FRINGE PREVIEW – Keith Farnan – Sex Traffic: How Much Is That Woman In The Window? (Underbelly)

August 5th – 29th (not 17th)
6.20-7.20pm, Underbelly

Keith Farnan

Keith Farnan


After sell-out runs at previous Edinburgh Fringes and in London’s West End, though-provoking comedian Keith Farnan returns with Sex Traffic: How Much Is That Woman In The Window?

Keith’s shows dare to deal with weighty issues, and Sex Traffic is no exception. In it, this ex-solicitor asks the question: do we value women, or simply put a value on them?

Critically-acclaimed and a regular on the UK and worldwide comedy circuit, Keith looks set to provide yet more challenging and witty food for thought this year, prior to his imminent appearance on Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow.

We asked Keith to tell us a bit more about his show and his Edinburgh experiences.

Tell us a little bit about your show – where’s it happening, what’s it about, why should people come to see it?

The Show is about the value of women in the world today and is entitled Sex Traffic:How Much is that Woman in the Window?

My previous shows, Cruel and Unusual and No Blacks No Jews No Dogs No Irish All Welcome were shows about the death penalty in America and racism respectively, and I’ve continued with this show in discussing themes of man’s cruelty to man…or women, in this case.

The show isn’t specifically about sex trafficking, but touches on it in relation to how easy it can be to devalue women, even now, and debunks the myth that the pendulum of equality has swung too far in favour of women.

All my shows tend to look sideways at issues like this, and I was trying to find a comparison, and I saw an old episode of the West Wing last week, which had so much in the writing, but was witty, smart and compassionate at the same time, and I’d like to think that if Aaron Sorkin (the writer and creator of the West Wing) had been a stand-up, that we might have been in the same ballpark…or at least the same bar.

The show is on at the Underbelly at 6.20pm

What do you think the best things about the Edinburgh Fringe are?

It gives performers, writers, stand-ups, directors, generally creativey types (see, so creativey I just made up a word, creativey) a chance to really try to do something the want to do, in front of an appreciative audience.

When you’re a stand-up working the clubs every week, it can be hard to really focus on what you want to talk about in front of a dozen stag and hen parties who don’t want to hear about the collapse of Iceland’s bank system due to the fact it’s national bank was Landskibankski and that any bank run by the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show is going to collapse.

What changes have you seen – good or bad – over the years?

This is only my third Edinburgh, so in two years, any changes have been slight; venues have started getting air conditioning, which can be crucial to a show’s success.

Money is always the bad change as it keeps running away from you whenever you bring a show to this festival but, besides that, it’s nearly all good.

Audiences are appreciative and comedy-literate, the standard of shows and writing is soaring, and initiatives like the Free Fringe are changing the face of the festival again. It’s an ever-evolving beast.

Where are your favourite places in the city?

Anywhere there’s not a hill.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s happened to you at the Fringe?

I was flyering on my first year, on the Royal Mile. I had no flyer team, no producer, no publicist, nothing. I literally had one thing, and that was an Irish flag I flew over my head, and just stood there flyering as people came over to chat to me about the Irish (and some Italians with colour blindness).

I was standing there when a drunken Glaswegian started shouting at me, “Are you Irish?” (A strange question, considering the flag). I said “yes, why are you shouting?”

He then shouted “it’s because you’re Irish…and a catholic…and I’m a protestant”.

So I stood there, quietly, as a crowd gathered and eventually lifted my head, looked him in the eye, and said “I’m so sorry…I really am…I can’t fix you.”

And I’m still here, which proves I can run really really fast.

Describe, if you can, your ‘average’ Edinburgh Fringe day…

My shows have always been on around the 6.30pm mark so after a wake-up call at the crack of noon, I head down to the Underbelly, chat to my flyer guys and gals, send them out with a pep talk, usually sit down, drink coffee, staple flyers with whatever needs stapling and i tend to wander around the venue for the afternoon flyering people.

I kind of enjoy the chats and get to recommend shows to people who mightn’t be around for my show, but are just in the Underbelly looking at what’s on.

It’s always nice to be able to direct them towards something good, that might not be getting a crowd, it’s a karma thing, I can only hope someone else is doing it for me. And if you’re not…then why not?

If money was no object, what publicity stunt would you do to promote your show?

I don’t really like publicity stunts, but for this show, if I had limitless money, I would pay all the lap dancers and pole dancers in Edinburgh and Glasgow and Scotland and wherever else to take the month off and come along to the show and just chat for a few minutes about how they got into the life, and show these women as real people.

Who else are you planning or hoping to see?

Magnus Betner is over at the Stand who’s a Swedish comedian I’ve heard a lot about.

I try to see a lot more theatre than stand up as I’ve always loved plays and I think it’s getting harder for small theatre groups to get crowds.

And Comedy Bitch may have to be the show I see on my day off at my time slot which is always a tricky decision, as it’s the only one chance in the fest to see the show that’s on at the same time as you.

What do you have planned after the Fringe?

I’m off to Hong Kong and China for some Stand-up shows over there in September, then I go back to Dublin in October where I’m still touring last year’s show, No Blacks. No Jews. No Dogs. No Irish. And sleep.

Somewhere in there, I’ll sleep.

Sum up your show in three words for us?

Funny Compassionate Compelling

Complete this joke for us: “A man walks into a Fringe show…”

…he sees there’s no other audience, just the tech and a forlorn looking performer sitting on the edge of the stage, his head hanging down.

Instead of turning away and walking out, he taps the performer on the shoulder and tells him to begin the show. The performer gathers himself up, brushes away his despair and proceeds to give the performance of his life to this one man.

The show ends, the man stands and gives a standing ovation. He hands him a card that says “BBC – Head of Commissioning One Man Shows for TV ” and leaves him with the line, “Call me and we’ll give you a show”, and he walks out the door. And then the performer wakes up the next day… And rings the Man… And gets his show. …..

It’s less a joke, more what gets you out of bed every morning. You want a joke, come see the show.

You can buy tickets for Keith’s show on the Underbelly website.

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