Gordon Southern is a comedian currently appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe performing Long Story Short – a comedy about how his family was affected by his dad’s dementia diagnosis
Few have tried as it is not a subject people like to acknowledge, even though it affects so many people – but this year as a comedian I found myself asking can you write a comedy show about dementia?
Well, it’s hard because there’s no happy ending, and things always get worse. But families often have to deal with it for decades, and from the bleakest moments often the heartiest laughter can come as a coping mechanism. And I’ve always believed that at its best comedy can shine a light into the darkest corners of life.
Since my first solo stand up show in 2001 my shows have always had a storytelling element reflecting real life events so when my father was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, I had no choice but to write about it. How this gregarious, hard-living, Billy Connolly loving Scot who made his fortune in Essex has almost become someone else through this condition.
I’ve always believed that at its best comedy can shine a light into the darkest corners of life
The show I came up with that I am performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – Long Story Short – is also themed around cars, and how my father having his licence taken away serves as a metaphor for the loss of control and freedom dementia causes. He worked with cars all his life, and drove brilliantly at ferocious speeds. Now it is I who must drive him around, and it’s never slow enough!
The show comes from a place of great affection and never belittles those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia. It shows how our family and many others use humour to cope with it, the wonderful moments when the old intelligence shines through the haze … or when Dad’s failure to find the right words means he finds some far, far better.
Anyone lucky enough not to have experienced dementia in their life can enjoy this show – many have already done so at sell out shows in Adelaide and Melbourne. On the surface it’s a funny show about family life, driving cars and going shopping. Anyone who has had a parent or grandparent with any symptoms of dementia can enjoy an extra layer of meaning and poignancy.
I’m proud to be performing Long Story Short at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. And for the first time it’s free too! The show relies on bucket donations (I suggest £5) and I have an Alzheimer Scotland special on Thursday August 18 where all the proceeds will go to the charity. I always have literature and a collection jar at my other shows too though.
Long Story Short takes place at Frankenstein Bier Keller, at 26 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, every evening at 5.30pm until August 29 (except August 24).
For more details visit gordonsouthern.com.