ED2022 Comedy ED2022 Interviews

Hannah Fairweather: Just A Normal Girl Who Enjoys Revenge

By | Published on Monday 15 August 2022

It’s probably no surprise to hear that it was the title of Hannah Fairweather’s debut Fringe hour that jumped out at me. I mean, who could ignore the words ‘Just A Normal Girl Who Enjoys Revenge’? That’s a definite hook. 

And, as it turns out, as well as having an interestingly titled show, Hannah was a really interesting person to chat with.

She’s done really well in all the comedy newcomer competitions in recent times, she’s written for ‘The Now Show’ and ‘Mock The Week’, and it sounds like she has some great stories to tell this August. 

I spoke to her to find out more. 

CM: Let’s start by talking about the content of ‘Just A Normal Girl Who Enjoys Revenge’? I mean, the title probably gives a bit of a clue, but what do you talk about in the show? 
HF: My show is essentially me working through a list of everyone who has wronged me in the past. I have started to refer to myself as the ‘Taylor Swift of comedy’. I love everything Taylor Swift has ever done – except ‘Cats’, but we all make mistakes – and I am such a fan that she has become a big inspiration for my own work and features regularly in the show. 

Like Swift’s, my work is personal, of the narrative storytelling genre, and often about people who have wronged me in the past.

It is difficult to tell exactly who these people are and what their crimes are without giving too much away. But if one were to find my list of people who have done me wrong – kept in a little blue book I carry with me everywhere, both literally and figuratively – they might find some of the usual suspects.

So ex-boyfriends, ex-colleagues, ex-flatmates, podcast hosts – and, of course, some devout Christians I met while playing college golf in South Carolina.

CM: What made you decide to do a show that focused on this topic?
HF: When I started comedy and started talking about my experiences in this world on stage, I noticed a common response – whenever I had something to say about being mistreated, there was an immediate assumption that I must be petty or spiteful or out for revenge, rather than just a person with feelings talking about things that had happened to me in my life.

I think this is just what people have to say about women who have something to say – if you dare stand up for yourself, you’re the problem. We’ve seen it many times before – see, for example, Taylor Swift’s entire career – and I am tired of it. In my day-to-day life, I enact very little revenge – your honour! – and I very rarely stand up for myself, I just write stand-up.

I think standing up for oneself is something that a lot of people, especially young women, have difficulty with – and most of us think of what we actually wanted to say or should’ve said hours later in the shower. So that’s what I decided to do – take every thought I have had whilst shampooing my hair and turn it into a show.

CM: How would you get your revenge if a reviewer said something mean about you? 
HF: I would talk about it in this Q&A! As Taylor Swift once said, when she released her song ‘Mean’ about a critic – “there’s constructive criticism, there’s professional criticism – and then there’s just being mean”.

I was recently reviewed by someone who critiqued my character as part of his review and I think this part was mean. He described me as “nice” – an attribute that he believes is a “weak character trait”. 

I thought it was fascinating that this was his interpretation of a show that is all about what it is like to be a young woman existing in a male dominated industry and a man’s world – a show in which I talk about how women are judged on things that have nothing to do with how competent we are at our chosen profession.

CM: This is your debut one-hour show, isn’t it? Does it feel like a big step?
HF: It is and I am very excited about it! It feels like a big but natural step – it’s the right time for me and I am really excited to be sharing my first hour with audiences. It’s a piece of work I have spent so much time honing and I am so incredibly proud of it. I am thrilled to finally get to share it with audiences.

CM: What are you most looking forward to about performing at the Festival this year? 
HF: The audiences. I have been working on this show for so long now and I am so proud of it – I am delighted that the people I made it for finally get to hear it – and I don’t mind at all whether they are from TV or radio.

CM: You’re a local resident so presumably you have ‘been to the Fringe’ before? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?  
HF: I love the Fringe – I love the city it takes place in, the sheer amount of audience members and comedians alike, the chance to see some of the best comedic talent, and the opportunity to hopefully be considered a part of that. 

I hate how inaccessible it is becoming and how it is pricing out so much amazing talent – especially working class talent. Participating in the Fringe is a massive financial loss-leader and even breaking even can be difficult for extremely talented acts.

There are so many upfront costs that you have to pay in order to simply participate and even more to get the exposure needed for maximising potential opportunities that could come out of a successful show.

So many of us are in our overdrafts in order to follow our dreams, which is stressful and challenging, and some people are priced out entirely. I hope this changes as it goes against everything the Fringe should be about.

CM: As a local, what non-Fringe things would you recommend Festival visitors do while they are here?  
HF: I live outside of the city and near me there are so many beautiful walks in the picturesque countryside. I am 65 years old. 

CM: Going back a bit: tell us a bit about your career history? Did you always want to be a performer and what steps did you take to begin a career in comedy? 
HF: So far, I have dabbled in exclusively male-dominated industries – I grew up playing golf, I went on to study engineering at university, I became an accountant, and now I am a comedian.

The only thing that ties my haphazard CV together is my unwavering desire to steal jobs that god intended for straight white men. So, when my career in comedy inevitably runs its course, I guess politics is next? Heard there are some openings!

I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to do comedy – but for a long time it was something I could only see as a pipe dream. The idea of it lingered in the back of my mind, even while pursuing different careers.

I didn’t think it was realistic to pursue, but I finally decided to try my first open mic after leaving a terrible job and thinking that it might be worth taking a chance at my dream job after all. 

My first gig was at an open mic night in North London in November 2018. I hadn’t planned to perform – I had been writing jokes in my sad little diary for some time, and my family – being the only ones who knew about my shameful secret – were encouraging me to pursue comedy properly.

I was reluctant but decided I would attend an open mic night undercover as an audience member to scope out the weird and wonderful world I was potentially going to join, accompanied by my Mum. 

The compere did some crowd work and asked my Mum what had brought her to the night – a very reasonable question considering absolutely everything about the night – and she said that her daughter “wants to be a comedian”. It turned out there had been a drop out that night and the compere offered me the spot. I took him up on his offer and the rest is history.

CM: What’s been the best thing to happen in your career thus far? 
HF: I did a gig at XS Malarkey – which is one of the best gigs in the country run by the loveliest of people – hi to Ros and Toby! The last time I was there, I was lucky enough to be on the same line up as national treasure Joe Lycett.

Knowing one of my comedy heroes was in the room listening to my set was daunting, but it was pretty cool when he complimented me afterwards. He’s a wonderfully kind person, so perhaps he was just being kind, but having Joe Lycett tell me that he liked my work was a definite career highlight.

Don’t tell Joe I said this though because I think I managed to play it cool. 

CM: Where do you see yourself heading in the future? What aims or ambitions do you have? 
HF: I am a writer more than anything* and I would love to write as much as possible, and have a sitcom made. I have a few scripts sitting on my laptop that I would love to share with the world, and my biggest dream would be to write and star** in one of them.

*I also claim to be an actor on my CV even though I haven’t actually acted professionally yet – but I figure that ‘acting’ is just pretending that you are something you’re not, so, to be fair to me, I am doing exactly that. 

**a minor role, I prefer ensemble casts.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
HF: A day off. I am very tired.

Hannah Fairweather performed ‘Just A Normal Girl Who Enjoys Revenge’ at Just The Tonic at the Caves at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: www.hannahfairweathercomedy.com | twitter.com/hanfairweather 

Photo: Karla Gowlett