How Fringe comedians opened up the conversation about IBD

Liam Withnail has been using comedy to discuss living with colitis and spotting vital symptoms at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Liam Whitnail uses comedy to open up conversation around IBD STV News

Comedian Liam Withnail is used to performing in front of a crowd – but talking about colitis is a new staple of his act at the Edinburgh Fringe.

After a lengthy stay in hospital last October, Liam was told he had the condition – one of the most common forms, alongside Crohn’s Disease, of inflammatory bowel disease. 

But Liam believes laughter is the perfect way to delve in to an issue which he feels needs more awareness. 

He told STV News: “It’s very personal and it wasn’t very funny when it happened, I was in hospital, I was in pain and it was quite scary – nearly had to have surgery. 

“But I realised it’s something that I’ve never really heard anyone speak about before, invisible illnesses, chronic illnesses.”

Liam hopes that by opening up about his health, he can help others in the audience become more comfortable with talking about taboo subjects. 

He added: “It’s an easy way of making really difficult topics accessible. Especially in Britain; we don’t like talking about things. 

“Someone asks you how many times a day you poo, how many times have you been asked that in your life? Probably never, maybe once or twice by a medical professional. 

“Whereas if you go to a comedy show and you laugh about it for an hour, and then you realise maybe something is not going as well in your body as it should be.”

More than 50,000 people in Scotland live with either Crohn’s Disease or Colitis, in fact as a nation we have some of the highest rates of IBD in the world.  

Doctors Gwo-tzer Ho and Rebecca Hall both work with IBD patients at the Western General in Edinburgh, as well as spending their time researching ways to improve care and treatment with Edinburgh University.  

Their show ‘So, tell me about your bowels’ is part of the ‘Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas’ – a series of Fringe shows which allow academics to take to the stage.  

While putting across serious points, they make sure to have some fun doing so. 

Host Susan Morrison helps them out with a demonstration on how a colonoscopy works, using various chocolate bars to show the audience what the difference is between a healthy bowel movement and what’s not so healthy. 

“I thought this sounded like a really fun exciting thing to do, and a really good opportunity to explain a little bit about what we’re doing,” Dr Hall explained.  

Dr Ho works with IBD patients at the Western General in Edinburgh

“A lot of people find it difficult or embarrassing to talk about their bowels, and we want to tell them it’s not embarrassing and we want to hear about it.” 

 Dr Ho says doing the show has helped inform their research on the conditions, and how they can improve day-to-day life for patients.

He said: “We hope to find better treatments that make the patient feel better, because there are lots of powerful treatments out there that can improve gut inflammation for example. 

“But people don’t feel better with it, so it needs a whole series of different kind of thinking where you want to link the science to wellbeing. 

“Without talking about bowels, we can’t understand why it goes wrong. Also, we wanted to increase awareness in serious conditions like bowel cancer or inflammatory bowel disease which are very common.

“All this comes from talking about your bowels first before doing anything else.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code