Bob Mortimer explains how major heart surgery gave him new life

Bob Mortimer, fishing star, would I lie to you? regular, half of comedy duo Reeves and Mortimer and complete comedic mischief maker, reflects that his life has improved since his health deteriorated.

About six years after his triple heart bypass surgery, he feels healthier than he has been in years, despite not getting enough exercise and, by his own admission, still wants to ‘a meat pie garnished with pastry.

Meeting him today, Mortimer, 62, is instantly sympathetic, witty and thoughtful with his responses. The surrealist imaginations of his Will I Lie To You? the stories are absent on Zoom, but the twinkle in his eyes and the laughter as he recalls funny anecdotes is omnipresent.

(Richard Grassie / AP)

The man who had 16 sugars in his tea and always carried “pocket meat” with him whenever he went out – Scottish egg tart and Peperami sausage are among his favorites – admits that even now he is still not good at looking after his health, even if he has between five and seven sugars depending on his mood.

“Before, I didn’t really take care of my health and I’m not as good as I should be now. Some people seem to have the DNA for exercise, health, and motivation, while others struggle – and I struggle.

“I’m better than I was, but I’m so bored with things. I had an exercise bike and it lasted about four months, but then I lose the will to live, ”he laughs. “Right now I’m in a phase where my wife and I are going to wander every day.”

He traces the ups and downs of his life in his memoir, And Away…, from his early years in Middlesbrough and the shocking death of his cookie-seller father in a car crash when he was seven, until what he left his job as a lawyer to take go on stage with Vic Reeves (aka Jim Moir) and find success in comedy. The adventures of childhood and career are interspersed with chapters on his dramatic triple heart bypass surgery in 2015.

That year, he was set to tour with Reeves and Mortimer, marking the 30th anniversary of their first taking the stage together, and was a little concerned about his constant fatigue, as well as the sharp pain behind his cage. left thoracic.

“Come to think of it, I slept every afternoon, I was out of breath when I walked up the stairs or if I played football with my sons, I couldn’t last very long. I just attribute it to my age.

He went to his doctor for a pre-tour exam, was immediately referred to a cardiologist and a few days later underwent triple open heart bypass surgery. The consultant told him that some of his arteries were blocked between 95 and 98%.

“He told me that if I had gone on tour I would probably have died on stage in Southampton,” he recalls.

“The overwhelming feeling was one of fear. I was very scared. I convinced myself that it would absolutely change my life. Guess I didn’t think I was going to die, although they do give you the warning everyone gets before an operation.

“But I just didn’t think life would be the same again and you start to regret ‘I could never do that.’ I convinced myself that I was going to be some kind of vegetable looking out the window,” says -he.

“The reason I dwell on this now – and I’m sick of hearing myself talk about the heart problem – is that when I experienced it, I felt very ignorant about it. I didn’t know how long this (the triple bypass surgery) lasted or if I would ever walk. I didn’t know what the future had in store for me and in my own way I try to reward doctors by being someone that people can see and say, “Oh, you’re okay.”

He married his longtime partner Lisa with whom he has two sons, Harry and Tom, aged 18 and 16 the day he went to the hospital for the operation. Lisa drove him to the hospital after the registration ceremony.

The operation went well, but subsequently Mortimer was scared to go out and essentially spent a month in hiding after being released, ignoring calls from all of his friends, even Jim Moir. But her old pal Paul Whitehouse didn’t give up. Mortimer believes he was instrumental in his mental recovery.

“When you’ve had the operation – especially that big cut in your chest – you feel very vulnerable, even when you go out on the street. I was seated a bit. It’s true that the only voice in my life that told me to get out of my house was Paul Whitehouse. He was very insistent and very persistent.

Because Whitehouse had previously had three stents inserted in the arteries around his heart, he was the closest to a friendly expert Mortimer had and ultimately persuaded him to go on a fishing trip together – which helped him reconnect with the world and then spawned the idea for the hit series Gone Fishing.

“He was the first person I opened up to other than my wife about the trip. And there’s this beautiful thing about fishing. If I had gone for a drink with Paul, we would have been trying to make each other laugh.

“But when you go to the riverside you make yourself laugh and there are still six hours left and you think a little and I started to dare to ask Paul about his rehabilitation. We both support each other with this.

Some 12 weeks after his operation, Mortimer resumed touring with Reeves, having been signed by the consultant on the condition that he did not let his heart rate exceed 154 bpm.

Yet on opening night at the O2 Arena in Leeds, his legs turned to jelly as the heart monitor on his wrist hit 150 bpm before he set foot on stage. He just wanted to run away and hide but it was too late.

The show went well, the comedic duo talked about Mortimer’s heart monitor – and they never looked back.

“When I walked out on that stage in Leeds with my bracelet telling me not to, it was the end of my recovery because then I realized that I am probably stronger than before the operation. thanks the public for encouraging us to get us out. ”

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer ahead of their 2016 UK tour (John Stillwell / PA)

They have toured several times since and hope to shoot next year, as well as write a film.

“I’ve learned a lot more about (heart) disease, so before I go on tour I’m going to take a stress test. Basically I have three new pipes. I’m not on a lot of tablets. I take statins for cholesterol and that’s it.

His heart experience gave him a new sense of freedom, he reflects.

“I did things after the operation that I wouldn’t have done before. It was like contact with mortality. I realized you were counting the years.

Those things include his football podcast, Athletico Mince, an interview on Desert Island Discs and Gone Fishing, which he hopes will continue in a fifth series.

He says he doesn’t worry much about his health now, but quit smoking after being a 20-a-day man for almost 50 years and making a little change in his diet.

“At home, I earn a ‘dirty’ meal by eating two healthy ones,” he reveals. And her favorite dirty dish is “any meat pie”.

As for the young comedy talent rising through the ranks – James Acaster, Rob Beckett, Nish Kumar et al – he says he doesn’t feel threatened.

“They’re all adorable – and I’m not just saying that. I did a podcast with Ed Gamble and James Acaster last week and they were hilarious. It makes me nostalgic. They are funny and it happens and they have everything in front of them.

“Ten years ago, I was wondering who our audience was, because we were used to entertaining the younger ones, but with Gone Fishing you accept that any audience is just awesome!

And Away… by Bob Mortimer is published by Gallery UK on September 16, priced at £ 20


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