When you walk into California-based gastroenterologist Dr Palaniappan Manickam’s office for irritable bowel syndrome or stomach ulcers, along with a prescription, he is sure to give you a good laugh and tickle your funny bone.
Having taken the internet by storm with his YouTube video in 2020, he ended up creating a new genre medcom (medical comedy). Through his comedy, he gives medical information and spreads awareness of several diseases in a funny way.
Palaniappan who goes by the moniker Dr Pal, says, “It all started when an NGO got in touch with me saying they wanted a video for COVID awareness. I agreed and prepared a 10-minute script in four hours.
They saw the video and wrote back to me saying this was very comical and that they wanted a professional video. I was gutted because I had spent a lot of time writing the jokes. They suggested I upload it on YouTube.”
He thought nothing of it and uploaded it. The next day, his inbox was flooded with messages where people told him how much they loved the video and how it had gone viral all over social media and now has over 14 lakh views on YouTube.
“I was surprised and realised that this could be something I can explore.”
With that began the doctor’s journey in writing comedy. He started uploading Medcom videos on YouTube and slowly moved to Instagram. To develop his skills in writing he began attending a lot of shows and saw the styles other comics adopted to deliver their set. With time, he slowly adopted a ‘stage friend’ to tell his stories through.
“I saw that several people had an imaginary friend through whom they narrate an incident and so I decided to incorporate this.
Any time I want to explain something, I explain it through my imaginary friend, Saravana Kumar, who has horrible lifestyle choices and base my videos on it. Through this, I’m able to voice my opinions.”
Dr Pal also started doing a lot of shows in San Francisco and did one in Chennai earlier this month. Having gotten the knack and timing of comedy from his father, he says it is a part of the process. “While medicine is a serious profession, writing is a serious business too.
But because I’m able to combine two things I’m passionate about, I don’t find it very challenging and it’s rather enjoyable.”
He says having the attention of the audience whenever he is on stage, be it for a presentation or while teaching students, is important to him. And he found that the audience is interactive whenever the session is funny. “When I was doing my residency fellowship and even as an assistant professor, I used comedy in my lectures while teaching students.
I used to crack jokes like ‘Everyone should know gastroenterology so that we can know people inside out’. The students thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says.
Have people walked in for a consultation after seeing his videos? “Yes!,” he says. “One man called me and said that he and his family regularly watch my videos and they love it. I thanked him and he said he wanted me to be his family doctor. I said that is not possible because I’m a gastroenterologist and he said that’s okay you can be our family doctor.”
Talking about what is next for him, he says he is gearing up for a bigger show for a bigger audience in Dallas. The doctor, born in Madurai, will soon tour India with shows in Chennai, Bengaluru, and Coimbatore.