“I’m using photos from childhood, theme music my brother wrote, my niece is editing the footage—it’s all very much a family affair.” So says Eoin Colfer of the revival of his popular one-man show, “Fairies, Fiends, & Flatulence,” which debuted to sell-out crowds in the U.K. in 2006. Starting next week, Colfer will tour the U.S. by bus, performing in theaters in nine cities in support of The Time Paradox, the sixth Artemis Fowl book. The series has sold more than nine million copies in the U.S. to date, and the latest title arrives July 15 with a 750,000-copy first printing.
First stop on the tour: suburban Chicago, for a July 15 performance at Anderson’s Bookshop in Downer’s Grove; this first show will be simulcast to 40 bookstores across the country, marking the first time Disney has simulcast a live author event. Ellen Scott, manager of the children’s department at the Bookworm Omaha in Nebraska, is one of the stores broadcasting the Anderson’s event. “We’ve never done this high-tech kind of thing before,” Scott says. “I’ve heard Eoin Colfer speak several times—it should be pretty fun.”
Colfer greeting U.S. fans last year.
The “Fairies, Fiends, & Flatulence” tour derives from a show of the same name that Colfer performed across Britain in 2006, in conjunction with the release of the fifth Artemis Fowl book. Based on the success of the traveling show, Colfer was then asked to bring the show to London’s West End. “It was weird because we were on before a very dark adult play, which had all these barbed-wire curtains—we had to use their sets,” the author recalls, joking that people must have thought a lot of money was being pumped into the production. “We’re not bringing the barbed-wire curtains to the U.S.,” he adds. “It’s probably for the best.”
Disney execs who saw the London show felt it would work for U.S. audiences, and Colfer got his chance to test-drive the show stateside last year, performing before crowds in Chicago and Texas. (Footage from these performances was used in the preview trailer for this year’s tour.) “They went really well,” says Colfer of the shows. “Sometimes humor doesn’t come across the Atlantic, but with this the humor seems to be universal.”
In the show, Colfer draws on episodes from his childhood as one of five brothers, and he connects his family members to various characters in the Artemis Fowl books. “So I’ll talk about the flatulent dwarf Mulch Diggums and flash a picture of my brother in an unfortunate position and therefore brand him forever,” Colfer says. “I think if you come from a family with a few brothers and sisters, you can really appreciate the kind of shenanigans we got up to as kids.”
The author refers to his presentation as “stand-up comedy for kids” but believes entire families can appreciate it. “The most gratifying thing is when dads come and you can see in their faces they don’t want to be there,” he says. “They’re thinking, ‘I have to listen to this gray-haired Irish guy talk about fairies and farting.’ And 10 minutes later they’re holding their sides laughing—that’s what I want to do.”
From Chicago, Colfer’s tour bus will make a broad circuit around the country over the course of two weeks, with performances in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, and Austin and Decatur, Ga., before ending in New York City on August 2. In each city, Colfer will record a vlog (video blog) near local landmarks, according to Jennifer Levine, director of publicity for Disney Publishing Worldwide. The vlog will be available on Colfer’s Web site.
In Portland, Powell’s Books will host the event at the local Bagdad Theater, which seats 600. Michael Drannen, regional marketing and publicity manager for Powell’s, expects a “stellar turnout” for the event, based on early response. “The day we put it up on our calendar online, we started getting calls,” he says. “He obviously has a tremendous number of fans. I think the concept of the presentation will be really engaging for kids.” Drannen adds that Powell’s has done outreach to local media in advance of the event, ran print ads and that the local Disney radio station is promoting the event on-air.
Colfer will reprise his show in the U.K. in August, to coincide with the book’s British publication, followed by two weeks of vacation before getting back to writing. “Between every Artemis book I like to do two books that are not connected [to that series],” Colfer says. “When I get back to Artemis I’m reenergized and refreshed. It’s like coming home again.”
Following his vacation, Colfer will be working on a sequel to his 2004 novel, The Supernaturalist. “Of all the letters I get, that’s the one I get asked about the most,” he says. He also notes that progress is being made on the Artemis Fowl movie front: he expects the screenplay to be finalized by the end of the year and hopes that shooting might begin next summer.
And what do Colfer’s siblings think of the “Fairies, Fiends, & Flatulence” show, given the central role they play? He says that one of his brothers, Donal, was thrilled to find out that the Artemis character was based on him, but not all of his other brothers were as pleased. “The farting dwarf guy was not so happy,” says Colfer. “He should’ve been nicer to me as a kid.”