"When I saw that, actually, people are themselves and they just say ‘this is my niche and I want to perform for you’ it gave me a bit of confidence to do it.”
Perth's Dr Ahmed Kazmi has never done comedy. His debut stand-up performance took place last week at Perth Fringe Festival, and speaking to him the day before he was set to take the stand he certainly didn’t show any signs of stage fright.
“I’ve done a few living room rehearsals and they’ve gone quite well!” he laughs over the phone. “I’ll let you know if I’m any good or not! Really, I’ve just been career focused — doctory, normal, conservative, do your exams and get a degree kind of thing, and I’ve never really deviated from that, so this is quite unknown!”
"There’s a little bit in the show where I talk about how we use an algorithm to try and ascertain why the patient has come..."
His show for Adelaide Fringe Festival is called Dr In The House, and involves anecdotes taken from Dr Kazmi’s practice and general observations about the funny things patients do, and what your doctor is really thinking.
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“It’s more about the human condition and the doctor-patient relationship. Like, there’s a little bit in the show where I talk about how we use an algorithm to try and ascertain why the patient has come, and you’d think that would be quite a straight forward thing to do, like ‘why have you come to the doctors?’… But then I demonstrate that it’s not easy.”
Dr Kazmi is not going in completely cold — he’s got a publicist, a vocal coach, a choreographer… “That’s actually my main thing, my dramatic side — I do like to sing, so I’ve thrown in a few songs in the show,” plus a few choice moments of Bollywood dancing, apparently.
When his father passed away from cancer in May last year, Dr Kazmi threw himself into projects that would distract him and keep him occupied: first pole dancing — “that only lasted one lesson because it was so hard” — and then a failed attempt at becoming an Instagrammer before finally realising his talents lay in comedy.
He will also be using the platform to make a more serious comment on cancer, while keeping the mood light with a few strategically placed jokes and skits about death to remind audiences that “it’s okay to laugh about it”. With a portion of the ticket sales going to The Cancer Council, he’s thrilled that every one of his Perth shows have sold out, including an extra matinee and added seating, and he's hoping the same will happen for Adelaide.
Fringe Fest feels like the perfect platform for this eccentric, English-Pakistani Dr, who caught the festival for the first time two years ago when he moved to Australia.
“I really like the way it’s got such a non-pretentious, forgiving, quite open feel. It felt like a really safe place to start.
“I saw a show called Le Gateau Chocolat and he’s like a big, black Nigerian man who dresses up as a woman and sings bass baritone opera songs, and people just loved him. And I was always anxious about performing… but when I saw that, actually, people are themselves and they just say ‘this is my niche and I want to perform for you’ it gave me a bit of confidence to do it,” he reminisces.
As for his day job, the doctor continues to bring comedy into his practice because “you have to kind of see the lighter side of the job to survive it".