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Garrett Millerick: “I resolved to find a career where you could go to work and see people smiling”

Comedian Garrett Millerick dodged a career stacking shelves in WH Smith to follow his childhood love of comedy

Garrett Millerick
Garrett Millerick

Comedian Garrett Millerick has been called the world’s angriest optimist. His ranty and hilarious comedy has seen him perform to rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, has landed him a spot on Conan, and has meant his “Laughable Podcast” was voted one of the 50 Funniest Podcasts of 2021 by The Guardian.

On the back of a very successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, he now returns to the Soho Theatre with his newest and much-lauded hit show - Just Trying to Help.

In Just Trying to Help, Garrett presents his sensible answers to stupid questions as he delivers a searing and timely investigation into the unintended consequences of doing our best – and the mayhem that ensues when people try to help. It’s a cathartic appeal for calm, from one of the least calm people in the country.

We spoke to Garrett about the key moments that shaped his life and career.

Conservative Club, Somewhere in the Midlands?

Last Sunday

I received an email asking me to write this article about the key moments that shaped my life and career. It was very timely. I had just seriously upset about 30 octogenarians somewhere in the Midlands, and regardless of the need to promote my upcoming tour dates, it felt like a necessary juncture to do some sort of inventory and ask myself how I ended up in a Conservative Club somewhere in the Midlands on a Sunday night trying to entertain some baffled octogenarians. I enjoyed myself but I needed to reflect on my own life and the journey that had taken me to that gig.

My parent's loft conversion

1990

It all started with some home improvement. When I was seven, we gained a second TV in the rafters of our house. It was a dreadful conversion job, freezing in winter and boiling in summer, so nobody really wanted to go up there. It was three flights of stairs to get there and if you kept your ears open you could detect my dad's clicking knees coming up the stairs.

So I’d sneak out of bed at night and record comedy shows I wasn’t allowed to watch, Spitting Image, Harry Enfield, Ben Elton, Hale and Pace, Bottom, any 1990s comedy I could fit on a VHS. I’d then learn all the sketches and routines and perform them for my classmates.

I began lending people tapes from my library. An irate parent once accosted my mother in a car park brandishing a carrier bag full of Spitting Image videos and declared that, “As parents we don’t feel this is appropriate.” These were the key developmental years of my career, and set the tone of upsetting old people.

Faber House Christmas Gang Show

1996

An early victim of cancel culture, these early forays into performance and the study of comedy led to me being sent away to boarding school at the age of 11. For an awkward fat kid who wasn’t keen on football school could be quite brutal. Luckily, this was the 1990s, a time when comedy was a refuge for the misfits and fuck-ups, and it could be used as a tool to stop you getting your head stuffed down the toilet. And if you were really funny, you could gain associate membership to a social clique.

Christmas gang shows gave me my first gigging experience, and taught me ‘speaking truth to power’/doing bad impressions of teachers.

WH Smiths

1998

I applied to get a summer job in WH Smiths when I was a teenager. I didn’t get it. A week later I was in WH Smiths with my dad. A young man proceeded to start stacking the newspapers and magazines in the racks, and my dad watched him go about his task with a stone-faced expression. Once the entire rack had been stacked, the young man wheeled his empty trolley back to the store room. My dad looked over to me and said, “That’s got to make you feel bad.” I looked to see that every single magazine had been stacked upside down and back to front. It’s important to be able to find the funny side in disappointment and injustice.

It’s important to be able to find the funny side in disappointment and injustice

Reading Festival

2001

The summer I left school I got a job working in the camera crew on the main stage of The Reading Festival. Had I been stacking magazines in WH Smith, I may never have been available to do this.

I got to stand next to rock stars and look out on a sea of smiling people having a great time. I was determined never to get a proper job and despite not being able to play the guitar, I resolved to find a career where you could go to work and see people smiling.

The Covid Pandemic

2020-2022

There was a period of time when it was illegal for me to do my job, which was a shame. When restrictions loosened, I did gigs wherever I was offered. Anything. Didn’t matter what it was. I had an insatiable appetite to get back to it.

I said yes to everything; I didn’t even bother reading the details of the emails. I’ve stopped doing that now the fear of it all being taken away has abated.

There were a handful of bookings in the diary left from that scramble, one of them was to a group of octogenarians in the Midlands somewhere.

Garrett Millerick will perform his new show ‘Just Trying To Help’ at Soho Theatre from Mon 14 – Wed 16 Nov 2022; sohotheatre.com

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