It's a gig no stand-up in their right mind would ask for... but what stand-ups do you know that are still in their right mind?
Harley Breen sounds less than sure about the prospects for his forthcoming stand-up set at the Falls Music & Arts and Southbound festivals, but this isn’t the first time he’s taken the leap of performing for the wrong – or at least, less-than-ideal – crowd, and the 13-year comedy vet is more confident than he lets on. “I did it in 2011 and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a captive group of people – well, as captive as they can be at a large music festival – that are actually fairly keen about the comedy. I had a great time in 2011. I’m hoping to repeat that.”
"I feel like the best way to play it is just play it like you’re killing it regardless, and get your job done and get off."
A key to successfully performing stand-up at non-comedy-specific gigs, Breen explains, is an understanding of, and respect for, his role in the hierarchy of acts. “I’ve done a fair amount of these really big kind of festival-style audiences, and I feel like the best way to play it is just play it like you’re killing it regardless, and get your job done and get off. It’s not really the environment where you can start doing some crowd work and some funny wordplay with a guy in the front row when there’s two-and-a-half thousand people there that didn’t hear what he said, don’t care that he exists… I feel like it’s just a ‘get it done’ kind of gig.
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“It’s only a fifteen-minute spot anyway, so it’s more get up, get funny very quickly in front of a large group of people that are hot and bothered and don’t have chairs. I mean, the first time I did it, there were two hundred blokes already booing before we walked on stage. It was two hundred out of, like, two-and-a-half thousand; I was like, ‘Do your worst, man – no one down the back can even hear you!’”
For his upcoming appearances, Breen will be dipping into material which he’s written for the coming year’s comedy festivals – though he wouldn’t be totally averse to hitting some other less-travelled roads along which he can spin his jokes.
“Part of me feels like my art form that I’ve focused my life on and made a career and a business out of is a bit like a cancer – we get into everything, we go everywhere, and sometimes I think it’d be nice just to have a music festival without some fuckin’ comedian on stage going, ‘Yeah, but look at me for ten minutes, fuckin’ look at me!’” he laughs.
“We’ve got festivals! We’ve got them all over the world! On the other side, I love performing at them, so, yes, I do think they should diversify and put comedy on everywhere!”