Garrett Millerick: Smile ★★★★
Garrett Millerick became one of the word-of-mouth hits of last year’s Fringe with a show that blasted through jaundiced suspicions surrounding the ‘sad bit’ when he told of his partner’s brush with death in the final third of a blistering show.
But how does he top that without dancing with the spectre of tragedy? One heartless TV executive suggested he fake something to give the show emotional heft, but Millerick is not that cynical or desperate.
So yes, Smile does lack that sucker-punch that floored audiences last year. But what remains is his vehement, opinionated, iconoclastic stand-up, delivered with the quiet sensitivity of a jackhammer.
He is the Brian Blessed of comedy, projecting loudly with his booming bass. The mic, which he holds like a pair of chopsticks somewhere near his belly, is merely an accessory for decorative purposes only.
Taking contrary viewpoints, but nevertheless ending up in a good place, Millerick argues how toxic masculinity can have benefits; why Donald Trump should be allowed to build his wall, and that maybe it’s a good idea for mental health issues to have some stigma attached. At least it would stop dullards self-diagnosing conditions to make them sound interesting, he argues, as part of an intense no-holds-barred assault on bullshit wherever he sees it.
The most controversial view of all to air at a liberal arts festival is that Emma Thompson is a hypocrite for her support of Extinction Rebellion… the very same angle the Daily Mail pursues.
Millerick then says he doesn’t actually give a damn about the environment – again, the most unfashionable of viewpoints. Not that his disregard of the issue makes him in any way right, but it is an expression of honesty that’s brave in the current (overheating) climate. His reasoning is that you can’t worry about everything, so pick your battles.
He tries to avoid groupthink. Even when he talks about a delayed Ryanair flight – hack alert! – it’s not to complain, but to attack those who did. That said, the ‘what if Ryanair ran flights to the Moon’ follow-up is uncharacteristically pedestrian.
For all his contrarian nature, Millerick still tries to end up on the right side of arguments, even if his routes are convoluted. And he reasserts his liberal credentials by taking a retrospective look at Men Behaving Badly, painting it as so much more problematical than the Friends scenes that have so vexed millennials.
Even when it’s not obvious, Smile has a strong and coherent theme as Millerick returns to the same ideas but in different contexts to satisfying effects. It’s stand-up with purpose and relevance that packs a punch – even though no loved ones were harmed in the making of this show.