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Vodafone Comedy Carnival: The Best Of Irish

Vodafone Comedy Carnival: The Best Of Irish
Gig review by Steve Bennett in Galway

Twelve of the funniest feckers currently working in the Irish comedy circuit, that’s the simple sell of The Best Of Irish showcase at Galway’s Vodafone Comedy Carnival. Or at least the funniest comics prepared to share a Sunday-afternoon bill with 11 other names in a fast-moving conveyor belt that inevitably mixes the rough with the smooth.

And there’s a 13th act, compere Steve Cummins: pretty perfunctory in his banter, reeling off all the MCing clichés and hitting a few dead ends in his interactions until finally finding a thread worth pursuing with Joe the farmer. The bits of his own material we glimpsed didn’t show much inspiration, plenty on porn and wanking but with no fresh take. You know the sort of thing… how back in the day dirty pictures were found abandoned in hedges rather than online.

Many of the acts were a little discombobulated by the Spiegeltent set-up, its central stage forcing them to pace in circles as they performed in the round. Opening act Colum McDonnell had a good gag likening it to a cattle market, with him the prize heifer. His set proper was a delightfully observed slice of domestic minutiae, revolving entirely around biscuits and Weetabix: thoroughly engaging if oh-so short.

Andrew Ryan’s been around for a while on both sides of the Irish Sea, and has a relatable everyman charm… though some of the scenarios he portrays such as the young generation with the Instagrammable smashed-avocado-on-sourdough breakfasts is a little too generic to stick in the brain. Beneath the bonhomie, there’s a more intriguing undercurrent about whether any of us deserve to be happy, touching on issues of depression, but there was not enough time to draw that out.

Keith Fox took a typical stance, both in mixing all-too-familiar observations (trendy establishments serving drinks in jam-jars anyone?) with a more acerbic, downbeat attitude. His sarcastic dismissal of the concepts of ‘beach bodies’ in Ireland and smug marathon runners clearly come from a genuine desire to cut through the bullshit, and though parts of even a short set could be more focussed, his negativity is appealing.

Anna Clifford would benefit from more clarity in her set, too. Her approach to the morning-after ‘walk of shame’, defiantly refusing to believe there should be any shame involved shows a healthy self-assurance, and material about Irish repression made explicit in traditional dancing is well acted-out. But there are a couple of formulaic jokes, and sometimes her chatter around the subjects is jumbled, muddying the waters.

Tom O’Mahony has a strong persona, of the dyed-in-the-wool Tipperary county fella, slightly impressed by some of the cosmopolitan ways of modern Ireland, but keen to make jokes when he thinks anything’s getting too full of itself. Combining that no-nonsense frame of mind with some engaging storytelling chops makes him a comic who can easily hold, and entertain, a room (or even Spiegeltent).

Totally Wired are an old-fashioned, rather cheesy, duo… although there’s fun in the way they wholeheartedly embrace the corniness of their act, billing themselves as ‘Ireland’s oldest and least successful boy band’. Quick with the backchat, they impersonate Donald Trump with no real bite, and tease a satirical song about Muslims that turns out to be singing Koran-ran-ran to Da-Do-Ron-Ron. There’s no edge here. Their party piece is ‘bwark’ing along to an Ed Sheehan number, an idea they’ve lifted from Camila the Chicken from The Muppet Show. Yet their sense of fun is infectious, and there a couple of good lines that come as a surprise amid the naffness.

Jim Elliott’s lived in Ireland for 12 years but is originally from Washington, DC – and his patter is so fast-paced and slick it almost feels like a parody of the old-school, guy-in-front-of-a-brick-wall style of US stand-up. But his affectionate mockery on the peculiar way the Irish used the English language is funny, and endears him to a crowd. He’s very punchy and is hosting a roast battle elsewhere this festival. That makes perfect sense.

Breda Larkin is an over-packed bundle of all sorts of ideas and styles, rather too busy in the way she leaps about without really settling, starting from the moment she walks on stage with a crude face mask on. It feels like a lack of confidence that this fast-talking comic is trying too hard – but she needn’t be so nervy. For in the moments when she calms down into painting a picture of life in her backwater hometown, she displays some delightful turns of phrase, witty imagery and astute observations from living in a bungalow to the way her parents named her twin sister. It’s good stuff, she should have more faith in it

As anyone who watched Ireland’s Got Talent earlier this year will know, Sean Hegarty’s a one-line merchant, some of which are very good indeed (in fact, one is the best in Ireland, according to a competition). And even those that aren’t are so brief as to not be a worry. With a few singalongs and song snippets played from his phone, he’s very much in the Tim Vine school of selling the silliness hard and cheesy. Sometimes the comparison’s a bit too close, but you can’t deny the craft in his writing.

Enya Martin, already something of a success online, never really seemed to gel. Cheap jokes about coming from a council estate where people get pregnant for benefits seemed to fit a rather generic of what should be funny, rather than coming from an authentic place. As she doesn’t seem to be reflecting the genuine humour in her background, it’s hard to buy into her comedy.

Edwin Sammon showed host Cummings how to tell sex stories, with great act-outs and a flair for showmanship. He unwittingly repeated the cattle auction gag we heard in the first half, but otherwise delivered a strong, tight and playful set, full of tongue-in-cheek mockery that hit the mark.

Before he took to the stage, Kevin McGahern, pictured, was hyped up with plenty of references to his telly credentials. Although when he took to the stage he seemed distracted and underprepared. That’s part of his shtick, though, and once he settled in, he displayed some sharp political wit about the just-done presidential election – super-topical as well as funny. And his analogy for Britain’s self-inflicted Brexit wounds was on the nose, bringing a sort of gallows humour – and more than a touch of schadenfreude – to the upheaval that will have a knock-on effect on Ireland, too.

Review date: 29 Oct 2018
Reviewed by:

Tom O'Mahony

You take your mother out in that yoke?!

2 wheel-braces, TWO fuckin wheel-braces this utter bollox had broken from leapin up and down on em! Granted they were pure shite wheel-braces, but fuckin hell like?!
I’d seen a car broken down on the way up the road (on the way back from the cinema. We saw The Revenant. Pure class film by the way. Zero craic, but fuckin intense (is that the right word? I dunno. Anyway!), but the good conscience of herself had convinced me to turn around and go back to see what was up. At a glance it looked like it was an auld wan stranded on the side of the M4. Right enough, it was an auld wan, headscarf n all, standing by her Alfa Romeo Guilietta Quadrifoglio Verde (the one with the turbo, a fancy enough yoke now, for an auld wan, but still definitely a ladies car). The flashers were goin and it’d looked like she’d fucked the refelctive triangle yoke in a rage, cos it was serving no purpose lying face down on the hard shoulder.

Admittedly I was going to help but fairly pissed off as I was badly in need of diesel and I’d wagered on having just enough to get me home that night and enough to get me to the Texeco in the morning. I hadn’t factored on having to traipse back up the road to deal with this shite.

Low and behold as I pulled up the handbrake to get out and help this elderly damsel in distress, I cop this bollix of a lad in his early 40’s fuckin around with a front (still attached) passenger side wheel. She was full of the “ah aren’t yis great for stoppin” and “we’ve been here for 45 minutes and no one would stop to help”. “And sure isn’t that why you cart this hoor around with ya, in case of emergency like” says I, sniggerin and gesturing towards yer man. No one laughs. Herself spotting the awkwardness proceeds to pacify the old dear with weather related shite. I turn myself to this lump of a fella, who turns out to be her son. He’s lookin at the punctured wheel the same way a cow would look at a field of thistles. “Howya, Derek” says he offering to shake my hand. “Why the fuck isn’t off yet Derek? Oh, Tom” says I. This question prompts him to to show me how hard he’s been tryin with his wheel-nut-opening efforts. He looks like he’s not shy of the grub-trough either and he’s sweatin like a gypsy with a mortgage. I have to fight the urge to turn around to herself and point at this carry on while saying one of my classic lines, like “haven’t a hand to wipe his arse, this lad”. “See, it’s no fookin use. I’ve been tryin it for nearly an hour and now I think I’ve broken my second one” says Derek. 2 wheel-braces, TWO fuckin wheel-braces this utter bollox had broken from leapin up and down on em! Granted they were pure shite wheel-braces, but fuckin hell like?!

Herself is goin great guns keeping the auld wan on point. She’s pulled out the engagement story, which sends the golden-girl into overdrive. Right! “No more bollixin around Derek, what is your major malfunction?” says I. (Baltic it is) “Look” says he, as he jumps up and down on the wheel brace. Crack!! Yup, he’s definitely broken it. And it’s then I cop it. “What in the name of the sweet crispy JESUS Derek?” says I. I’d been watchin this tit for 10 minutes and it’s like my mind had blocked what he was actually doing. “Whah? Am I not doin it righ?” says Derek. My mind had blocked it because it didn’t believe that an adult, with the basic ability to remember to tie their own shoelaces in the morning could, for 45 minutes of trying, not distinguish or at least contemplate the idea of “LEFTY LOOSEY RIGHTY FUCKING TIGHTY”

“Ah for fucks Derek. How did you go through 5 wheel nuts, breaking 2 braces and not at least once think, “fuckit I’ll chance one aiti-clockwise will I”?” says I. “I dunno. This isn’t my bag. I’m in politics ya see”. I knew I recognised that chubby face. Did I mention twas perishin cold? I’m ready to bite the fuckin wheel off the car at this stage. Although herself shoots me a “keep your shit together Tom there’s an old lady present. And besides where would we dump his body anyway” look.

I sort the thing with my own wheel brace, leaving him to work the jack (the bollix needed some penance, plus it was pretty funny watching him nearly have a calf winding the thing and down. It’s still freezin). Of course the things pop open like butter when turned LEFTY The sight of the dustbin-lid space saver wheel he pulled out of the boot vexed me, but the show was more or less over at that stage. It did give me a chance to patrionisingly point out how to tighten the nuts this time round “you’ve had plenty of fuckin practice at it Derek”. All this seemed to fly over his head. Not once ounce of shame did I detect. I suppose thats the politician in him.

Job done, we said our goodbyes on the side of a freezin M4. Through gritted gnashers I shake hands with Derek (his hand felt like a bag of wet sausages). We both sit into the car with a collective “JAYSUS!”. “Just drive Tom” says she. Derek and the auld wan pull away in their Alfa Romeo (not even a shot hazard lights to so thanks, the bollix). In with the key to the ignition and FUCK, my heart drops out through my jocks. It won’t start! I’ve run out of diesel! Our little good- Samaritan trip used up my ration for the morning. I can feel some sort of vein behind my eye beginning to bulge. Then for some reason we both begin to laugh, that furious/sad laugh. Derek you dirty bollix, of course you got one over on me, you’re a politician.

The injustice of it all. This must be what Leo’s character felt in the Revenant, no craic but seriously fuckin intense.