Learner Parent Sam Avery reveals how he survived Toddlergeddon at The Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham | Interview

By his own admission, Sam Avery's boys had already outgrown their toddler period before he’d even started touring this show back in early 2020.

Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 4:36 pm

Two years down the line the twins are pushing seven and the stand-up, blogger and author is mopping up some final dates of Toddlergeddon before touring an entirely new show from the spring.

The follow-up to his Learner Parent show, it continues the story: How do you raise a toddler with more attitude than Kanye West? Can you negotiate effectively with a pre-schooler who knows you’re clueless? And will any of us survive Toddlergeddon?

Speaking to The Guide via Zoom, Sam explains the fractured nature of the tour.

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Sam Avery's Toddlergeddon is at Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham, on January 20, 2022

‘It's really weird to be doing it again. I've also written half of the next show already, so it's interesting to go back to this one.

‘I learnt it back in July, did a show, forgot it, learnt it again in September, did it twice, forgot it again, and now I'm doing it three times this month, then it's done!

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‘But I am really enjoying doing it again. Learning it again felt like a big task, but once I got into it, it was like, I forgot how funny this is, it's a good show.

Sam Avery attempts to survive Toddlergeddon

‘I got the show filmed on Friday, March 13 2020 – it wasn't my fault Covid happened, even though it was Friday 13th! I think that was the penultimate gig I did before lockdown.

‘I've only just gone back to watch that now, because I didn't want to put clips out until I'd finished this show – I didn't want people who still had tickets for the show to see the clips.’

Given the speed children change in their early years, his boys must be quite different now to when he wrote the show?

‘I got quite emotional at the end of the last time I did this show in September,’ Sam admits. ‘At the end of the show, without giving away any spoilers – it's a comedy show, it's not as if there's some big reveal like I'm Luke Skywalker's dad – but the end of the show is quite heartfelt about how that phase of your kids’ life is magical and it never comes back again.

Stand-up Sam Avery's current show is Toddlergeddon

‘When I look back now I've got all of these happy memories despite the entire show focusing on the challenges.

‘Even when I started doing the show at the start of 2020, I had to start the show by saying: “My kids are four now, they're not toddlers anymore, but I wrote this show in the eye of the storm of toddlergeddon”.

‘Now I'm going: “My kids are nearly seven...” so it's even more departed from that.

‘But once I started doing the show again, I started recalling all these little parts of my life that were quite challenging, and it was interesting to go back to them having moved on – and remembering how difficult some of it was.’

With his stand-up work done for by Covid, how did he take to being a full-time stay-at-home dad?

‘Once I got over the initial fear we all had at the beginning of this… that first two weeks of it was total dread, thinking this is going to be even worse than it panned out to be.

‘Once I came to terms with that, and that I wasn't getting any work and I wasn't getting any money – which was quite tricky – I absolutely loved the first lockdown. I've spent the last 15 years just chasing my tail, running around from A to B, driving everywhere, trains, hotels, gigs. My choice, I loved it, but it's been really, really full on.

‘And then since the kids have been born, even more so with all of the writing stuff and online that I was doing.

‘What was nice, wasn't just spending time with my kids because I do that a lot, but spending time with them and not having to think: “I've got to drive to Stockport tonight”, or “I've got to finish this thing”.

‘It was just living in the moment, probably for the first time in my adult life.

‘That was the first three months, then it did start to get to me a bit, and I did start to miss doing what I do and I supposed I didn't realise how cathartic it is doing comedy.

‘What's great about doing all the parenting stuff is you get a lot of comments from people saying: “Thanks for making me feel I'm not the only one”, or “I'm not alone”, which is not what I intended. I just wanted to make people laugh, but that's an amazing by-product.

‘Selfishly, I'm doing this for myself to check that I'm not the only one feeling that way! I was hoping I wasn't the only one feeling that way, but I was just saying it because I thought it was funny. I missed that bit.

‘I completely immersed myself in spending time with my kids. They were four at the start of the pandemic. When I look at videos on my phone from April/May 2020 they can barely speak properly. Now they're so much taller and having conversations, which is great, but there's also a part of you that yearns for the past.’

How are the boys doing now?

‘They're absolute weirdos. I think we're all weirdos, but we suppress it as we get older don't we?

‘I'm their dad so I think they're the most handsome things that walk this earth, obviously, because I'm biased – but they're able to pull the most ugly faces and doing this weird dancing, or in the kitchen they’re asking: “Daddy can I be your pet tortoise?” If you want, I'm just trying to make a coffee!’

In recent months, Sam’s blog and online posts have started shifting away from the parenting material and on to other subjects.

‘Yeah, it’s been really liberating,’ says Sam. ‘Not that I've found that the parenting stuff was limiting – but that age between zero and four is absolutely ridiculous, things happen every day.

‘You can't believe from a comedic point of view how many gifts you're being given: “Oh my god, you've done what now? This is wonderful, I'm going to write that down...”‘Then when you get to about five or six they're still as quirky, but they're quirky in their own ways, they're not generic toddler or baby-based things – it’s their own personality. Then you realise these are little humans now going on their own journey through life.

‘I, as their parent, want to be as protective as possible and I don't really want to be mocking that or sharing that with the world.

‘But let's be brutally honest – it's just not as funny when they're five or six!’

And his latest material?

‘We're all going through this strange experience together, so there's been a lot of universal political stuff that perhaps wouldn't have been met with such positivity by my audience until the recent period where everybody seems to be a little more politically aware.

‘I'm pivoting away from the parenting stuff, but not completely discounting it. The next show I'm doing is called Role Model – what do my kids need as a role model? Who were my role models when I was a kid? Were they good, or positive or negative?

‘There's a lot in the new show that's away from my experience as a parent, but there's a lot that still is about that, because that's my life for the foreseeable future!’

Earlier this month Sam announced on his blog that he would be foregoing snacks for all of January. The idea came after heard about the Japanese word ‘kuchisabishii’, literally: ‘lonely mouth.’

When we spoke last week, The Guide asked how it’s going.

‘I fell off massively, he laughs. ‘I started strong but fell off and then didn't mention it... I'm halfway through writing a piece about falling off and getting back on, which I should stick up.

‘I'm alright now. I just found it really hard to stick to because we've got all of the leftovers from Christmas around the house.

‘But I'm on a good streak now – if I can get to the end of the month from here, that's still impressive.

‘I've got an office in town that I share with some other people. I'd not been in there for ages. We'd done Secret Santa, but no one had been in so when I went in a couple of days ago and I've got loads of Jaffa Cakes from that. It’s like: What are you doing? I don't want them in January!’

Sam has acquired a reputation among his followers as a bit of a fan of Jaffa Cakes: ‘People bring Jaffa Cakes to my shows – it's this weird thing, I don't know how I've cultivated it, but numerous people have brought me these huge boxes of them – a metre of Jaffa Cakes.

‘I remember coming back from a gig in Newcastle on the train and I had two of those boxes with me, like a proper weirdo.’

So, please don't bring temptation to town when Sam’s in Fareham.

Sam Avery’s Toddlergeddon is at The Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham, on Thursday, January 20. Doors 7.30pm. Tickets £18. Go to ashcroft.org.uk.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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