Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Why are Irish comedians on the telly not very funny?

Despite my best intentions, I accidentally saw a bunch of Irish comedians on various TV shows over Christmas. It was as if RTE got a job-lot of them in return for a few boxes of broken biscuits and some stale …

Tue, Jan 5, 2010, 16:42

   

Despite my best intentions, I accidentally saw a bunch of Irish comedians on various TV shows over Christmas. It was as if RTE got a job-lot of them in return for a few boxes of broken biscuits and some stale mince pies. They were all out sporting their finery: Tommy Tiernan, Hector Ó hEochagáin, PJ Gallagher, Pat Shortt (he was on TV more times than The Angelus over the last few weeks), Maeve Higgins, Podge and Rodge. Even that terrible Dave McSavage show, The Savage Eye, which all the TV critics went inexplicably ga-ga over, got a few airings. Maybe RTE felt that this was a way of brainwashing the nation about the state of Irish comedy?

But what struck me about all of the above was just how unfunny they were as a viewing experience. You certainly wouldn’t think we were the self-proclaimed funniest nation on the planet from watching these shows. Whether it was Tiernan and Ó hEochagáin’s woeful chat-show Tommy and Hector’s Craic House (some of the humour here revolved around pointing out that Kerry footballer Paul Galvin was sporting skinny jeans) or the brace of Shortt star vehicles (obvious rough drafts which needed a hell of a lot of script doctoring), the shows were amateurish, hackneyed and terribly, terribly dull.

What’s clearly obvious is that comedians are getting the TV nod long before they’re actually ready for it. While it’s the accepted norm elsewhere for comics to have a go at TV, they usually have already made their bones as performers and have the assistance of a strong, experienced team of writers, editors and directors. It’s hard to believe that this is the case here when you watch a veteran funnyman like Shortt struggling to make Mattie and Inside the Crystal Ball work. In Shortt’s defence, as we have seen with Garage, he can act when he has top-notch material and direction.

Of course, there is also the sense that RTE are jumping on a rolling bandwagon. As they’ve seen over the last few years, Irish comics can draw the crowds when they’re in stand-up mode so the natural thing is to stick them in front of the cameras with some semblance of a show. This works both ways as Irish comedians who have had TV exposure know they can expect a bump in the turnout for their live shows afterwards which is why they spend so much time in the RTE canteen. But as the last few weeks have shown, there’s a huge difference between being a good stand-up comic and putting together a great TV show.

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