Death of a Comedian: review

Star rating: ****
Soho Theatre
London W1
Saturday 16th May 2015

Written by Owen McCafferty

“I don’t want to be a funny person. I want to be a comedian.”

That is the curious tag line to Owen McCafferty’s latest play, ‘Death of a comedian.’ I had never really given much consideration to that before. Is there really a distinction? Is not a comedian automatically considered to be a funny person?

Even though it doesn’t seem to be obviously doing so, when I reflect back on the play it is clear that amongst a number of themes, the play is in fact exploring just that possibility.

Essentially it is the story of a journey man comedian, Steve Johnston (played by Brian Doherty) one of many hundreds out there trying to make it to the big time in the highly competitive business of stand up comedy.

At his side is his girlfriend Maggie Fairbrother (played by Katie McGuiness) who is there every step of the way, attending all his gigs, not just as his erstwhile loyal partner, but as his agent, confidante and critic, listening to and providing feedback on his performances and jokes. She is quite funny herself, with a good delivery style when she re-tells his jokes.

deathofacomedian sohotheatre

Things get a lot more spicy when Steve is approached after a show by an agent Doug Wright (Shaun Dingwall) who happened to be at his gig and was suitably impressed. Sharp suited and with the gift of the gab, the agent offers to represent Steve. Katie doesn’t take to him and from hereon the tension and interest ratchets up.

It’s a little surprising that the agent should show such interest as Steve doesn’t actually prove himself to be a very funny comedian. There’s a few good gags and a running gag that’s so so, but these were few and far between and overall most of the jokes fell flat. That was very disappointing. Perhaps that was deliberate as the audience were watching an up and coming comedian, not an established act.

Giving the show the benefit of the doubt, I assumed from this that the point wasn’t necessarily to deliver a comedy show within a play and on that basis, a fine play developed that showcased the struggle to make it as a comedian, the artistic, commercial and relational tensions that can arise between concerned parties relating to how best to achieve this aim. Subjective issues around performance style and humour are fairly explored too.

Other themes explored included whether it matters for a comedian to be true to themselves or is it just about being funny? This takes us back to the central theme of whether or not there is a distinction between a funny person and a comedian. I guess there is. I can think of plenty of funny people, former work colleagues and friends for instance, but they are certainly not comedians and probably wouldn’t last 5 minutes on stage. Similarly there are many comedians who can perform to hundreds or thousands on stage, but off stage are simply not so funny, saving their best for professional performances.

As far as paying punters are concerned, I suspect so long as the comedian on stage makes them laugh, then they don’t care whether or not that person is “naturally” funny off stage.

I’m glad I made it to see the final performance of it’s run at Soho Theatre as I thoroughly enjoyed this play more for the storyline and tension within it rather than the comedy.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Thank you for reading our review. We hope you enjoyed it and that if you did, will post a comment and/or share it with others who have the same interest in this topic and may also appreciate the chance to read it and comment.

Tiemo Talk of The Town review and organise topical debates and seminars and since 2005 have held debates on a variety of topics, including social issues that empower people and communities; politics, the family, relationships, personal finance, education and religion.


  1. Tiemo Entertainments Funny Ha Ha Amazon Store
  2. Aamer Rahman: The Truth Hurts – Soho Theatre review – 10th March 2015
  3. Stephen K Amos: Welcome to my World – Soho Theatre review – 10th March 2015


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