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Vicar Of Dibley writer reveals why he is ‘quite glad’ he has Parkinson’s

Tuesday, 30th November 2021. Laura Parnaby, The Independent

Paul Mayhew-Archer, 68, received his MBE for services to people with Parkinson’s disease and cancer from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle.

Scriptwriter Paul Mayhew-Archer has revealed he is “quite glad” he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s because using humour to deal with the experience sparked an unexpected career in stand-up comedy.

After decades of writing comic scripts and jokes for other people, the writer behind BBC series The Vicar Of Dibley said being diagnosed with the incurable disease in 2011 opened his eyes to a solo passion for performing.

Mr Mayhew-Archer was presented an MBE for services to people with Parkinson’s disease and cancer by the Princess Royal in an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on Tuesday.

Speaking afterwards, the 68-year-old told the PA news agency he feels “thrilled” to have been recognised, and said he spoke with Anne about finding a cure for Parkinson’s.

He added that, after being diagnosed with the disease, his career took off in an “extraordinary” new direction.

“It has changed my life completely, because I used to be a writer and producer, but I discovered when I got Parkinson’s that I could perform,” he said.

“I now love performing comedy about Parkinson’s and about the need to laugh and the therapeutic value of laughter.

“So I now travel around the country wherever there’s any sort of audience and inflict my show upon people whether they like it or not.

“I aim to raise laughs, spirits, awareness and dosh. It’s a new career and it’s extraordinary.”

“In fact, on whether I’m glad I’ve got Parkinson’s disease – I know in time to come I won’t be, but at this very moment in time I am quite glad because it has given me opportunities that I would never have realised,” he added.

“I was able to stand up and do a bit of comedy at the Royal Albert Hall.

“That would not have happened if I hadn’t had Parkinson’s.

“I might have written jokes for other people to perform there but for me to stand up and do some jokes was amazing.

“We take serious illnesses too seriously all the time, and we need to allow ourselves an opportunity to laugh whenever we can because it’s so important.”

The comedian co-wrote The Vicar Of Dibley with director Richard Curtis and his solo writing roster also includes BBC sitcom Office Gossip.

After branching out into stand-up, Mr Mayhew-Archer has also appeared in an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys, presented award-winning BBC documentary The Funny Side Of Parkinson’s in 2016, and toured the UK with his stand-up show, the Incurable Optimist.

He attended the ceremony at Windsor Castle with his wife, Julie Mayhew-Archer.

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