Dr Palaniappan Manickam | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
What is insulin and when is it secreted?
Dr Palaniappan Manickam aka Dr Pal asks this question to a girl at his stand-up show in Chennai, and she answers without batting an eyelid. She is not a doctor or a medical student, but a regular follower of Pal’s videos on social media.
Dr Pal, who hails from Madurai and practises in Sacramento, California, shot to fame with his videos that combine medical information and comedy in a genre that he calls as ‘med-com’. With over a million followers on social media platforms, Pal recently debuted on the stand-up comedy scene in Chennai with a show titled Fun with Fasting.
“I’ve had a funny streak throughout my life,” says Palaniappan, “If I did a Powerpoint presentation, the last slide would probably have a joke. I’m a gastroentrologist and talking to patients means that I have to bring up topics like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and haemorrhoids. To break the ice, I always crack jokes.”
He did a 10-minute COVID-19 awareness video for a non-profit organisation, which turned it down because it ‘looked like a stand-up comedy video’. Pal put it up on his YouTube channel, and the virality of that video opened many doors, one of which lead to Building 18, a comedy club in California.
It was around that time he also caught Alexander Babu’s content, which combines elements of music and comedy. “Can information about your health be given through comedy? I thought that might be a good idea.”
A section of the audience at Dr Pal’s comedy show | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
His social media traction rose, and so did the number of patients seeing him. “My next available appointment in the US is in February 2024. People just want to come and interact with me, because they just want to laugh.”
In Fun with Fasting, Palaniappan talks about his weight-loss journey and concentrating on the important factors based on the availability of time. He uses common questions that his friend, Saravana Kumar, asks him, as content for his videos. “My messaging is simple, consistent, frequent and repetitive. And that, delivered with comedy, makes it reach a wider section of people.”
Currently, he plans to take Fun with Fasting across many cities in the US, and hopes to come back to Chennai next year with a bigger show. “After that, I plan to take up subjects like diabetes, heart diseases and so on, and do full comedy sets on them. I hope that atleast a small percentage of viewers would incorporate small changes to lead a better, healthier life.”