Interview: Paul Sinha

Interview: Paul Sinha

I interviewed comedian Paul Sinha for The i in September. It was the first full face-to-face interview he had done since revealing in June in his blog that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. You can read that feature here, but below is a longer Q&A version of our chat. We met in a pub in Wanstead before a headlining gig and he was in a good mood with good reason. The previous week he had been crowned British Quiz Champion. I say "crowned" - he actually gets a shield which he has to return at the end of the year. Unless, of course, he wins it again. He has a new stand-up show, Hazy Little Thing Called Love, which he is touring and hopes to take to the Edinburgh Fringe next summer. Gig details at the end of the interview.

Paul Sinha is gigging around the country doing club gigs and also his new full-length how. For all dates click here.

 

BD: Hi Paul.
 
PS: Ask me anything, I shall try and be an open book
 
OK, You’ve had an eventful 2019. Can you tell me what happened in your own words?
 
Everything was going as intended at the start of 2019. I was planning my new show, Hazy Little Thing Called Love, about how a man who had been single for nearly all of his life was going to get married. I had booked in previews, an Edinburgh Fringe run at the Stand, and a handful of autumn tour dates. In May I was performing solo shows at my first overseas comedy festival in New Zealand. The sales were great, thanks in part to the high profile of The Chase. But my health was steadily becoming more of a cause for worry. To illustrate the conflicting emotions, the morning after selling out a 700 seater in Auckland, I did a bit of googling on my symptoms. Ten minutes later, I knew I had Parkinson’s.
 
I did the last week of shows in New Zealand and had a great time, but as soon as I got back I needed answers fast. On May 30th, I was diagnosed, and at this point, with the prospect of new medication, a new outlook on life, and very steep hills, I knew Edinburgh was not an option.
 
After my diagnosis, I had a really bad two weeks, exacerbated by the need to honour commitments, keep gigging and earn money.  My first gig straight after the diagnosis was Zoe Lyons’ Bent Double night in Brighton and I was basically standing on stage belting out jokes at 100 miles an hour. And when I watched Liverpool (the team he supports) win the Champions League Final I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm. But where I was then and where I am now could not be any more different. After two weeks I announced my diagnosis via a blog and it was the best decision I ever made, I regained  a degree of‘agency’ and was able to move on. I’m in a really good place now.
 
You got a lot of support after that blog went viral didn’t you? Was it difficult to write?
 
I felt I had no choice but to be open. I’m on telly every week in The Chase, people would be asking ‘why is your arm like that?’ I was also aware that anyone who knew anything about Parkinson’s would have known I had it when they saw me on Taskmaster. I was surprised when I saw myself - it was filmed earlier in the year before the diagnosis.
 
You know when you google your name and you can see the things people are also googling about you? When Taskmaster was on it was ‘Paul Sinha Stroke’, ‘Paul Sinha Neurological Disorders’. So I felt I had to be open.
 
Now I’m in a very positive place and physically I’m just getting on with it. I’m in the best medical hands so I’m leaving it to them.
 
You’ve also decided to talk about it in your new show?
 
I certainly have. As, I believe, any good comedian would. And while I would much rather not have this wretched illness the last two months have seen me reach peaks of motivation and creativity that have surprised me. I am really, really proud of this show.
 
In September you became British Quiz Champion so you are clearly as mentally sharp as ever…
 
The British Quiz Championships is a written exam of 240 questions taken with a hangover on a Saturday morning. For a while I've been the quiz equivalent of Spurs - up there mingling with the best but unlikely to actually win anything. But despite the presence of stronger quizzers in the field, I knew if I worked hard and enjoyed some luck, I would have a fighting chance. And I worked hard. Cancelling Edinburgh opened August up, and I thought I'd give it a proper go. My fiance, who finished 11th, could not have been any more crucial. It was my Everest, and the phone call to my folks explaining what had happened will live with me. But a written exam doesn't necessarily prove mental sharpness. Being a fulltime quizzer though means my mental sharpness is being tested all the time. And touch wood, it's fine.
 

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