A renowned comedy star and TV personality in his native US of A, Christian Finnegan is making his Edinburgh Fringe debut at the Gilded Balloon. So why come do the Edinburgh Fringe? Thomas Black asks.
Edinburgh is often described as a big risk. A big financial outlay and ever growing competition for ticket sales, what’s the attraction for an established act from the States in coming to The Fringe?
A sense of adventure, I suppose? I look at Fringe as one of those martial arts movies like “Enter the Dragon” or “Bloodsport”, where fighters around the world gather on some secret island to do battle. Doing Fringe was a rather impulsive decision on my part, so I look forward to seeing just how much trouble I’ve gotten myself into!
This is your first time at the Fringe, what can we expect? And more importantly, what are you expecting from Edinburgh?
I’ve been a professional comic for over 20 years and I’ve released three albums and two comedy specials, so I’d like to think I bring a bit more polish than your typical first-timer. Also, my show has a bit of a “take home” element, so there’s plenty to argue about with your friends later that night at the pub. As for me, I expect to (hope to?) overcome my crippling aversion to salesmanship. Seriously, I am the worst. But I’m proud of this little show, so I vow to conquer my gag reflex and promote the holy hell out of it. Whore mode…ENGAGE!
What do you think the UK and American comedians can learn from each other? It seems like the British “hours” tend to follow a narrative whereas US comics focus on having a collection of strong bits which aren’t necessarily linked in any way?
Yes, thematic hours are still a novelty in the States. American comedy clubs are essentially pubs with a stage–food and drink is served throughout, people are entering/exiting the room, etc. So overarching narratives are difficult to pull off and run the risk of seeming “pretentious” to American audiences. Even when you DO see an American comic in a theatre setting, he/she is performing material honed in bars. That can be limiting, but those distractions do force American comics to go a bit “harder”, I think. My sole complaint with UK comics is that they sometimes seem satisfied with chuckles, as opposed to cathartic belly laughs. I suspect that’s a product of performing primarily in theatrical settings, for more attentive audiences. NOTE: It’s quite likely I’m talking out my ass.
Was it a conscious decision for your have a central theme to your show or did it become like that organically?
Last year I noticed that a lot of the stuff I was writing seemed to touch on a common theme–basically, “The person you wish you were VS. the person you actually are” Some of it the material was political, some of it was personal, but the through-line was unmistakable. So I began writing with that in mind and before long I had the beginnings of what you might call (cue trumpets!) a “Festival Show”. This is the first cohesive piece of comedy I’ve performed, but I was a playwriting major in college, so it feels like an attempt to marry the bright-eyed young artiste with the eye-rolling prick I became as an adult. Will it be a “happy marriage”? To be determined…
The whole world is watching America just now with a mix of fear and confusion. As you travel around the world performing, do you see any change in people’s attitudes and opinions towards America and Americans?
This will be my time performing internationally since Trump became president, but “fear and confusion” seems about right. Americans would rather be hated than ignored, so the fact that you’re all finally thinking about us as much as we imagine you do provides a bit of perverse ego gratification, I suppose. But I have nothing to say that will alleviate your concerns. We are in unchartered waters and my sense is it’s going to get worse before it gets better. COME SEE MY COMEDY SHOW!! (SFX: fart noise)