The Scottish Comedian Talks Gigs, Gongs and Green Rooms
By Gill Sherry
Indirectly, Liam Farrelly has Kevin Bridges to thank for his swift rise to stardom in the world of stand-up comedy.
“I was given Kevin Bridges’ book,” the young comedian explains. “In it, he talked about a new act night at The Stand. I didn’t really have any other plans when I was in school so I just thought, I’ll apply for that and see what happens.”
What happened was, three months later they offered him a gig and, to use Liam’s words, ‘it just kept going from there’.
Seventeen-year-old Liam was unfazed by the challenge of that first gig knowing that if it didn’t work out, he could just go back to school. But it did work out and two months later he was on stage again.
“At that gig was the creator behind Scot Squad. He saw me… then emailed The Stand to get in touch with me and offer me an audition. So I skived school for the day to go to the audition. I got the Scot Squad job off the back of that second gig.”
Imagine being offered a guest acting role on one of Scotland’s most popular sitcoms. He must have been over the moon?
“It was a weird one! I think by the time I got paid I’d just left school so, aye, it worked out pretty well.”
Since then, it’s been hard to keep up with Liam’s rapid rise through the comedy ranks. He’s performed at some of the UK’s best-known comedy clubs, including the London and Manchester Comedy Stores, Liverpool’s Hot Water Comedy Club, The Stand in Glasgow, and Monkey Barrel in Edinburgh. Nominations and awards soon followed. He won the Scottish Comedian of the Year Award in 2021 and, in the same year, won the Frog and Bucket’s World Series Comedy Competition.
“It’s basically a gong show,” he tells me. “What happens is… you go in and try to do five minutes of material. But three people in the crowd have a card and if they’re not enjoying your set… they hold up their card. If you get three cards, you get gonged off.”
A bit like Britain’s Got Talent?
“Aye. So I did one normal gong show. I won that and got put into a regional heat. I won that and got through to the quarter final. Then in the semi-final I got put out, but I was brought back in as a wild card and ended up winning it from that gig.”
It must be quite a challenge to keep finding new material. How does he do it?
“It’s pretty much what’s going on in my life. It’s been pretty eventful so far so it’s been easy. I’m sure I’ll have to diversify my material when my life gets boring again. We’ll just have to wait and see. I might have to start doing political stuff.”
But it doesn’t look like life will get boring anytime soon. With gigs already lining up for 2023, there’s plenty for Liam to look forward to, including Comedy Troon on 1st April. April Fool’s Day? Seriously?
“I think it might’ve been deliberate by the promoter. I think he may be onto something there! But, yeah, it should be fun.”
With fellow comedians Darren Connell and Iain Hume also taking to the stage, and Billy Kirkwood as MC, it’s guaranteed to be a fun night out. It’s also the perfect opportunity to see Liam perform locally. Better known for his Live at the Apollo appearances as well as his Edinburgh Fringe shows, Troon Town Hall is ideal for those of us living in Ayrshire. From Liam’s point of view, however, a smaller venue doesn’t necessarily mean a smoother gig.
“Live at the Apollo was a pretty easy gig,” he confesses. “They tell everybody to laugh so you can’t mess it up!”
That false sense of security could be a dangerous thing, but Liam knows there’s no such thing as a perfect audience. He also knows a thick skin is essential.
“You’re just trying to say what’s funny and sometimes someone doesn’t find it funny. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, it’s just… you know… you win some, you lose some. I never take it too personal.”
In addition, there’s always a risk of offending someone. How does he deal with that?
“I think most of the time you know what you should say. It’s not so much being careful because you trust that you’re not going to say the wrong thing. If you’re just trying to be funny and you’re coming from the right place, you don’t need to worry about what you’re saying because it shouldn’t offend people, you’re just telling jokes.”
Liam may have built a career from being funny but it’s clear he still has a sensible head on his shoulders.
“It’s always difficult because you don’t know everyone else’s experience so you don’t know what someone else has been through and what you could say that could affect them somehow.”
Wise words indeed from 23-year-old Liam. And very, very different from the comedians that graced our television screens when I was his age. I don’t dwell on their outdated attitudes but, rather, ask who he looks up to in this new age of comedy.
“There’s a really good circuit in Scotland,” he tells me. “You’ve got Marc Jennings, Christopher Macarthur-Boyd, Marjolein Robertson… really strong acts. You’re going to be stuck in a green room with these people so you’re always wanting to make sure everybody’s fairly sound. There’s not really a bad apple in Scottish comedy, it’s going pretty well.”
Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall in that green room? It must be comedy galore!
“You’d be surprised,” says Liam, disillusioning me. “Most of the time people are just on their phones. It can be quite boring. You can be stuck in a green room and it’ll be just one person talking the entire time… someone who doesn’t know how to switch off from the stage. But most of the time it’s quite sound, it’s just a nice chat.”
One thing’s for sure, Liam will find himself in many more green rooms if his current success is anything to go by. Talking of which, shall we see him in any other Scottish sit-coms?
“I’m not really much of an actor. I don’t think acting would suit me because I think you end up having to watch a lot of your stuff back and I can’t really do that at all. I don’t like listening to my voice back. I’ll just stick to doing stand-ups. I don’t need to re-watch that, I already know what I said!”
In that case, we’ll expect to see him at numerous stand-up gigs this year, including his favourite venue, Glasgow’s Stand Comedy Club, perhaps? And the Fringe?
“I’ll maybe do the Fringe this year… I’ll need to wait and see. But everything’s going fairy well so I’ll just keep plodding along. It’s a good job to do, I can’t really complain. I’ll just keep doing it as long as I can.”
Something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more of Liam Farrelly.