Death Proof Comedian

Ex Lawyer turned comedian, Keith Farnan takes on the American death penalty system in his first fringe show, titled Cruel and Unusual.

Feature by Emma Lennox | 01 Aug 2008

What made you give up being a lawyer?
There was no money in law, obviously! I'm writing a new show about leaving law for comedy. It's entitled What the hell was I thinking? My family are writing most of it. On top of that I was kind of tired of making people cry - seems more fun to make them laugh.

You did your internship on death row; are trainee lawyers popular with people whose lives are in your hands?
I think they're happy to have anyone on their side, doing whatever they can, so yeah, even the guys who are just in charge of holding David's sling while he waits for Goliath are a vital commodity, just as long as they don't do anything stupid like lose the sling.

Does gallows humour exist?
I've met and become friends with Sunny Jacobs (of the "Exonerated") who spent 15 years on Death Row. She lost her partner to the electric chair, and was eventually exonerated of the crimes she was accused of. And yet, she's full of life and makes me laugh with her jokes, one of which I recorded for the show.

What does the term 'cruel and unusual' mean? Sounds kinky.
The auld Founding Fathers of America forgot to be specific on the terms of the Constitution, and so the idea of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment has been decided on by the Supreme Court. They decided in '73 that the death penalty was cruel and unusual, but changed their mind in '76. It's complicated but if by kinky, you mean the 8th amendment of the US constitution, which prohibits any cruel or unusual punishment, then yes by all means, slap on a leather version of the bill of rights, whip up a legal brief and get down with your kinky self.

Why is America the only developed Western country to still have the death penalty?
Law in the States is about politics. If you're a judge or sheriff or District Attorney, you are elected. If you want to get elected you need to be hard on crime. If you don't support the death penalty, you are soft on crime and you lose! It's as simple as that. Hard. Soft. Hmm, they're obsessed it seems.

Do you have a Texas tour lined up?
I'm working on bringing the show to various parts of the Southern United States, and other places where I'm likely to get shot.

Keith Farnan: Cruel and Unusual

Underbelly, Aug 1- Aug 24 (not 18), 18:10, £10.50 (£9.50)/ £9 (£8)