Neurological condition ended journalism career for Matthew but sparked new direction on comedy circuit

Matthew takes to the stage as the Concussed Comedian

A former journalist who lost the ability to properly read and write after suffering a serious head injury and then being diagnosed with a neurological disorder is on the bill for the Edinburgh Fringe Show after finding a new vocation in comedy.

Former Chatham House student Matthew Mckew grew up in Margate and had his first article published in the Isle of Thanet Gazette. He went on to work for local, trade and international media and in 2019 covered the Christchurch Terrorist Attack in New Zealand for news channel CNN.

But in February 2021 Matthew suffered a serious head injury and concussion while in New Zealand which would mark the beginning of a drastic change to his life.

‘It was scary’

Matthew, who now lives in Ramsgate, said: “I was recovering from that for about four months and then I went back to work. Covid happened and I ended up back in the UK where I started working in another journalist role.

“In December 2021 I lost the ability to read and I could not write very well. I’d been a journalist for nine years at that point

“It was scary, I couldn’t pick up a book, all the words were blurry and I couldn’t take in the information.”

Matthew, 33, visited the GP and was told the symptoms were related to the previous concussion. In the meantime he was let go from his job and had to turn down his dream job of a post with CNN in Hong Kong because of the cognitive impairment.

FND diagnosis

In July 2022 Matthew was diagnosed with Functioning Neurological Disorder which affected speech, cognition and memory.

He said: “I am lucky that I do not have physical problems, mine are all cognitive. I get brain fog, memory problems, speech problems. I still get severe fatigue and debilitating headaches. I was a chatty person but went to not being able to hardly talk.

“It was terrifying. I had worked my way up from living in social housing in Margate to media work which is mostly middle class dominated and built up to the opportunity at CNN and then couldn’t take it.”

But there was another path opening up for Matthew. When he first suffered the concussion his neurologist would play memory games with him to help rebuild brain functions.

Matthew wanted to do this but it was impossible to complete without help. He said: “You don’t know if you are giving yourself the right answers!”

Matthew had been involved with comedy prior to his journalism career but had given it up in 2012 when he left university.

However, going to watch a friend’s routine reignited his passion. He said: “I went to watch hm and realised how much I loved it and wondered if I could do it. There was a fear of standing up in front of lots of people and then not remembering what to say but I did a gig, it went quite well and I found it helped with my memory.”

Matthew has now taken to the stage for some 200 gigs since 2022 and is known as the ‘Concussed Comedian.’

He said : “Thanks to a stand-up comedy, acting classes and creative writing, I have been able to improve and live with my disability.

“I have been able to work part-time, a lot of people with FND can’t work, and I have been self-managing, building up my confidence again.

“I am now looking to debut my first 45-minute show at Edinburgh Fringe, taking a very light-hearted look at my life since 2021.”

He will be performing along with fellow comedian Jake Baker and the pair are giving a taste of their show at The Falstaff in Ramsgate on July 19.

The Edinburgh Fringe Work in Progress show presents Jake Baker: Rule Breaker and Matthew with Man vs Shelf where he reveals how a shelf was the final straw. He’s been the Concussed Comedian for two years, but is he now facing an identity crisis?

Matthew said: “I hosted a New Material Comedy Night at The Falstaff Hotel in May and the audience was fantastic, so it seemed the ideal place to come back to try out my new show.

“Not everything will be perfect, as I look to hone my material, but having performed with Jake before, I know any of my shortcomings will be more than made up for in his new show Jake Baker: Rule Breaker!

“I grew up in Margate and now live in Ramsgate, so it’s really special to be able to debut my show here, before a second warm-up show in Tenterden and then a full Fringe run in the Scottish capital.”

Matthew runs comedy nights at The Falstaff Hotel, The Space. Margate, The Minnis Bay Bar & Brasserie in Birchington and the Hoof & Hook, Tenterden under the banner Concussed Comedy.

Tickets to the show at The Falstaff on July 19 are £5.42 (incl booking fee) and are available at: www.ticketsource.co.uk/concussed-comedy

Doors open at 7.15pm, performances from 7.45pm.

Find Matthew on social media under @theconcussedcomedian and @concussedcomedy

About FND

Functional neurological disorder (FND) means the brain does not send or receive the correct signals from the nervous system.

Symptoms vary but can include migraines, loss of limb control, slurred or stuttering speech, seizures, numbness and impaired vision.

FND is considered as a rare disease, However, the exact prevalence is unknown, and the mechanisms which cause FND continue to be poorly understood despite its prevalence within neurological clinics.

The exact cause of FND is unknown.

1 Comment

  1. Can I ask ? Is this dis-ease, the same as Fibromyalgia or a different strain ? I’m asking because my Daughter has Fibro, with all the symptoms that Matthew has, plus diabetes which is another add on from Fibro. Doctors don’t seem to have answers to help with this condition. She had a bleed on the brain 6 yrs ago which lead to this condition. Well done Matthew, keep fighting as she does.

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