Interview: 'I'll Get Called Brassy': Comedian Rachel Fairburn on her UK Tour SHOWGIRL

Showgirl is currently on a 36 date tour of the UK

By: Sep. 22, 2023
Interview: 'I'll Get Called Brassy': Comedian Rachel Fairburn on her UK Tour SHOWGIRL

BroadwayWorld caught up with comedian Rachel Fairburn to chat about her 36-date standup UK tour Showgirl. 

Tell me a bit about Showgirl.

Well, I've done my first date of it in Manchester already and it kicks off properly this Sunday in Edinburgh. It started off with I just wanted to wear a showgirl outfit, that's all it was. Just for the poster, I thought this will be a bit of a laugh because I've always fancied trying one on. 

As I've started to write the show it's basically become a little bit about how I used to be incredibly shy. I always get asked how I got into comedy and I don't know how to answer that because I don't know myself because of how shy and insular I used to be as a kid and how I've become more confident as I've got older and now this is my job. It sort of happened organically because I've never really spoken about anything personal before. Mainly it's just a load of observational comedy.

What are you sick of being asked in interviews?

I don't mind being asked how I got into comedy but you sort of get asked that a lot and I answer it again and again and again. There's nothing I really hate being asked, there's nothing I can think of that really annoys me.

Actually, do you know what I hate? Those questions that are like "would you rather have fingers for thumbs or thumbs for fingers". They're the questions I hate. They're the sort of questions you'd get asked on a team-building day. But generally, I'm happy to answer anything. People complain about being asked things before but one day people will stop asking you these questions and you'll feel bad. So I don't mind.

What would you like to be asked about more often?

I'd like to talk about Oasis more who are my favourite band in the world. 

I'd like people to ask me about what I've been up to outside of comedy. I'd like to take up a hobby because I'm not going to the pub as often so I've started doing a tapestry. What am I, some sort of medieval woman? But I find it very relaxing. If people asked me what I was up to outside of comedy I could ask what they're doing and maybe I'd like to do that too and take a trip to Hobbycraft. 

When you're on tour do you go out and about before or after a show?

This is what I want to do now that I'm more relaxed about touring. This is the biggest one I've done and I love going to the towns that I'm performing in and if I've got time during the day I love to look round charity shops. I love a museum if I've got time. I also like to find out the ghost stories and the spooky locations. I like to do a little online thing where I look up where I'm going and the ghost stories associated with it. It's just having the time between shows. 

So charity shops, museums, ghost stories. I can never go on the ghost tours because I'm always onstage when they're on. 

Does the show change as you tour it?

Not really. I'm a real stickler for "this is the show, this is what's happening' but sometimes you might end up not liking a bit and you might change it or stop doing it. 

I'm not having a support act for most of the tour so I'm coming out and chatting to the audience for a bit. I'll be in the town the next morning so I like to try and find out what I can there do so obviously that bit will change every night. There might be a bit of interaction or if something has happened during the day on the news I might mention it. If I take the show to Edinburgh next year it might be different.

How was it only coming up to the Fringe for a couple of days this year?

Nice. It felt like I was only coming up, popping in for a couple of shows and then leaving. It was still tiring. As soon as I arrive in Edinburgh for the Fringe I get this sort of stress feeling and all knotted up. I came up on the sleeper train and arrived at 7am and was completely baffled because I was already shattered. I enjoyed it but it did make me kind of wish I was there for a bit longer. I'm probably going to come back next year.

What are your thoughts on some of the language used by reviewers?

When it comes to working-class acts, particularly female working-class acts, a lot of the time it's middle-class male reviewers saying things like "we had to tune into her accent, we couldn't understand her accent". I'll get called brassy whereas if I was a middle-class person with a nice middle-of-the-road accent I'd be called forthright and confident. There needs to be more working-class reviewers and more female reviewers. I think the language around working-class acts is, well, it's not bloody on is it? 

My accent gets mentioned a lot. The problem when you are working class and have a working-class accent people assume that you're stupid. So it's a bit of a shock for them to learn that you're not and then they need to get over that prejudice they've had. A lot of the time a working-class comedian will make a joke and it's sort of brushed aside like its a bit crass. The analogy I always use is Fleabag, when Fleabag says the c-word it's groundbreaking and when a working-class woman says it, it's crass. They'll mention how you sound, how you come across, what you're wearing. If I can tour America with my podcast and go to New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and none of those people have an issue understanding me then there is a definite problem within the industry here.

With regard to reviewers commenting on your outfit, it's quite hard not to because you usually do have quite a spectacular outfit. 

Yes I do! I love clothes, always have done. You're onstage so this is your chance. You get so many negative comments on social media if you put yourself out there where they comment on your clothing, your hair, what they think of you and what you think of yourself even though you didn't think that about yourself. If I'm going to be criticised then I'd rather go out there in something fantastic and really annoy people than just go in jeans and a t-shirt and get slagged for not making an effort.

Is your podcast Ghoul Guide coming back?

No. Well, it's not coming back in the form that it was. Which sounds a bit like talking about a ghost. It might be coming back in a different way but we're still working on it. So its a no...but its a definite maybe. 

Have you noticed a difference in audience behaviour since the increase in viral crowd work clips on social media?

Yes. I think good luck to the comics who are putting stuff out there and getting the views. If it works for you, great. The problem is that people then come to comedy gigs and expect that to be all the person does and they expect to be interacted with and 90% of comedy isn't that. I think people's comments have got worse on viral clips and people have become nastier. 

I don't know why other people are resistant to comedy clips when you can just go past them but I think the crowd work stuff has made people attend comedy clubs and think that is what every act does. Then when acts do material it's like "this isn't what I wanted to see!" and it's a sort of double-edged sword because its great for acts that do that and put it out there. But then it can be a bit like "we came to see you and you didn't talk to the audience" or if there's something online they're still doing in their set "we came to see you and we've seen that bit already on the internet". So it can be a good thing and a bad thing. I'm going to be putting out some clips soon but it's all material I'm never going to do again but I've got clips of. So that's the perfect way to do it, material that works that you're not doing anymore. The crowd work is not for me. 

Between being a woman on the internet and doing a podcast about serial killers, how weird are the messages you receive online?

I have my social media on lockdown. You can only message me if I follow you or if we've messaged before. I dread to think if there's an inbox out there that I don't know about. I think maybe because of my persona I don't get it as much as some female comedians do because I am happy to tell someone to f**k off. 

Usually, messages are nice because I've got a big female audience with the podcast and when women interact with you it's usually nice and they just say they love the podcast. You get the odd person, but on the whole, interactions are pretty positive. And it's usually All Killa No Filla fans who are pretty sound. Occasionally there will be something that annoys me but I tend to look at the positives. If there's something unpleasant I immediately delete it but fingers crossed it doesn't get worse.

With this 36-date tour, a headline show at Manchester Opera House and Live at the Apollo in the bag- what's left on your list?

When I got the call from my agent to say I was doing Live at the Apollo I was like, is this a joke? I genuinely thought she was joking. When I started comedy all I set out to do was to become a professional comedian and make it my full-time job, tour and do Live at the Apollo. I've done all that now and it's like, what else do I do?! 

Actually I'll tell you what I'm doing and I just registered the show today- I want to do character comedy. I'm working on some stuff for Leicester Comedy Festival and I might do something in Edinburgh. We'll see. 

Dates and tickets for Rachel Fairburn: Showgirl are available Click Here.

Photo credit: Drew Forsyth

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