Liam Withnail: Chronic Boom | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review © Rebecca Need-Menear
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Liam Withnail: Chronic Boom

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

A crucial and delicate moment in Liam Withnail’s 2022 show, True Defective, in which he opened up about addiction, was interrupted by the sound of an incongruously cheerful mariachi band outside. There’d be a fragrant puff of dramatic irony, therefore, if the audience could hear a toilet flushing above his current venue for his latest outing. Fortunately, though, this doesn’t happen.
‘I didn’t want to write a show about poo, but here we are,’ he says, preparing us for an involving hour of perfectly structured, joke-heavy insights into some frightening health problems.
Last year, just before he was due to set off for a lucrative work trip, he got an urgent call summoning him to an overnight hospital stay. He has ulcerative colitis, a nasty form of inflammatory bowel disease caused by an overactive immune system. Look it up, and you’ll be wincing and clenching. Not to be confused with the comparatively glamorous IBS, it’s a disease that forced him to spend much, much longer than he anticipated in a solo ward (and thus solo toilet), for which he has some vividly funny material.
Using a whiteboard on stage to represent the medics’ recording of his progress, he explains just how bad it got. The index that measures levels of inflammation (a safe number is 5) reached 84 for him. At times it’s a tense and worrying experience hearing what he’s been through, but there’s no let-up in the jokes, which are generously paced and delivered with confidence and ease.
Other comics might be tempted to (and forgiven for) deploying a degree of self-pity during an hour like this, but for Withnail it’s less ‘poor me’ than ‘Oh, what the fuck now?’
Expect a cracking blend of stories about how the disease has affected his life, including a memorable seat-of-the-pants journey with a stool sample in his pocket, and the most surprising methadone metaphor of the Fringe.

Review date: 6 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Ashley Davies
Reviewed at: Monkey Barrel Comedy Club

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