With a name like Showgirl, you’d expect a bit more oomph, but in fact Rachel Fairburn’s show is perhaps the exact opposite, and the low-energy slog begins and ends with little flair.
Fills us with a slight apprehension
“I don’t have a support act, due to the cost-of-living crisis, it’s just me,” jokes Fairburn, before she sets off to warm us up herself. If her warm-up wasn’t so disjointed and lagging in energy, perhaps it would be considered more enjoyable and a better idea overall. As it stands, it isn’t the best of introductions; Fairburn gets bogged down in audience interactions that don’t particularly lead to anything funny, leaving us counting down the seconds till the break. In the half hour or so that she supposedly warms us up, the opposite happens, and there would be more energy if she would just launch into the main body of her show instead. It is both a good and bad introduction to the show; good because it does warn us of what is to come and introduces us to Fairburn’s style, and bad because it fills us with a slight apprehension at the rest of the hour.
The main body of Fairburn’s show is concerned with how she got into comedy, which in itself is a pretty remarkable story with a potential for humour that extends beyond the initial introduction of the topic, but it becomes abundantly clear that this is the first of a series of false starts that make up the show. The end of the show is just as abrupt as the rest of it, as Fairburn muses on why she stays in comedy, and whilst there is a sense of joy at being able to perform, the patchiness of her material does not make the central theme or narrative of the show particularly clear. Whilst most comedians tend to wrap up a show by referencing previous jokes or motifs, Fairburn proves that she is not like most comedians and instead introduces a new idea that cuts off sharply, following a pattern that she establishes pretty quickly of bringing up a topic; making a few jokes about it and then moving onto something completely different. The myriad of political observations and tangents that Fairburn makes just obfuscates it even more, leaving us with just the initial idea of Fairburn’s relation to comedy to take away with us. There is definitely quantity here, but not necessarily quality.
Showgirl is essentially an introduction to Fairburn, the issues that are important to her, background and personality. There is a solid base here, but she needs to work on her segues, spend time fleshing out her jokes and resist moving onto the next part of the material as quickly as she does, not only because it’s quite jarring to be hearing about how annoying guests are one minute and true crime documentaries the next. She needs to make sure that there is a cohesive arc of the show instead of firing out joke after joke without connecting them somehow, and hope that we’ll not notice. The reason why great observationist comics gain the followings that they do is because they share their unique understanding of the world and develop it by analysing every atom of a particular entity, fleshing out the gag in its entirety within their tangents and making it relevant to the rest of their show. At no point does Fairburn do this, and whilst she does make some very astute statements about gender and class interlaced with a very pointed kind of humour, they are very shallow observations that create a sense of randomness that makes it difficult to understand what Showgirl is meant to be about.