Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Comedian Garrett Millerick has put together some excellently ranty Fringe hours (see our 2016 and 2017 reviews). But midway through preparation for this year, something happened, which, well, we better let him explain…

You’ve had a hell of a couple of months. What happened and how are you feeling?

Yeah it’s been quite the year so far, a real rollercoaster. I’d got quite far along working out my new show then in April my wife and I discovered we were expecting our first child. Which was lovely. She told me about ten minutes before I had to go on stage at The Comedy Store, which was delightful because it’s always good to avoid being blase about playing The Store. So I immediately forgot every joke I’d ever written as I was hit with quite a heady mix of joy and trepidation about how I was going to manage this new and exciting stage.

Unfortunately we lost the baby a few months later and I took some time off from comedy. We were just getting back to some semblance of normality a few weeks later when my wife collapsed and was rushed to hospital, where after a fairly nightmarish experience we eventually discovered that we had not had a miscarriage a few weeks before, but had had an ectopic pregnancy that had been missed. It was all fairly serious for a bit and was a kind of double whammy of the worst things that can happen in the early stages of pregnancy, after which my wife got out of hospital and started recovering. So again, we cancelled everything and I had to put comedy to one side and concentrate on other things.

As to how I’m feeling, extremely thankful and phenomenally lucky. Things could have gone better, but things could have gone a whole lot worse.

When did you decide, “right, I have to do this”, and why?

Well, I’d committed to doing an hour of observational stand up. Which is a very difficult thing to do, it requires a lot of testing and trial and error with audiences to work out. It’s really one of the hardest things you can do in comedy, and it requires the most preparation. I’ve done theatre, I’ve done sketch and story-based stand-up shows, I’m a huge fan of all those things and have always been a fan of all those forms. But an hour of pure jokes really is the hundred metre final when it comes to comedy. Those classic hours I used to love growing up, from people like Dylan Moran and Eddie Izzard, where it’s just an acoustic set. No rhythm section, just jokes, they really are very difficult to put together, and they can’t be done in isolation, they require extensive previewing in front of audiences to make them bullet proof. Story shows and personal shows require something else, but it’s not as dependent on fermentation as stand up.

So essentially, given the situation, my original plan was knackered. I’d taken months off, my head wasn’t where it needed to be to do that and even if it was I didn’t have the time to finish the project I’d started. Given the shift in my personal attitudes, what we had experienced, and the time that was left, I don’t know how I could have finished it in four weeks. I had the idea of what the show could now be fairly early on after the whole thing happened and it’s really the only show I could do, for better or worse, so it’s the show I’m doing.

Did you have any qualms about trying to turn this into comedy? Have you turned it into comedy or is this a different style of show?

No, it’s not about turning something into comedy; I’m not making light of the situation. The only mental relief that we had during the whole thing was making each other laugh. Which was a brilliant thing, so I’m doing a show about that, not about the horror of the situation. I’m doing a show about where we found the light in the darkness, not about the darkness. There is enough horror in the world without me adding to it. So having been a comedian who has made a career about finding the negative in everything, I’m trying to take a different approach with this and find the positive in the negative.

How does your wife feel about it? It’s very personal for her. Has she seen it?

She hasn’t seen it, because at the point of writing I haven’t performed it. But we’ve been working on it together. She’s always been the first audience for all my stuff and helps me with everything I write. So it’s a collaborative effort.

It was essentially her idea. I don’t want to give too much away but you’ll see how when you see the show.

How are you feeling about putting this out there?

Well, it’s crazy that when you have something like this happen to you, you find out how common it is. Women are far more aware of these things than men are. We’re really clueless, we don’t discuss it so there is no cross pollination across male friendship groups about the prevalence of this kind of thing. I was very lucky that my good friend, the comedian Steve McNeill, had not only been through this but had been open in speaking about it.

I’m not trying to say that my experiences are unique or particularly worthy of sharing. But I do think that this is maybe something men should talk about more. There has been a lot of comment about what men can or can’t say in the current climate on a variety of issues. Some of that’s valid and some of it is nonsense. But if I can be a positive part of the dialogue about what men can and should talk about, then great.

What’s happened to the original show you were going to do?

It exists! This isn’t the Zach Snyder cut of Justice League. The first half of the show is what I had done before this all happened. It’s all there.

The basic idea for the show was feverishly sketched out during a five day period of no sleep in the belly of the beast. When my wife was in hospital, when the surgery was happening, when I was alone. She had been saying some very funny things throughout, so I wrote them down.

I spoke to her about them when she came round and we, again, were just making each other laugh so we agreed that would be a good thing to try and put into a show. Essentially about how laughter got us through something horrible.

I was listening to Ben Folds’ demos from an abandoned Ben Folds Five album from 2000. And I hit upon the idea of presenting the show I had written as a demo, then doing the second half of the show about how and why it wasn’t possible to finish the show as planned. Essentially I guess people might have been wanting fifty five minutes of observational material about what a nightmare it is to try and buy a child’s car seat in Mothercare. That’s what I wanted too. But that’s not what happened, this is what happened.

Garrett Millerick: Sunflower is @ Just The Tonic @ The Tron, until Sun 26 Aug 2018