Page last updated at 23:56 GMT, Sunday, 10 August 2008 00:56 UK

Comedian health checks 'no joke'

Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent

Tommy Cooper
Tommy Cooper is one of several comedians to die while working

Stand-up comedy is hardly the healthiest career.

Late nights, long tours, fast food and alcohol all add up to potential health hazards.

And that's before you take into account the long history of comedians dying on the job - Eric Morecambe, Tommy Cooper and Sid James all bowed out during performances.

According to Leicester Comedy Festival - who have two health-related shows on the Fringe - it's no laughing matter.

They have teamed up with Unison to bring nurses to the Fringe to run health check-ups for stand-up comedians.

They will take blood pressure and vital statistics as well as offering tips on how to stay healthy.

Positive health

Among those queuing up for a check-up are Ed Byrne, Jeff Green and Pete Firman.

"If comedy is the new rock and roll, it certainly isn't perceived as a healthy profession," said Geoff Rowe, director of the Leicester Comedy Festival.

"Whether it's true or not, comedians are seen as people who stay up late, travel around the country, stopping to eat at service stations, and we thought we should use comedy to promote more positive health messages."

They have a long history of using comedy to promote health.

They are real health checks by real nurses to encourage people to think a bit more about their health
Geoff Rowe
Leicester Comedy Festival
One of their Fringe shows - Hurt Until It Laughs - tries to break down the social embarrassment of men's health issues.

The other - Those Young Minds - tries to encourage fathers to play a more active role in their offspring's development.

Both shows are at the Gilded Balloon where Monday morning's health checks will take place.

"They are real health checks by real nurses to encourage people to think a bit more about their health," said Geoff Rowe.

"I think the main thing will be encouraging healthy eating and lifestyle changes, but a lot of younger comedians are already taking that message on board.

"They drive themselves to performances so alcohol is less of an issue."

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