Spotlight on Fatima Eshani’s Debut Comedy Hour: We Only Clap on Thursdays!

Director’s insight and audience reactions of final year medic’s stand-up show, We Only Clap on Thursdays! 

“What kind of doctor do you want to be?”

“A stand-up comedian”.

Soon-to-be junior doctor and 2020 Footlight Fatima Eshani performed to 175 audience members at the ADC Theatre last Friday in her debut stand-up comedy hour We Only Clap on Thursdays!, just a few short weeks before she is set to debut as a junior doctor in an NHS hospital. Hopefully, there will be more legitimate diagnoses and fewer haikus about having three bollocks involved in this next stage of her life, but we can’t be certain.

For the show, I was given the role of social media officer, running the accounts (Yes, I’m that person spamming your feeds with relentless posts about the show). We (myself and Sophie Petrie, the Director of the show) initially felt quite nervous about the turnout of the slot we’d been given – an 11pm late show during exam term.

However, a lot of blood, sweat and cat memes (thanks, Fatima) were poured into the publicity effort, with Sofia Monarchi creating the iconic Fatima posters and prescriptions you (hopefully) saw around town, a Wes Anderson inspired poster reveal starring Tim Jepsen, endorsement by Youtuber and Jesus-College celeb PaigeY and in a final publicity push, an interview with Fatima posted to the official Cambridge University Instagram page.

All of this, alongside an incredible Cambridge comedy and medic community (as well as a strong Jesuan attendance, including the Master of Jesus college herself), ensured a turnout we couldn’t possibly have anticipated but felt incredibly grateful to receive.

Image Credits: Sophie Petrie

After receiving lots of kind messages, we thought it would be nice to share the post-show audience reactions and give a Director’s insight into the show.

Audience Reactions and Director’s Insight

Helena (Third year, English) “The show was INCREDIBLE! I truly have never seen the ADC so raucous before! From Fatima’s first entrance, running around the audience (and somehow managing to dive straight into comedy after two laps?!) to her work to fix patients’ problems—from Olly Murs’ arrhythmia to Kylie Minogue’s vertigo. I couldn’t stop laughing throughout and neither could the rest of the audience. An absolutely wonderful show; I would clap for this any day of the week.”

Dan (Alumnus, Computer Science) “Fatima’s We Only Clap on Thursdays! is a triumphant end to a journey seven years in the making. The hour-long comedy special is a delicately balanced mixture of humour, storytelling, and heartfelt exploration of some of the darker parts of her Cambridge career. It is tied together by the show’s incredibly high energy and her intimate bond with her audience. The show is deeply personal and touching.

The show blends recurring jokes such as abdominal soup ladles and popular culture references with a well-thought-out narrative arc. After a standing ovation, the audience left the show having laughed and enjoyed themselves deeply, but also having felt intimately connected to an incredible community and an enrapturing performer.”

Image Credits: Lorna Bo

Leanne (Postgrad, Physics) “Watching student comics and amateur comedians perform can be a tense affair. We want to see them succeed, so it can be nerve-wracking to see them walk on stage and deliver those first few crucial lines.

Fatima Eshani is not an amateur. With a comedy career spanning around six years, she is a familiar face in the Cambridge scene and exudes a comfortable presence on stage.

The material itself is varied and refreshing, giving us a whirlwind tour through Fatima’s time in medical school. Covering topics ranging from death to dating, her stellar delivery pulls off an extremely challenging set with professional ease reserved for, well, professionals. While the set moves through tones, topics, and emotions, Fatima dances between them with grace and panache; she is never not in her element and never once loses the audience or her magnetic stage presence.

The audience’s trust and expectations are played with but never betrayed, and the result is a show and a feeling that can’t really be feasibly touched or described with words. I’ll try, though: if this performance feels like the cumulative result of six, seven, or twenty-four years all coming together for a precious hour and five minutes, then that’s because it is.”

Thomas (Third Year, NatSci) “Fatima felt completely at ease on the stage, emanating a calm confidence. Her comedic timing was precise whilst still managing to keep a conversational style. She really drew the audience in to the quite serious difficulties she’s faced and still managed to make everything hilarious.”

Image Credits: Sophie Petrie

Director’s Insight – Sophie Petrie

“Fatima was initially hesitant when I suggested that she should start the show by running laps around the audience to Lady Gaga’s Applause, but I was pretty insistent that it was the best way to begin. After the show, it was complimented a few times in the ADC Bar – Fatima would reply by pointing at me proudly and say ‘she came up with it!’ I knew that the high-energy start set the show off perfectly, beginning an hour (and five minute) long show in which Fatima’s hilarious personality really shone through.

The show was whiplash in the best way possible. The ending, a doctor-style rehash of the Barbie movie America Ferrera monologue, turned to Fatima’s heartbreaking realities of working in the NHS monologue overlapped by hospital sounds, to a credit reel with too many pictures of Olly Murs (two), turned to Fatima dancing onstage to Applause by Lady Gaga, but miraculously – it worked. In the ADC preview Fatima told the audience to ‘expect chaos and comedy’, and she most certainly delivered.

The entire WOCOT prod team delivered – from script editing to stage managing to tech – we really couldn’t have asked for a better, funnier, more competent group of people to work with. I’m incredibly grateful to all of them for making this show possible.

The scripting and staging processes of the show weren’t always easy. There may or may not have been some not-so-short unscheduled breaks involving karaoke duets to Replay by Iyaz, Just Dance 2014 competitions with the Tech Director, and deep dives into seven years’ worth of Fatima lore BUT it was hard work at times. Despite this, I really wouldn’t have picked anyone else to do it with, Fatima is an incredible writer and performer, and as a newbie to comedy I’ve learnt so much from her.

I hope all doctors are as personable and funny as Fatima Eshani is.”

Image Credits: Connie Harrop

Feature Image Credits: Connie Harrop

Articles recommended by this author: