Eoin Butler's Q&A


KEITH FARNAN, the comedian, talks about snubbing Eddie Izzard and jokes you probably shouldn't tell in Norway

How are you Keith?I'm a bit world-weary, to be honest with you, Eoin. I've been living in airports and hotels for the last six months. I've been across Scandinavia, the UK and now Ireland. I feel like one of the pioneers of the old West, chasing the herds of bison around. Except in this case, the bison is comedy.

When you perform on the continent, do you have to run through your set in advance with a red pen going "This won't work. This won't work . . ."?Irish comedians only have to go as far as the north of England before all the reference points change. In Denmark, I talked a bit about free speech and the Innocence of Muslims video, because I know that's a big issue over there. In Norway, one comedian actually tried doing a few jokes about Anders Breivik . . .

Abort mission! Eject! Eject!Yeah, he was booed off stage. But that was entirely his own fault.

I always assumed comedy was the easiest job in the world. But you're making it sound like there's work involved.Listen, comedy can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. Ten years ago, comics could travel the world doing the same material for decades. In fact, I know one comedian who reused jokes he'd written about Charles and Diana's wedding 30 years ago when Kate and - what's his name? - William got married last year.

Why not anymoreBecause of YouTube. Because of TV stand-up shows and panel shows. I filmed four stand-up shows last year: one in Montreal, one in Amsterdam for Showtime and two in England. I had to retire most of the material after each show. So that's four shows in one year.

You had been a solicitor, but you quit law to become a comedian. At what point did you begin to think, you know, this might actually work out for me?Probably the night at the Comedy Store in London when Eddie Izzard came in. Now I'm probably the biggest Eddie Izzard fan in the world and he came over to talk to me. But I was about to do a show.

So you snubbed Eddie Izzard?Not quite. He came over and said "Hey, how are you? How are things?" And I said, "Great. Sorry, gotta go!" and walked out on stage. I wasn't like the kid who asks Frank Sinatra to come over to his table and, when Sinatra arrives, says . . .

"Not now, Frank. Can't you see I'm busy?"Ha-ha, yes. It wasn't that bad. I had a legitimate excuse. But that night was definitely the first time I thought, wow, this is really happening. This is really what I'm doing!

Your biggest break, presumably, was appearing on the Michael McIntyre Comedy Roadshow?Yeah, six million people saw that when it went out. And because he only did two series, it still gets shown up all the time. It's weird, people still come up to me and say, "You're that guy, aren't you?" But they aren't sure from where. I just hope people don't confuse me with Justin Lee Collins, running around with a pukka pad.

I'd have thought more like Jim Morrison, circa-bathtub.Yes, I get that a lot too.

Finally, you've got a show coming up at the Workman's Club in Dublin. What can people expect?Well, it's a work in progress. I haven't done a show since Edinburgh this summer. And I'm working towards putting together a show for Edinburgh next summer. So I'm sort of halfway between the two shows.

I'll be talking about bits and pieces in the news, but with one eye on developing a theme. Maybe a theme will come out of it, or maybe it'll be all over the place.

I'll be honest Keith, that's maybe the worst plug for a comedy show I've ever heard.No, no, once people just come with the idea that it's a work in progress. There'll be some funny bits and hopefully a bit of intelligence behind it all.

Not only am I not going, but I'll be be warning other people not to go either.Come on, it'll be a mess. But it'll be a funny mess!

Keith Farnan's Work in Progress is at the Workman's Club in Dublin, November 14th