Saint John cardiac surgeon moonlights as stand-up comedian
Dr. Ansar Hassan performs bypass surgery at Saint John Regional Hospital by day, comedy circuit by night
A Saint John cardiac surgeon has been making a name for himself as a stand-up comedian, opening for James Mullinger.
Most weekday mornings you can find Dr. Ansar Hassan performing bypass surgeries at the Saint John Regional Hospital.
He spends his afternoons consulting with patients, and lately, Hassan has been spending his down-time on the stand-up comedy circuit, opening for city comedian, James Mullinger.
Overlap between comedy and surgery
Hassan admits it's a complete departure from his day job, but says there are some parallels between comedy and surgery.
"You have to be quick on your feet," Hassan said Thursday on Information Morning Saint John. "One thing about being a cardiac surgeon … you can make snap decisions about what you have to do depending on the circumstances."
Comedy is not all that different, he said.
"You have to go prepared … but the ability to react to the crowd, the ability to see what people are feeding off of, what they find interesting is quite essential," Hassan said.
"And that's where the two specialties overlap quite considerably, and allowed me to do well in the world of comedy."
I do banter, and if I have good material in the OR, I ask somebody to write it down — nobody does, but I make a mental note and I put it in a show.- Dr. Ansar Hassan
Hassan says comedy has always intrigued him, and he approached Mullinger with a lighthearted offer to join him on stage sometime.
"A few months later he did, he said he was doing a show at the Saint John Theatre Company, and he would be trying new material. And he said, 'Why don't you come up and do a 10 minute set?'" Hassan recalled.
"As a physician I've given talks, but it's medical subject matter, it's hard to make it really funny, but I always thought I was creative, and could make things funny … but I never performed in front of an audience with a set."
Eight gigs and counting
That was in March, and Hassan said his first performance drew from his experiences as a visible minority in the Maritimes.
"I called it a trip to Calais for the brown guy, and I think it went over quite well," he said.
"Thankfully, by virtue of what I do in my day job, I've got so many different life experiences that are actually quite funny, despite it being a life and death situation on many occasions, that there is a lot to relate to."
Hassan has performed on stage eight times, and squeezes rehearsals in anywhere he can.
"By virtue of being in an operating room, where people have to listen to me … I do banter, and if I have good material in the OR, I ask somebody to write it down — nobody does, but I make a mental note and I put it in a show," he said.
"I always thought I had a quirky, humorous bedside manner, but it's such a small world, now patients and families know I do comedy as a side gig, so I know they're expecting humour. I feel a little pressure in terms of having to deliver."
'He is better after six months than I was after six years'
Mullinger says Hassan has already made a big impact on the Saint John comedy scene.
"He is really extraordinary. I have witnessed a lot of early gigs of people who are now superstars, and I have never seen anyone take to it the way Ansar has," Mullinger said.
"I have always said there's no such thing as a natural at stand-up because you have to have to work at it, but Ansar is the closest thing to a natural I've ever seen.
"He is better after six months than I was after six years."