Comedian Jake Lambert has been living with epilepsy for 13 years. However, he hasn’t let his diagnosis stop him from pursuing a career in comedy.
Jake regularly supports some of comedy’s household names such as Michael McIntyre, Alan Carr and Jack Dee, as well as headlining himself in sell-out tours.
He regularly writes for Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 Cats, The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice and The Apprentice: You’re Fired!, to name but a few.
He said: “I think I was quite lucky in that I found out whilst at university and I was sort of at the age where you feel that nothing can sort of harm you.
I think I was a bit naive because my sister has epilepsy. I think because I knew her epilepsy was controlled by medication, so I was lucky that I knew this is something that can be controlled.
When I was at university, I met a girl who also had epilepsy and who was amazing at helping and guiding me a bit. So, I think I was quite lucky in that sense.”
Getting into comedy
Jake initially got into comedy by writing jokes on Twitter. He decided to put down his iPad and pick up a microphone and began doing some stand-up comedy gigs.
It has proven to be a great decision as he made it to the final of the Amused Moose Final in 2016 and the semi-finals of the BBC New Comedy Award in 2015.
He said: “I downloaded Twitter a few years ago and just started writing jokes and then some comedians used to message me to say if they could buy the jokes off me.
I was thinking I probably could do this myself. So, I booked a night in London and did five minutes which went well and was good fun.
Then basically carried on and then there was the BBC New Comedy Award, so I entered that and then an agent came to see me and it became the biggest agency out there.
She is an amazing agent who looks after people like Romesh Ranganathan, Josh Widdicombe and Tom Allen.
She has an amazing group and she said do you want to come and join, I was like absolutely.
It’s sort of just gone from there really. Before I knew it, I had to stop my regular job because I was gigging and obviously, I wasn’t as lucky as others as some people would gig and then get up at seven for work.
I had to make that decision early because of my epilepsy and realising that I can’t function on five hours sleep and certainly wasn’t going to risk that. So, I quit my job quite early after about a year from starting in comedy.”
Edinburgh Festival show about living with epilepsy
Jake has an hour-long show planned for the Edinburgh Festival in August called Shimmy Shake’ which will be his first show dedicated solely to his experiences of being diagnosed and living with epilepsy.
The 32-year-old comedian feels it is important to make sure people are laughing at his own experience of epilepsy rather than anybody else’s experience.
He added: “It’s basically an update of where I am at. My story of learning I had epilepsy and this girl Hannah who is a German girl and was an exchange student studying at my university.
She was in Topshop and also had epilepsy and was there when I had my first seizure.
She was very arty and cool and was the classic person you would meet at university, had the shaven bit on the side of head and never had social media so we lost touch over emails.
During the pandemic I tried to find her and speak to her. Whether I do or not you have to come to see the show.
It took me a long time to talk about my epilepsy, I have only just started to talk about it.
I never did before. I think when you are starting out you don’t give a lot of yourself away. You don’t really know how to either.
I have learned over the time doing comedy and the skillset of how to make something like this funny.
If you gave me a blank page of paper and say write some jokes about epilepsy, I would say I don’t think you can.
I tell my story of when I had my first seizure in Topshop trying on a pair of jeans.
Right from the off you have a joke about being in a little fitting room and then you just start from there and tell the story about how it worked and what you went through.
It’s making sure I am laughing at my own experience never anybody’s else’s.”
Advice for someone newly diagnosed
What would Jake say to someone who has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy?
He said: “I know it will seem scary at the start but it is so well understood and can be well managed now.
Definitely talk to people, when I was at university, I didn’t tell my parents exactly what was going on because I was scared they would make me come home. Listen to your doctors and take your medication.”