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Delaware Doctor and Comedian John Kelly Prescribes Loads of Laughter

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Photo by Justin Heyes/Moonloop Photography

Dr. John Kelly, an orthopedic surgeon and Delaware native, follows in his father’s footsteps by performing stand-up comedy.

If anyone believes laughter is the best medicine, it’s Delaware native Dr. John Kelly.

An orthopedic surgeon with the University of Pennsylvania medical system, he’s also a stand-up comic, which he started at his family’s Wilmington tavern, Kelly’s Logan House.

“My father was a comedian, and I naturally wanted to be like him,” Kelly says, who specializes in shoulder and sports surgery. He uses humor with patients “to calm them down, especially before surgery.”

Before the pandemic, he performed at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and at clubs in Philadelphia and Wildwood, New Jersey. He also appeared on Dr. Oz’s radio show.

“[Dr. Oz] wanted me to talk on the healing powers of humor,” Kelly says.

Here, Delaware Today chats with Dr. Kelly about his comedic experiences.

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Dr. John Kelly, comedian and orthopedic surgeon/Photo by Justin Heyes/Moonloop Photography

How old were you when you first performed?

In my late 20’s.

What was it like?

Tough crowd. I was admittedly nervous and far less seasoned.

How has the pandemic changed how you perform?

I did a Zoom a couple of weeks ago for a sports conference. There is no screen, just sound. Talk about a challenge! It’s the new norm since I don’t get feedback.

Have you ever been booed or heckled?

All the time. I usually call out the heckler and make him or her the object of attention. Then I smile and stick to the script.

Why did you start performing after becoming a doctor?

I still wanted to perform because it’s the best job ever. I do shows for free. Or charity events.

Why is it the best job ever?

We need more comedy, need comic relief, with COVID-19 and the political strife. A patient of mine died of a brain tumor. I stayed in touch with his wife and told her I was playing at a club. She saw me perform, and said, ‘You made me feel better.’ That’s why it’s the best job ever.

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Dr. John Kelly/Photo by Justin Heyes/Moonloop Photography

Where do you get your material?

I write some of my own, ‘borrow’ a lot from others and use my father’s material.

What type of jokes do you use with patients?

Always positive humor–how young they look or how strong they are. Sometimes I make fun of myself and say, ‘I just got my license back.’

What’s your favorite joke in your routine?

I am so old, when I was a kid the Dead Sea was still sick. 

Do your audiences know you’re a doctor?

My stage name used to be the ‘Love Doctor’ but I changed that because it sounds creepy. Some shows I wear a white coat and include medical jokes. After one show a friend of a friend was told I was a doctor, and he didn’t believe it. He said, ‘Doctors aren’t supposed to be funny!’

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