Garrett Millerick: ‘Social media is not my happy place...’
After sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival and Soho Theatre, stand-up comedian Garrett Millerick is taking his hit show Just Trying to Help on tour, including a stop in Cambridge.
“Powerhouse performance”, enthuses The Telegraph in a four-star review of Garrett's show, while The Times said: “This brave and winning hour certainly pulls no punches”. The comic, who started doing stand-up in 2012, has also broken into the US consciousness, having performed on Conan O’Brien on CBS.
On what he’s looking forward to about visiting Cambridge, Garrett, a fan of Ben Elton (he wore out the cassette tape of Ben Elton Very Live 1988), Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran, Glenn Moore, and Pierre Novellie, says: “On any night of the week in Cambridge, you can go and see future stars take their first tentative steps into the comedy arena.
“When I was younger, I idolised a lot of the Cambridge comedy alumni — and Pink Floyd were from there — so it always seemed like quiet a magical place. I’ve played there a few times and people in Cambridge know comedy like French people know wine, so the bar is pretty high.”
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from his parents’ house in Newbury while on his way to Brighton for a gig that evening, Garrett says the tour’s been going “really well” so far. “It’s fantastic to be out there, because I don’t know if you know... my first national tour was scheduled for 2020, so I got to do one night of it in Birmingham and then the next day lockdown was called!
“Then in terms of putting everything back together, writing a new show, getting that up, it's been three years almost to the day to get out there — so I feel very fortunate.”
Garrett, who will be 40 in July, says that Just Trying to Help is about the “state of anger I think Britain is locked in at the moment — so we kick off looking at types of anger, and it’s not a show about the pandemic but it does reference the fact that we are kind of in a changed mental state afterwards.
“It kicked off really as a concept when I was trying to engage more with social media, which is not my happy place, I must say — or indeed as far as I can see anyone else’s — and so I logged onto Twitter one morning and witnessed this huge fight going on about something incredibly pointless, with real battle lines being drawn, and everybody seemed to be more unhappy at the end than they were at the start and achieved nothing.
“And it seemed to be where we’re at with social media; we’ve lost the ability to debate, where two opposing sides can debate an issue to come out to a better understanding — everything’s become a zero-sum game.
“So that was really the kernel, watching that fight unfold that kicked off the writing process for the show. The title [Just Trying to Help] references the unintended consequences when people are doing their best.
“You can make situations absolutely terrible and then turn round and go, I was just trying to help, and often the best thing to do is to pause and stand back, but I think we’ve kind of lost the ability to do that. So it’s a fun way of exploring that and why we behave like that; it’s been really fun and the response to it’s been great.”
Having performed in various countries, Garrett has previously been asked about the differences between audiences around the world. “I actually think, both around Britain and when you play internationally, the thing that I find most arresting is the similarities,” he observes.
“It’s not the differences, because with a comedy show I’m constantly looking for the collective experience in the room; I want to unify everybody into the ‘we’ so everybody gets the joke.
“I mean British comedy has travelled very well — it’s been one of our main cultural exports for years — so there isn’t a huge barrier to playing internationally. I’ve played South East Asia, Australia, America, all over Europe, and the commonality you find in stand-up comedy... you have to adjust certain reference points.
“A joke I had about Wagamama when I was doing it in LA I had to change it to PF Chang’s. I had a routine a couple of years ago about Dragon’s Den; in Australia when I went out the first night it didn’t land at all, and somebody took me aside afterwards and went, ‘The programme’s called Shark Tank in this country’. Great!
“But you’d be really surprised at the similarities in the audiences across the globe.”