Comedy Cues #7: Keith Farnan - Fear Itself
Irish born and bred Keith Farnan is making a welcome return to the Fringe this year after a well deserved year off. He’s decided to deal with Fear Itself this time round, which is a theme that most likely rears it’s ugly head for most people involved in Edinburgh…
Keith is a more than familiar face, having appeared on the likes of Michael McIntyre ‘s Comedy Roadshow (BBC), One Night Stand (BBC) and presenting his very own comedy documentary for RTE, Money, Money, Money: Keith Farnan versus the Economy. His radio credits also include the likes of Loose Ends (Radio 4), The Guessing Game with Clive Anderson (BBC Scotland) and Colin Murphy’s Great Unanswered Questions (BBCNI).
As he prepares to take his fears up to the Fringe he was kind enough to provide his tips of the comedy trade for upcoming comics for our regular Comedy Cues section. Take it away Keith…
Reviews. Revise. Refuse.
If you’ve been doing stand-up comedy a little while, you’ll know that it’s basically doubt and disaster wrapped in experience and stubbornness with the odd good gig along the way. You will sometimes tell tales in different rooms to different people in exactly the same way using exactly the same words to completely different responses. You will not understand it. You will try to understand it. You will try to develop a consistency while still enjoying the moments of inspiration that will visit you along the way. But deep down you will remain confused and will sometimes be tempted to blame particular audiences. And that’s fine (as long as it’s not too regular an occurrence).
When trying to develop a style and a career, you will be offered advice from all sorts of people, from dodgy/angry promoters, well-meaning agents and other comedians and it can all be helpful or not and you’ll rarely take it to heart. The real danger lurks in reviews and nowhere is this more true than in Edinburgh. The scouring of papers and websites and parish newsletters for a number of stars you can attach to your flyer can become all consuming. The only problem is if your work starts to be affected by the opinions of others writing as critics. Even their name should give you a clue, they’re not called cheerleaders.
To illustrate, during a run of my second Edinburgh show, a review pointed out that my show dipped at a particular point. Invariably, after reading those words, the show proceeded to dip at that point for the following week. It was only rescued after I explained to the audience one night the trouble I was having with this part of the show, the honesty was appreciated and the show regained its shape. We care about what people think. Whatever a road-hardened pro will tell you, we do care. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be trying to get people to laugh. It’s just when some recent post-grad in English/politics/history eviscerates your hour long exploration of the comedic poetry that is your childhood experience with farm machinery it can really feel like a personal attack. If you’re not a character act and there’s no distance between you and the writing, it feels incredibly personal and in dealing with the affront you have to be careful that you don’t begin to craft yourself in a way so as to smooth out the bit that’s been criticised. You’ve no idea if that’s the best part of you. No one really knows.
If you can avoid reading reviews, and have someone else read them for you, someone you trust, like a loved one or a postman, then you will feel better about yourself for longer, trust me. If nothing else, remember this, you didn’t become a stand-up because you wanted to be reviewed well. You became a stand-up because there was a tipping point from being a comedy fan to wanting to be a comedian. Someone inspired you to do this and chances are it wasn’t a reviewer. This isn’t an article to diss reviewers by the way, they like reviewing and that’s fine. But you will rarely find reviews are being written by a comedian because firstly, we’d all go on a revenge visit to their show and boo their asses off stage. And secondly, they understand; doubt and disaster wrapped in experience and stubbornness. We’d probably all just give each other three stars anyway so as not to be a kiss-ass and not a complete tool either.
You can catch Keith’s Fear Itself at the Belly Dancer – Underbelly, 56 Cowgate, EH1 1EG
DATES & PRICES: Previews: 1st-2nd August @ £6
3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 19th-22nd August @£9 / £8
5th, 6th, 9th-11th, 16th-18th, 23rd-25th August @ £10.50 / £9.50
TICKETS: 0844 545 8252 / www.underbelly.co.uk