Eoin Butler's Q&A
COLM O’REGAN, the comedian, talks about ‘the world’s most capable micromanager’ – the Irish mammy
I’ve heard you talk onstage about your home town of Dripsey. But I’m still not sure, is it a real or imaginary place?It’s real. It’s a lovely little village in the Lee Valley in Cork. We’re actually in the Guinness World Records for having the shortest St Patrick’s Day in the world!
Did everyone just get fed up marching? No. The parade went from one pub to the other. It was 25 yards. The following year it went in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, one of the pubs closed down so they had to stop doing it because, without an end point, the parade could theoretically have gone on to infinity.
Given the use of PowerPoint in your act, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that you were originally an IT consultant? Yes, I was an IT project manager and a management consultant for 10 years. I’d finish work an hour early, drive to a gig in Galway, get home at 3am and then be back in work at 7am to make up for the time I’d missed the day before. But it wasn’t fair to my employer or myself. In the end, I took the plunge and became a full time comedian.
Where did the concept for the Irish Mammies Twitter account come from?I originally needed it as an illustration for a slide-show joke. I set up the account and tweeted a few things that an Irish mammy might say. I think it was when I tweeted “Will you have it in a bowl or with a wafer?” that I began to realise how universal these things were.
Clearly, that was a referendum put to the nation’s children every Sunday after dinner. Far more people now follow my alter ego than have ever followed little old me.
The Irish Mammies account has racked up almost 40,000 followers, as well as spawning a book and a stage show. Why do you think the idea has connected with so many people?I think people like the familiar presented to them in a way that seems to pop out of nowhere. You know, on Twitter you’re following Al Jazeera, the BBC, the Dalai Lama and Dara O’Briain. Then suddenly someone pops up saying, “Can’t you bring the coat with you? If you’re too warm you can take it off.”
What would you say are the defining characteristics of the Irish mammy?She’s the world’s most capable micromanager. That’s true of all mammies. But the Irish mammy has an incredible ability to manage tiny aspects of their children’s lives long after they are old enough to look after themselves. Also, she lives in a country that is chronically affected by damp, so she has a mortal fear of clothes not being aired.
Where do you get the material?Well some of it is my own mother, obviously. Some of it is other people’s mothers. They might be different from each other in every other way, but there are still certain things that all Irish mothers say.
My favourite mammy-ism – and I’m not specifying who the mammy in question is – but every time I go home to visit her she gives me a solid 45-minute block of gossip. Then I’ll ask her if she’s heard a particular story about someone or other and she’ll sigh and say, “Ahh, but sure nobody tells me anything any more.” Haha, I think relationship between the mammy of the country child who has grown up and left home is arguably more interesting than that between a mother and an actual child.
I think you should hire Daniel O’Donnell as a consultant because you and I will only ever know a handful of Irish mammies. Daniel knows them all!Yes. To use a little IT consultant speak, perhaps I should reach out to Daniel? I don’t think he’s on Twitter unfortunately.
You also run a really hilarious comedy night at the Patriots Inn in Kilmainham. Yes, the Patriots Inn is a bit like the Rover’s Return. You know, there are hip young things sitting in one corner and a bunch of old codgers in the other. But I’ve had lots of comedians like Tommy Tiernan, Ardal O’Hanlan and David O’Doherty come in and perform as a favour to me. There’s no charge in. We pass around a collection hat and I think everyone has a good time.
Finally, on your website, you claim to have a PhD in comedy. If that were true, what would the subject of your doctrinal thesis be?Probably knowing when to get off the stage!
Colm O’Regan performs Ireland’s Got Mammies at the Clonmel Junction Festival on July 10th and the Vodafone Comedy Carnival in Dublin, July 29th