IF you ask people what scares them the most then after death it’s usually public speaking.

But Dr Kevin Jones – dubbed the funniest man in medicine – gets to combine both with his stand-up routines that draw on the darker side of medicine. Kevin is a consultant physician at Royal Bolton Hospital but he got the bug for telling jokes when he did his first after dinner speech about 30 years ago.

After doing the rugby league and Round Table circuits, the 63-year-old started doing one-man shows and now he is preparing to take on Edinburgh Fringe.

Kevin, who knew Dave Spikey from his days as a biomedical scientist in the haematology lab at the Royal Bolton, said: “I suppose it’s been on my bucket list. In the past few years I’ve done this one-man show in theatres which has gone very well.

“So I’ve decided to take a sort of ‘best of’ up to Edinburgh Fringe for a week just to see what it’s like.

“I think it’ll be great fun. Funnily enough the tickets are selling quite well already. It’s probably family and friends doing it out of sympathy.

“I guess the reason I’m doing it most of all is to say: ‘I’ve done it’– so I can look my children in the face and say: ‘What have you two ever done? Your dad has been on at the Fringe. Beat that’.”

The show is called Telling the Wrong Man he had Cancer and Other Hilarious Stories and you can experience a taste of it when Kevin speaks at Lymm Rugby Club’s Sportsmen’s Dinner on June 7.

He added: “‘I was looking for a title that grabs attention. This true story was when I had a case of mistaken identity and a patient left for home after being wrongly told he had terminal cancer.

“Luckily, there was a happy ending. The funny part of the story is how mortified and hugely stressed I was, spending hours trying to track him down to give him the good news and his amazing reaction to the whole sorry saga.”

Despite having to remain calm in life and death situations at the hospital, that way of working does not apply to Kevin’s preparation for Edinburgh.

He said: “People come up to me. I’m quite happy and then they say: How is the work for the Edinburgh Fringe going?’ and my stomach just churns and I wish to god they hadn’t come near me.

“I suppose as a doctor I’m fully in control. My ‘audience’ are far more likely to listen to me when I’m a doctor than when I step onto the stage. So I still get ridiculously nervous when I go on but it’s now compressed into about a five-minute period.

“When I did the after dinner circuit I couldn’t even eat the dinner. I used to just sit there staring into space, grinding my teeth, scared to death.

“At the moment I’m concentrating on the publicity side for Edinburgh Fringe but at I’m going to have to sit down at some point to put the show together.

“I went last year to look around and, of course, it’s a stunning festival. The place is absolutely buzzing and every room, garden and cellar has got a show going on.

“There must be about 3,000 comedy shows going on in the three weeks. When I went up I went to see some of the top stars but I also went to see some of the people I’d never heard of. That can be a real varied bag. Some of it was very good and some of it was dreadful so that’s given me a bit of hope.”

With a show based around the gallows humour of illness and mortality, Kevin admitted it’s not for everyone.

But he also told Weekend that laughter in hospitals is vital.

He added: “I recently watched a video that Alexei Sayle did about dying with dignity and one of the things that people who are dying of cancer say is that everybody starts to talk to them differently.

“When you’re ill people come and just look at you with sympathetic eyes and don’t talk to you in the same way. So Alexei Sayle was going around telling jokes to terminally ill people and getting them to tell him their jokes. It was obvious that even if you’re dying you can still have a laugh.

“Humour permeates everything. It is almost our magic amulet to make things that are terrible feel a little bit less terrible. There was the gallows humour in the trenches of the First World War.

“It’s the same with hospitals really. It’s to ease things a bit. I think humour tends to ease anything in life.”

Kevin also said he occasionally gets feedback that he his act has upset people but on the whole his audience trust him – after all he is a doctor.

He said: “There may be some people who are a bit squeamish who don’t feel it’s the right thing to be making jokes about.

“The way I get away with it is that everybody is interested in medicine. Going to hospital is a universal experience.

“It’s like sex, death and law. It’s one of the eternal fascinations that people talk about all the time.

“They tell each other they’ve been to the doctor or how they’re feeling today. That immediately makes me interesting so people give me that first few minutes.

“And then if I can make them laugh in the first few minutes I’ve got them hooked. The audience will also suspend disbelief. They know I’m exaggerating or pretending to be much worse than I am.

“It isn’t the real me. We all have a slightly dark side so I suppose I’m letting that side of me loose.”

  • Kevin Jones will talk at Lymm Rugby Club’s Sportsmen's Dinner on June 7. Call Mal Pritchard for tickets on 07855 322248