Chuckle Club launches in Bahrain, so who will make us laugh?
Time Out Bahrain staff
Irish former solicitor Keith Farnan has performed as a stand-up all over the world, from the Boston International Comedy Festival to Hong Kong to the Middle East. He has appeared on the Michael Mcintyre Comedy Roadshow (BBC1), Live at the Comedy Store (Comedy Central), Live From Amsterdam (Showtime USA), as well as One Night Stand (BBC) and Liffey Laughs (RTE).
He’s also a radio regular who performs a brand of ‘seriously funny’ comedy, taking on difficult and taboo topics in society.
Solicitor to stand-up comic, some would say there’s not much difference but how did that happen? When I was in law school, I always seemed to be running a sideline, whether it be lunchtime comedy or improv comedy or reviewing comedy for radio and after I qualified, it just seemed that if I was going to make a leap, it had to be sooner rather than later. There’s an Irish writer, Patrick Kavanagh, who was a farmer-turned-poet back in the days when that was as likely as Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and actually declaring it made of cheese. He put it best: “A man dabbles in something and does not realise it has become his life”. Solicitor to stand-up is probably the modern equivelant of farmer to poet then I suppose.
Your comedy is said to be ‘seriously funny’ tackling some pretty difficult subjects such as the death penalty in the USA and the rise of racism. How much research goes into producing shows such as these? The death penalty show didn’t take much research as I had worked as a law student against the death penalty and so it was pretty much just a flow of anger, fact and funny. The rest of my shows tend to be inspired by me trying to just write on what’s happening at the time, being topical without being specific and after a while a pattern emerges. Two years ago it was economics for obvious reasons and the racism show happened the year the BNP were elected in. It’s less about research and more about paying attention.
Have you ever had a negative reaction and if so what happened? Being Irish, I obviously have a lot of material about God. And I had a section in one of my shows about how The Bible is used by Christians to validate the use of the death penalty. A Christian came up to me after the show and said that God could be my friend. I said I’d try to find him on facebook. The angriest reaction was actually to a show I did about women’s rights and how hard it was for women to find equality in society. It was in Scotland and an incredibly angry Scottish man came up to me and said I was a disgrace. I’m sure he was speaking on his own behalf and not on behalf of all of Scottish males. I’m pretty sure.
You’ve played at lots of the well-known venues on the comedy circuit, where’s your favourite and why? Weirdly, all my favourite clubs are underground. Whether it’s that feeling that you’re in a speakeasy or that you’re underground so there’s something slightly gothic about it, I’m not sure. But you do seem to get a sense that you’re all in it together. Underground clubs (literally) include Brighton Komedia, The Stands Scotland, The Laughter Lounge Dublin and The Store. Also there’s the Boat Show in London. It’s on a boat. Surprisingly. I grew up on boats. I have to include that. I also get to sing Spanish Ladies from Jaws and pretend I’m Quint.
What can the Bahrain audience expect, will you be doing material from Money Money Money, your most recent show about the effects of the recession? Probably, although I’m performing my show on women’s rights in March and I’m writing a new show as well, so it’ll be a mix, a mess, a mélange. But a funny mess.
According to The Guardian ‘Andy Robinson is the comedy equivalent of gold dust, pure talent just waiting to be discovered’.
With more than 2,000 gigs under his belt, he’s played all over the place from comedy stores to glee clubs and has worked as a warm-up for the likes of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Shooting Stars, Later with Jools Holland and Jonathan Ross and is a regular support act for Jo Brand.
He’s also written for radio and wrote and presented/hosted a music programme for ITV1 called Earshot where he interviewed the likes of Amy Winehouse, Keane and Razorlight.
How long have you been in stand-up and how did you first get involved? I have been doing stand up for a 15 years, long time, and I first got involved when I realised I had an innate character flaw.
You’ve performed at some pretty exalted places, such as Jongleurs, but also some more ‘off the beaten track’ venues. Where’s the oddest place you’ve ever been on stage? The oddest place I’ve been on stage is probably in a gallery in a museum in Manchester... I didn’t win the Turner Prize but I stole something from the gift shop!
You’ve done warm-up for shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Later with Jools Holland, how do you go about getting an audience that hasn’t actually come to see you involved and responsive? It is a fairly similar dynamic to a mixed bill in a comedy club... It’s like being in a prison, take the big guy down.
You got a telling off when you were support for jazz legend John MacLaughlin, what happened? I made the mistake of asking the crowd if they wanted to hear more... It was not a ‘holiday camp’ apparently.
Where does your inspiration come from, do you find comedy in everyday events? You can find comedy in all sorts of unexpected places and the inspiration comes from not wanting to go back to a regular job... or supporting jazz legends again. I’ve had to fill this questionnaire with seven minutes to go before deadline and the stress has killed me.
What can the audience in Bahrain expect? Laughing and hot weather.
Dublin-born comic Mary Bourke, who is now based in London, was the winner of the Irish World Comedian Of The Year Award 1999 and has been a finalist in several other competitions. She has performed all over the world, including the USA and Australia, winning over the audiences with her strange take on everyday life.
When did you first get involved in stand-up? Did you ever want to do anything else? I started as a comedy writer and I thought stand-up comedy looked easy. It’s not by the way. There’s enormous skill involved in making it look easy .I wanted to be a professional surfer but I can’t swim and that’s a problem apparantly
Is it a hard business to break into as a woman or equally as hard for everyone? I think it’s easier if you’re a woman .If you’re any good you’ll get booked on lots of shows as there’s a glut of “white males” and audiences appreciate a different point of view
You’ve performed in lots of different countries, which is your favourite and why? Dublin, Ireland, will always be my favourite city to perform in .Irish audiences love to have a good time.
This is not your first time in the Middle East, how do Gulf audiences react to your brand of comedy? I usually play to large groups of ex-pats and they always love me .
What can the Bahrain audience expect from you? They can expect lots and lots and lots of jokes and beautiful Louboutin Shoes. Wed/Thu, Feb 13/14, InterContinental Regency. Tickets priced BD15. Call (36 663 509).