A stand-up comedian will tour the country with a show based around his experience of living with chronic illness.

Liam Withnail was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2022, later spending 10 days in hospital as a result of the condition.

An autoimmune disease which causes inflammation and ulcers in the colon, former Scotland captain Darren Fletcher is a notable sufferer, as Sir Steve Redgrave.

Mr Withnail has turned his experience into a critically acclaimed show, Chronic Boom, which he's now taking around the country - having done an unorthodox warm-up in Portugal.

The Edinburgh-based comedian tells The Herald: "A pharmaceutical company have just launched an ulcerative colitis medication and they heard about my show so I ended up going and opening their global launch of that.

“It was incredibly strange to do the show in front of 200-odd doctors, but it was a good warm-up!

"I had been diagnosed probably about six months before I ended up in hospital, the process took probably a year-and-a-half.

“I was given some medicine and basically told to get on with my life. Gradually the condition just got worse and worse.

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“During a flare-up you have to run to the toilet all the time, you’re really fatigued, you’re getting stomach cramps.

“I had all these symptoms so I went to the hospital and they did a test called a CRP test, which is where they take some blood and with that they can tell you how inflamed your organs are.

“You get a number back, sort of like a score of inflammation. They told me that anything under five is healthy and fine, you can go home. Mine was 84.

“So they told me then I’d be in hospital for a little while, and every day they’d run the test again to see if the number came down.

“I was put on all sorts of different types of medication, a very specific diet, and the show is kind of the story of the 10 days in hospital as well as stories of what it’s like living with a chronic illness."

The old adage is that comedy is tragedy + time, but Mr Withnail freely admits that it took him a long time to see the funny side.

The Herald: Liam WithnailLiam Withnail (Image: Rebecca Need-Menear)

He says: "It took a while, because it was so serious.

“There was a point in hospital where I was having conversations with surgeons about whether I would lose my bowel entirely and have to have a colostomy bag fitted.

“I’ve been doing comedy for a long time, so there were long days lying around in hospital where I kind of thought, ‘this will probably end up being in a show if I can do stand-up again’.

“I knew it was probably inevitable I would talk about it, but actually seeing the funny side of it was a long way away because it was a very traumatic and scary time.”

As a chronic condition, people with ulcerative colitis have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives.

That's a challenge for anyone, but particularly for someone who spends a lot of time on the road.

Planning for the worst-case scenario, Chronic Boom is made up of five 10 minute routines - one for each day of Mr Withnail's hospital stay.

He explains: "When I came out of hospital I was really worried about how I was going to be able to be a comedian anymore, because at that point I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go on the road.

“Travelling across the country is very difficult for someone who might have to go to the toilet at any moment and has to have a specific diet and needs a level of routine.

"The only way I could do the show was break it up into these small parts and I kind of realised that if I baked that into the show and laid bare why it was that way then it would be a way of talking about how people with chronic illnesses learn to work around to get on with their lives.

“That ended up being the core message of the show, and as it turns out I am able to travel again now and take that message out on tour.

"Something I think doesn’t get discussed much with chronic illnesses is that at the moment I’m pretty well, right? I’ve spent the last few days in Lisbon, I flew back yesterday, I ran five miles this morning – so at the moment I’m the picture of health.

“But at any moment I could have a flare-up, and not for any obvious reason.

“Obviously if I go out and have a big vindaloo for dinner that’ll cause havoc, but also stress is a big thing so you have to really try and manage that.

The Herald: Liam WithnailLiam Withnail (Image: Rebecca Need-Menear)

“I’m a touring comedian so stress is kind of part of the job. At the moment I’m able to go out and not have to think too much about my colitis but if something just slightly upends my day then I have to think about it.

“I’m gigging at the Monkey Barrel tonight so if I feel a bit of a pain in my stomach I have to think, ‘Can I do this gig? Can I cancel this gig? Is this going to pass, is it a cramp from colitis or a sore muscle from my run this morning?’.

“If I walk to monkey barrel, what toilets are available on the way – which pubs or coffee shops will be open?

“If I get to Monkey Barrel, what time am I going to eat? Am I going to be able to eat something that’s good for my diet?

“So there are all these extra things you just have to think about and know about which if you’ve never really dealt with a chronic illness you probably never even think about.”

As well as stand-up, Mr Withnail hosts a popular podcast, Enjoy an Album, with Scots comedian Christopher McArthur-Boyd.

That show, in which the pair discuss an album each week, proved to be a lifeline in the early days.

He says: "The show actually opens with footage from the podcast. We were actually in the middle of recording when I got the initial phone call from the hospital.

“So the show opens with that footage to kind of set the tone of what was happening.

“In another way though it was a lifeline, because when I looked at my diary and realised I couldn’t travel or be on the road, I could do my podcast.

“So even if I couldn’t travel or do live stand-up I still had this other thing which is actually very convenient for me.

“It’s way easier to manage doing a podcast with my condition than it is live stand-up.”

Liam Withnail will perform at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival on March 29 and will appear in Perth, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh in April. Tickets are available here.