John Kearns is nothing but himself in his new show, ‘Don’t Worry, They’re Here’

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John Kearns is nothing but himself in his new show, ‘Don’t Worry, They’re Here’


John Kearns is a curiosity on several fronts. The English comedian has props, but he’s not a prop comic. He’s got a costume for the stage, but he’s not being anyone else but himself. Donning a wig and some Jerry Lewis-esque false teeth, Kearns will arrive on-stage and perform as usual – never once addressing either aesthetic choice. “It’s not a character in the sense that I’m trying to convince people that it’s real,” says Kearns.

“I’m not trying to convey that the monk’s wig is my real hair – people see it and can clearly see that’s a man who’s just found a wig and put it on. The teeth, on occasion, will just straight up fall out of my mouth. When I first did it, it was just to see what would work. I was trying to experiment and see what people liked – but I should have been careful what I wished for, because the one thing people really liked was the fucking wig and the teeth.”

Think of it like David Byrne’s giant suit in Start Making Sense – no rhyme or reason, just a key eccentricity. “As time has gone on, I’d like to think it’s gotten a bit slicker,” says Kearns of his performing persona. “The writing goes to more comic territory, in that I’m writing for myself on the stage now. When I was starting, it was very much throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Now, I feel like I have a greater understanding of the persona I’m trying to convey.”

Kearns is returning to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for the first time since 2015 with his show Don’t Worry, They’re Here. Kearns notes that it’s within the structure of an hour-long performance that he’s been able to make the most of his comedic abilities.

“What I’ve learned is that you really have to try and keep people’s attention,” he says. “If you’re just doing an hour of five-minute bits that you’ve taped together from working rooms, it’s easy to lose people and for them to become bored. You have to hold their focus the entire time. I’ve been honing this hour for awhile now – I did it in Edinburgh last year, and I’ve just finished a tour in the UK. I’m really happy with where it’s at right now.”

Australia will more than likely be the last place to see Don’t Worry, They’re Here before Kearns moves onto his next festival show. Kearns is looking forward to the run, although he’s making sure it translates to an audience outside of the UK. “The curious thing now, bringing it to Australia, is making sure the references make sense,” Kearns laughs. “I can say how well I think it’s constructed all I want, but the fact is, if I’m up there yelling the names of people in the opposition party in the House of Commons then no one in Australia is going to know what the fuck I’m on about.”