. A decade ago he took his mother to see the Sistine Chapel. He went back recently, but couldn’t see much of it because his vision degraded from the diabetes. He can’t see stars at night, either. He also has obsessive‑compulsive disorder. As he lists these ailments, he explains what it takes to manage them. “I’m tired of living,” he says. “There is counseling for drug users and pregnant teens and athletes and CEOs but there’s none for diabetes patients,” he says. Lights turn on again over the desk, and now there is a cheeseburger with fries. Mr. Clark sits down and eats as we watch a video of him dressed in a gold suit. He sings a song. “Why, oh, why can’t I feel the leg under my thigh?” he croons. “I have diabetes because of what I eat‑us. Diabetes is the reason why I can’t feel my feet‑us.” I laughed. Magically, the mood changed. The constant shifts from jokes to seriousness lowered my guard completely, which is when Mr. Clark delivered his biggest punches. Well done. He says, ”Thank you for coming to my show. If you’d like to follow me on Twitter, too bad, because I don’t know what that is. My website is www mumble mumble mumble.” Mr. Clark exits, and the lights go out. We stand and applaud. After the applause, we hear a crashing sound behind the stage. Mr. Clark comes back out in a white robe with a halo over his head. “That didn’t take long….” he says. “Before I’m let into heaven, God asked me if I could clear up a few inconsistencies in my story. I have been asked to say that you should listen to your doctor and pay attention to your diet. You should exercise. Also, I am partially responsible for my diabetes. I love sweets and am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. It also turns out there are counseling opportunities for people with diabetes. I was too lazy to really look hard…” As much as genetics and shoddy pharmaceuticals and a questionable healthcare industry gave him ailments, he brought a few on himself. This hilarious final scene shows Mr. Clark taking back his jaded health advice. See this show for old school joke‑telling, and insight into the experiences of people living with illness. “An Unhealthy Man Lectures You on Medical Issues” Written, Directed, and Performed by Vincent Clark Nov. 2 at 6pm Photo: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.