Saturday, October 27, 2012
Simply the Fest...
I won't lie to you, I'm partial to a dodgy pun. But, if I may defend myself from myself, Colin Murphy did mention Tina Turner in the Róisín last night.
Anyway, it's Comedy Festival time in Galway city. It kicked off on Wednesday, 24th October and runs until Monday 29th. My first port of call was Kelly's on Thursday night, where Tony Law was doing a show called Maximum Nonsense. Also on the bill were Benny Boot and Danny Dowling. Colin Murphy was the MC, and his affable rambling had people giggling and chilled from the get-go.
Now, let me say a few words about having a friend who does stand-up. You would imagine you spend a lot of time laughing - and you'd be right. Danny Dowling called me a few hours before his show and asked me to be a plant for his show. I said yes - I mean, what kind of world would it be if you didn't help your friends? So I take my seat in Kelly's, and Danny passes a baboon mask to me under the table. 'You'll be giving me a piggy back,' he says. 'That's what are friends are for' goes the song, and I'm sure Stevie Wonder would've let Dionne Warwick lep on his back if she needed to. Turn this one up, Danny.
Danny's set went down well - I really like his stories about his kids, some gems there. Up next, was Benny Boot whose bio says he 'does jokes - fifteen of them.' His loose-limbed and languid manner would make you laugh anyway, but he's a skilled joke writer. Have a peek here.
Then it was time for Tony Law , whose taste for the absurd is a trip for stand-up fans. It's hard to lift direct quotes from what he does, but this is classy stuff. He opened Maximum Nonsense by bellowing the word 'banter' and riffing off it, and if you've never heard bewildered giggles, then go to a Tony Law show. At times he would tell a joke and then start to deconstruct it. This might sound a bit too clever for its boots, but here's the rub - it's very, very funny. And anyway, if you want something mindless and unchallenging there's always Micháel Muck Intyre.
A technical hitch with the projector meant that Law didn't get to do the finale to the show. He may have been somewhat disappointed, but I'd certainly go to see him again. Two days on, I'm still smiling at some of his puzzles. Rare, well-realised stuff.
And so to last night's chuckles. A packed Radisson played host to Pat Shortt - there's obviously plenty of fans that won't balk at paying €25 to see the D'Unbelievables star. But the under-card for this show was also impressive - when you break it down, it's roughly €6 per comedian. Not too shabby, that.
I arrived just as Benny Boot was finishing his set. It didn't seem to be going as well as his Kelly's set, and he apologized at the end for not being as funny as people hoped. Which is a pity, because everyone has an off-night and it can't be easy going up in front of a crowd who don't know you, and want to hear Jumbo Breakfast Roll.
Barry Murphy, of Aprés Match fame, was the MC for the evening. He was in character, playing a snide German who delights in calling the audience 'pixie-heads.' Gunther has been part of Murphy's show for years now, and Ireland's economic plight means this Merkel-lover is getting more chuckles than ever.
Boy With Tape On Tape On His Face puts on a hell of a show. With a strip of black gaffer tape over his mouth, he's stand-up's version of a silent movie star. His set involves bringing plenty of people up from the audience, but no one is embarrassed and the Boy's routine is so imaginative that you'd be some sour-head to be put out. I won't recount what he does - it would ruin something that's well worth seeing. If he's rolling into your town, don't miss it.
Pat Shortt is another performer who's big on audience participation - actually, it's more like an ambush. Coming through the back of the room roaring 'howya Breda!' he's on a roll straight-away. Soon, he's introducing people to each other and inventing back stories. This evening, he's in the character of Dixie Walsh, who's a sensation in his native North Tipperary. Walsh takes the crowd through his country classics, pulling faces and raising guffaws right through the room. Shortt is a skilled crowd-pleaser at this stage, and though he didn't do an encore you get the sense he had plenty more in the tank. Dixie Walsh'll fill a few more halls yet.
Then it's time to peg it across town and go to the Róisín Dubh, where Setlist is making its Irish debut. The brainchild of American comedians Paul Provenza and Tony Conrad, the show involves comedians being presented with a 'set list' of words they've never seen before. These words appear on giant screens behind them, and they have to create something on the spot. MC Paul Provenza compares it do a magician 'actually performing maigic.'
A bold statement, and one that perhaps induces jitters in tonight's line-up. Phill Jupitus is up first, and while he doesn't pull a rabbit out of the hat, he does well - especially considering the moronic heckler he has to deal with. Seriously - why would someone shout up Never Mind the Buzzcocks? Did they really think it was funny, or that people paid €15 quid to hear some brave heckler? Eejit.
Karl Spain was great - where Provenza is from, they might say he knocked it out of the park - particularly when the words 'turning down Granny's FB request' appear on the screen. Most people in the room thought 'Facebook' - not Spain, who turned it into an unseemly, but hilarious, quip about a potential fuck-buddy. Maybe you had to be there - but Setlist is on for the next two nights, so maybe you should be.
Colin Murphy wondered aloud why he agreed to do it, but his Setlist debut got plenty of laughs. Job done, I imagine he'll be back. But the big draw for many was Tommy Tiernan, who's doing a six-night Comedy Fest run in venues across the city. Tiernan gets off to a flying start when the words 'Mutation Envy' appear behind him. He posits the theory that envy began in the primordial swamp, and has great craic riffing off that.
Tommy then worries that he's peaked too early. He paces the stage and berates the crowd for the plight comedians go through - but he never stops being funny. The words 'indecisive nymphomaniac' appear behind him, a phrase that sounds like comedy gold. Tiernan decides that it's not his night and leaves the phrase, but even if he wasn't happy with his set, he had the room laughing.
Rich Hall is a Setlist veteran, and it shows. The acerbic American eases through the words fired at him, and even manages to invent a new JFK conpiracy. I can't quote from Hall's set, but memory goes overboard when you're in knots.
Hopping back in the Jimi Jalopy now, Galway city bound.
Keep smilin', keep shinin',