Keith Farnan: Anonymous

Keith Farnan recently became father to a baby girl. As such, he tells us, she will probably want her own Facebook page in about eighteen months’ time. The Corkman uses the birth of his first child as the framework around which to build a show that deals with one of the most pressing matters of our time; state and corporate surveillance.

‘I realise that this is beginning to sound like a TED Talk from a maniac’, he says about halfway through the set, ‘but I’m going to go on with it.’ In hindsight, this is a pretty accurate assessment of a fearless hour of stand-up.

There is nothing inherently amusing about this aspect of civil liberties, nothing you could get an easy laugh out of anyway. On the surface it seems too complex and too dull an issue to be the subject of a stand-up show. Yet Farnan not only succeeds in teasing out the finer points of it, going through the arguments for and against mass data collection, but also manages to illustrate the human dimension, explaining why we should care about it. We have a duty, he explains, to make a stand against this sort of control when we know it is going on all around us. The oft-heard excuse, ‘Well if you have nothing to hide…’ does not wash with him.

Impressively, Farnan looks at things from the opposite perspective, explaining why people seem so willing to accept this sort of surveillance (effectively spying) as part of their lives. The answer, of course, has to do with engendering fear and over-emphasising the dangers of certain aspects of modern life. This sort of nuanced approach is not something you see in every stand-up performance.

Explaining the show in these terms makes it sound a bit tedious or self-indulgent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Any time things get a bit too heavy, there’s always a gag on hand to move things along (he’s fond of the classic ‘pull-back-and-reveal’). On top of this, he is not afraid to take on any sort of contentious issue – the show is about three minutes old when he brings up the topic of Ireland and Scotland’s sectarian past in some the front-row chat (‘And I’m aware I look like a tribute act to Bobby Sands…before the hunger strike!’) While we’re on the subject of audience, a word of advice to any would-be hecklers: I wouldn’t try it. Some of the biggest laughs of the night come at the expense of those foolhardy enough to interrupt the set.

‘I realise that this is beginning to sound like a TED Talk from a maniac’, he says about halfway through the set, ‘but I’m going to go on with it.’ In hindsight, this is a pretty accurate assessment of a fearless hour of stand-up.

Broadway Baby Radio interview with Keith Farnan

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The Blurb

Liberty. Privacy. Comedy. Irish comedian Keith Farnan (Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow) tries to combine these three elements before the first two disappear. Every day, more of our personal data is either given away, acquired in the interest of national security, or sold to the highest bidder. But maybe we don't really need our privacy, so let's start by getting rid of curtains and go from there, shall we? 'Artful, satirical ... with a lightness of touch and a hefty helping of roguish Celtic charm' (Sunday Times).

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