Paul Whitehouse: “I’ve got three stents, four kids, five Baftas”

The Fast Show and Harry & Paul comedian refuses to reflect on his mortality as he brings his latest comedy Nurse to BBC2

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Paul Whitehouse is bringing his tender and heartfelt Radio 4 comedy Nurse to the small screen.

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But on the eve of the arrival of the BBC2 series about a community nurse played by Esther Coles, he revealed that he has been undergoing medical care himself.

At the launch of the comedy he said that he currently has supportive stents implanted in his arteries – but batted away the disclosure with typical Whitehousian wit.

“I’ve got three stents, four kids, five Baftas. I think one’s led to the other,” said Whitehouse in response to a question from RadioTimes.com. 

Asked whether the comedy had helped him reflect on his mortality, the 56-year-old added: “Well, I should probably die. Although, there is a school of thought that thinks I will live forever.

“I mean obviously there are things in the world that make me very anxious but I don’t worry about illness. I don’t particularly worry about that. I worry much more about mental illness than physical illness.

Again I wouldn’t say I lie awake at night worrying about what mental illness I might be afflicted with in future.”

Whitehouse has co-scripted the TV version of Nurse with long-standing writing partner David Cummings, who also worked on the radio version. It follows Coles’ community nurse as she meets an array of characters, mainly played by Whitehouse.

They include Billy the agoraphobic ex con, Hebert the ageing rake and – prerhaps most memorably – the morbidly obese Graham who is engaged in a terribly co-dependent relationship with his obsessive mother and her revoltingly unhealthy cooking.

We also meet Lorrie, in her fifties and suffering from schizophrenia, and Ray who is bipolar and a rock and roll survivor from the Sixties.

There are many – sometimes outrageous – laughs to be had but thanks to the judicious ebullience of the writing and the skill of the performances, they never detract from the humanity of the narrative.

But the complicated costumes – especially Graham’s fat suit – did provide some discomfort for Whitehouse.

“Well we did film it in the middle of summer and I was wearing all that gear… I don’t think my doctor would have been very pleased with the process really… But I had a cool vest so that they could pump some cool water in, and of course it’s ice cold, so I was toying with heart failure, [in an American accent] but that’s how I like to roll.”

Asked about his future collaboration with Harry Enfield following their work last year on the critically-acclaimed spoof history of BBC2 The Story of the Twos, Whitehouse said: “I still love doing stuff with Harry… The Story of the Twos was probably one of my favourite things.

“It’s lovely to be able to do something like Nurse with the more weighty issues and also still be able to do more knock-about character comedy. I’m lucky really.”

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Nurse begins on Tuesday 10th March at 10pm on BBC2