In the autumn of 2020 my academic paper about FAH: “Foil Arms and Hog: The Pandemic, Patreon and a Women’s Community” was accepted to the Southwest Popular/American Culture conference [held virtually because of Covid] and I asked Foil to respond to questions that I had about their relationship to their women fahns and Patreon. He agreed and also gave me permission to publish the “interview” on my website for subscribers, only.
I presented my paper on February 24, 2021 and later I gave two presentations to fahns of this same paper [over Zoom]. I quoted from part of the interview with Foil, but this is the first time that I’ve shared the entire interview.
Here is the abstract of the paper that I sent to Foil (so that he understood what I was trying to do with my argument): This paper examines how the FAH fahn women’s community has grown and strengthened in the confines of lockdown and the pandemic via a medium like Patreon, which encourages a personal connection with both other fahns and the comedy artists, themselves. As somebody who runs a fahn website (academicfahn.com) and who is heavily involved in the fahn community, I argue that the extreme suffering and social isolation that many women have experienced in the months since the pandemic hit and restricted their social and personal interactions with others has been hugely lessened through the camaraderie of the creative fahn community. Not only do women fahns connect with Foil Arms and Hog, but they also connect with one another, creating a virtual space in which they have a voice and are no longer alone or invisible.
Interview with Foil (over Patreon messaging: January 18, 2021):
1) What is it like being "virtual comedians", having audiences all over the world who often never see your live shows, but who are devoted fans (and clearly also become patrons)?
Foil: It's really wonderful to have that reach and to see how people from vastly different cultures can still relate to things we find funny here in Ireland. It makes you realise how similar we all are!
2) Why did you decide to create a Patreon account?
Foil: We used to make our weekly Thursday sketches as a way to get people to come to our live shows. When we weren't able to gig due to Covid the reason for making the videos was gone but we didn't want to stop. We really enjoy making them and a regular audience was out there enjoying them. We were quite nervous about asking for money for something we had provided for free for so long but it turns out we had nothing to be nervous about. Lots of people who wouldn't have had the opportunity to see us live but had been enjoying the videos were more than happy to contribute. We were really taken aback.
3) Did you at first believe that the Patreon page would be temporary or were you in it for the long haul from the beginning? (In other words, no matter what happened with the pandemic.)
Foil: The plan was that it would just be there to help us through the pandemic. However as we've gotten used to Patreon and how it works we're starting to develop a new type of online content and when live gigging returns we will look at the possibility of gigging less in order to keep the Patreon running. For that to occur though we would like to increase the quality of what we post on Patreon, something we are working on doing currently anyway.
4) Have you seen your audience change during the pandemic and especially on Patreon in terms of gender? (i.e. more women than men?)
Foil: Our audience has certainly grown through the pandemic as people look for comedy content to give them a laugh. What Patreon has done though is connect us to our fans in a much stronger way and make us aware of who they are. Certainly in terms of 'active' fans, who create artwork, subtitles, essays, social media post etc the vast majority appear to be women, likewise the fans who message on Patreon seems mostly to be women. Which I find unusual as on YouTube 66% of our views come from men.
5) What has it been like to "perform" to fahns on Patreon versus your live shows?
Foil: It's taking a bit of getting used to with the live streams. We know the fans are watching and it's great to see the live comments role in, although it's impossible to read them all. But it's not the same as a live show where you can read the crowd so easily. For example on stage it's very easy to know when you've 'lost the crowd' but on Patreon you just have to hope that they are still with you. Everyone is so nice they're not going to write 'BORING' in the comments but at a live show the silence says it all.
6) How has Patreon changed the way that you communicate with your fahns, especially during "live streams"?
Foil: Most definitely, there's a lot more communication going on now. Before fans were commenting on Youtube, facebook etc and message through various social media but when you combine them all there are just waaaayy too many to reply to, thousands each week. The messaging through Patreon has been far more manageable, although as the platform has grown for us it's starting to become very difficult to keep up.
Reading the comments on the live stream is fun though, when we happen to see something we can immediately chat about or have a laugh over it feels like we're really connecting and having fun with the fans. Similar to a live show in that respect.
7) Do you feel that you are closer or more accessible to fahns now because of Patreon? How so? (I only mean closer than what you might have experienced previously at meet and greets after live shows.)
Foil: Definitely feel closer to fans, after all the back and forth emails. Are we more accessible? In a way, I don't feel like we are. It's just another online platform where people can send messages. However because it's more manageable in terms of numbers and because we know the people on Patreon really care and appreciate, and of course support, the work we're doing it's a big incentive to reply.
8) What do you think about the fact that so many of the most creative and supportive fahns are women?
Foil: I am surprised at how female dominated it is. The talent is really incredible. So much so that we've started working with many of the fahns and they're adding so much to the brand. It's also really nice to bring diversity like that into our business as for ten years it was basically just three men. If you were to look at all the people who are working on projects for us at the moment we're outnumbered by women. The talent and support has really been noticed and felt and it's really lovely.
9) When and where was your last live show before the lockdown in Ireland/UK?
Foil: Our last live shows were in the UK. Lockdown started in Ireland when we were mid way through a UK tour but the British Government weren't locking down so we had to do the shows or foot the bill for cancelling them. It was a strange position to be in knowing that we wouldn't be allowed to perform these shows in Ireland for safety reasons but still doing them in the UK. So we just cut back on the audience interaction and the meet and greet and a week later the UK went into lockdown as well.
10) I just need to know if I'm right about the way that I've summed up your touring schedule in 2020 before the pandemic hit and you had to stop gigging. [see complete paper here]
Foil: I think you had it summed up very well!
Foil’s final thoughts on the paper: . . . delighted and flattered that you're doing it. It's a wonderful topic and very interesting. Use whatever [Patreon] content of ours that you require!
January 19, 2021
I responded with some follow up and clarifying questions for Foil before I presented my paper.
1) Why are there more women Patreon supporters than men? Why are there more women fahns than men who are also willing to give back to you in such creative ways? I have to - obviously - include myself in this context since I'm running a website about you and your work, plus writing the novels.
Foil: Yeah the support from women has been incredible! I tried to have a look for analytics on Patreon for the percentage of men vs women but it doesn't seem to exist. There could well be many more women supporting us here than men, but what I can say for sure is that the engagement and creative gifts are nearly all coming from women.
Good luck putting it all together and if there are any other stats you think I might be able to provide please just ask.
January 20, 2021
I needed more statistics for my paper and I wanted very specific ones, so I wrote to Foil again and asked for help, which he graciously sent along to me.
1) Would you be willing to let me know what your Facebook numbers are for women fahns and what age group has the most? And can you tell me how many people usually attend the live streams?
Foil: So here is some Facebook data for "People Engaged: The number of People Talking About the Page by user age and gender. This number is an estimate" Women 40% Men 59%. The highest age group for the women was 25-34 at 9% with 18 - 24 and 35 - 44 coming in at 8% each. (Those age group percentages are representative of all the people engaged at that age who are women, so 25-34 represents about 1/4 of the women there).
I don't completely understand what those numbers represent. There's another tab for "Your Fans: The number of people who saw any of your posts at least once, grouped by age and gender. Aggregated demographic data is based on a number of factors, including age and gender information users provide in their Facebook profiles. This number is an estimate." and in this one the numbers are Women 49% Men 50% with the highest age group for women being 25 - 34 at 20%, 35 - 44 at 10% and 18 - 24 at 9%,
Live stream viewers tend to be between 100 and 250 I think, but I don't pay too much attention. The watch back video tends to get between 1,000 and 2,000 views.
February 2021 [I had yet more questions about statistics and a tiny question about stand up work.]
Did Conor [Arms] do stand up?
Foil: Conor did indeed do stand up before FA&H as did Hog. The both stopped a few years after FA&H started.
I'm wondering if there is a statistical gender breakdown for Instagram, Tiktok and Twitter for the male versus female views, interactions, or engagement with your material that you would be willing to share with me. Or any gender breakdowns you have for these sites.
Foil: For the Instagram I found some good stats for you. Here's a pic:
Wasn't able to find a similar breakdown for Twitter, it seems it's their policy not to ask for gender.
From March to May 2021, Foil was helping me with the FlAsH Fiction contest [he and the lads created the FlAsH Fiction announcement video and donated the prizes to the winners.] We were also corresponding about the Live interview and coordinating that phenomenal event. He had this final statement to make about the interview (after I wrote and thanked FAH profusely for such an incredible experience), which I think is well worth sharing here.
Foil: The interview was great, certainly far more interesting and challenging than any interview we have done before. Sorry that most of our answers were so simplistic!! And that I couldn't remember some of the interviews or sketches properly!!
Of course if you have watched the interview you will know that Foil's answers were anything but simplistic and he added huge amounts of information to the discussion about their writing and the creation of their sketches.
I received my last message from Foil on June 22, 2021. Foil always went above and beyond in our correspondence. It is a testament to his incredible kindness that he wrote and responded back to me so often. I truly appreciate and am utterly grateful for an entire year’s worth of correspondence with such a wonderful and amazing person.