Dying on stage: comedian Marx has come closer than most

Fri Jul 22, 2016 4:34am EDT
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By Robin Pomeroy

GREENWICH, England(Reuters) - Like most stand-up comedians, Carey Marx has stories about "dying on stage", but in his case they are almost literally true.

Just weeks after a heart attack at the age of 46 which he put down to smoking, drinking and poor diet, economic necessity forced Marx back to work. But the crowd reacted badly when he tried to make jokes about his illness, chanting: "Die! Die! Die!"

He shuffled off stage and into an ambulance. He survived but only after a second operation to keep his arteries open.

"I tried to do material about the heart attack and I think if you do material like that badly you just embarrass the audience," Marx told Reuters ahead of a gig in south London.

"And I was also was genuinely afraid of hecklers, and that's when comedy becomes frightening. You should never be afraid of the heckler. When you feel your heart racing and you're aware that you could go down at any moment then it's pretty scary."

Just hours after his heart attack, Marx told hospital staff he intended to get to a gig that evening. The doctor, astonished that he was contemplating rushing back into such a high-stress occupation, inadvertently gave him his first heart joke.

"He said: 'You can't do comedy.' What he hadn't bargained for is I've been told that loads of times!" Marx says in "Intensive Carey", a show about his heart attack which he performed at the Edinburgh Festival and BBC radio.

These days the Londoner, a combative, confident performer who is both lauded and criticized for his "dark" subject matters, rarely does material about his heart attack, partly because "I don't want to ruin their night" but more because it is so personal.   Continued...

Comedian Carey Marx performs at the Up The Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich, London, Britain, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Heavens