Review: Liam Withnail: Chronic Boom

A confident and sincere hour about poo, steroids and living with a chronic illness

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Liam Withnail
Photo by Rebecca Need-Menear
Published 10 Aug 2023

When you live with a chronic illness, you often feel betrayed by your own body. You can be the most healthy, active and stable person in your day-to-day and yet, if your body makes the awkward decision to attack itself, there’s literally nothing you can do about it. Having come face-to-face with this very predicament via his recent Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) diagnosis, Liam Withnail’s new hour takes us back to his hospital room, where he is forced to face up to this new reality.

Withnail doesn’t have what he describes as the mainstream version of IBD (Crohn’s), but the more hipster, trendy disease Ulcerative Colitis. He marks his days spent in hospital on a whiteboard alongside a magic number detailing his level of inflammation, which we’re told needs to rapidly decrease. In the meantime, as his stomach takes on the voice of Ray Winstone, we’re regaled with tales of how steroids make you fat, the embarrassment that comes with nurses collecting your stool samples daily, and how intensely difficult it is to sleep in the sauna-like Western General.

You don’t have to be living with IBD to understand and appreciate this show; but Withnail articulates so perfectly the experience of trying to live a normal life when you have a chronic, invisible illness that holds you back. He’s even spot on in his description of the feeling of having no safety net if you’re freelance or self-employed – something that's so hard to navigate when there’s no advanced warning of something like a flare-up.

Withnail notes that he made a joke about shitting himself at the London Marathon in his last show and was adamant that his next hour wouldn’t involve poo. Chronic Boom is basically entirely about poo, but more importantly, it’s a show about finding a way to manage all the shit that life throws at you.