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Keith Farnan: Top Five Fears

By | Published on Tuesday 13 August 2013

Keith Farnan

While the Urban Fox Theatre Company considers fear in the Festival’s theatre programme this year, Irish stand-up Keith Farnan also ponders some phobias over on the comedy Fringe, with his new show ‘Fear Itself’. To get you in the mood, Keith shares what he reckons might be the five most common fears of all.

One of my favourite t-shirts when I worked in Australia for a year was a No Fear one. It had a picture of a fish piloting a robot. I’m not sure how it tied into the No Fear brand, maybe fish have an innate fear of piloting robots, who knows? Most fears are irrational but that one seemed off the scale even for me. The list of phobias is endless (there is a fear of beards, called pogonophobia. Why would you fear a beard?!! It’s like a lovely fluffy glove for my chin). There are some pretty common ones though, and if you asked a roomful of people what they’re afraid of, chances are they’d say at least one of the following five. But why?

1. Heights
This is probably an evolutionary hangover to the days of the cavemen who climbed trees, thinking that was a good idea, just before they were accidentally munched up by a dinosaur that was formerly vegetarian but now enjoyed the taste of human flesh. This resulted in the dinosaurs going on a crazy rampaging human buffet that lasted for centuries and made Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night look positively peaceful. What I’m trying to say here is that our adventurous spirit was accidentally responsible for the t-rexes, and yet we keep building skyscrapers, which will eventually anger the gods of gravity, who will then send back giant lizards to punish us. We’ve all seen ‘Pacific Rim’ right? ‘Godzilla’? This is the future people.

2. The Dark
Nightmares never come when you’re awake. This is one of those first harsh lessons of childhood and a precursor to an insomnia filled life. If you are lucky enough to have your imagination stifled as a young child, then you’ll turn out the lights and just go la-la-lah and sleep! However, if you’re one of these poor fools whose parents believed in some sort of laissez faire cultural education and you were allowed to read Stephen King at the age of ten, well then take your pick of bogeymen, clowns, St Bernard’s and dead pets returning. Meanwhile, children are now so well educated in Ireland on the economics of the country, that they lie awake terrified that the European Central Bank is under the bed waiting to terrorise them.

3. Spiders
They’re spiders. They have eight legs. Next.

4. Public Speaking
This is all about identity. When you write a speech or have to give a presentation, you have an idea in your head of who you are and how you will present yourself to the world. It’s the bathroom mirror effect. Standing alone in your bathroom, you feel confident, you look confident. Standing in front of an expectant crowd robs you of all that immediately and, if you fail to deliver the speech in the way you hoped, you might wonder if you are the person you thought you were and an existential crisis kicks in. Now imagine that’s your job and you’ll understand why comedians are generally such a mess.

5. Flying
Getting in a plane and travelling above the earth at a height of several thousand feet is probably the nearest any of us get to feeling like God. I’m not saying God has to shove his bag into the blue cage for hand luggage, while Ryanair employees start their voodoo incantations to exact more money from his wallet, but seeing the world from that height for the first time is astonishing. After repeated viewings, however, the earth gets a bit boring and you realise the view and your comparison to God was distracting you from the fact that you’re travelling in a metal tube, powered by tiny explosions under the control of complete strangers who are at the mercy of nature. And if you weren’t afraid of flying before, then you should be now.

On the other hand, Freud said that all phobias can be explained by sex. It could be that the first time you had sex was in a tree-house in the dark when you were attacked by a crazy flying spider that would only let you live if you made a speech while being carried off into the clouds. Sure, we’ve all been there.

‘Keith Farnan: Fear Itself’ was performed at Underbelly Cowgate at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

LINKS: www.keithfarnan.com

Photo: Natalia Equihua