Four comedians walk into a bar. . .
THE SCENE:Midway through the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, four comics who have never met before, each with widely differing styles and at different stages in their career, gather around a table. On the conversational menu: festival life, critics, YouTube, panel shows, families and why well-adjusted people don’t belong in their world. BRIAN BOYDlistens in
Moshe:I mean, come on, as if what someone says in the San Francisco Chronicleabout my act has any connection to my career. I get accused of talking too fast and – gasp! – talking over laughs. That’s my style. Deal with it.
Kevin:You take it personally, of course you do. It’s not like they’re criticising your acting or musical abilities, they’re criticising you and your life – because that’s what your act is. Willie: I had one on Chortle (the online Comedy Bible). It was ok. Well, no, it wasn’t brilliant to be honest. But you can’t go: “Well the room wasn’t great or the MC wasn’t great the night you were in and by the way, the next night I was on fire.” You just have to accept it and move on.
Gearoid: I can’t Google myself, I just can’t do it. It’s not like you’re a play and you’re a finished product. It’s your life that’s they’re talking point. And all those “the next Graham Norton” references don’t really help.
YouTube and the comments posted below videos of them performing
Moshe: I’ve loads up there. I find it really strange how, when first envisaged, the internet would be this great forum for scientists and the intelligentsia but it’s turned out to be a place for the hopeless dregs of society to write comments about things they know nothing about. Writing comments under YouTube videos has given these people a reason to never, ever leave their apartment.
Kevin:I’ve a video up there – it’s a routine I do about crisps, as in a packet of crisps. If you read the comments below it it’s all about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I mean, what the fuck is going on? It’s a silly routine about crisps and they’re arguing about the Middle East below it!
Gearoid: There’s one of me up there and it’s a thing I do about growing up gay in Finglas. It’s something I used to do at the very end of my act. None of the other material is gay-related as such. Some shows I’ve done, I’ve never even mentioned sexuality.
Other times, if I’m on a bill, I’ll introduce myself as “Gearoid – or ‘the gay one’, as you’ll be referring to me when you’re on your way home.” But then, I don’t even like being labelled a “comedian”. I never even volunteer the information to anyone that I’m a comic.
Willie:I’ve stuff up there. It’s different for me because I don’t go through a manager or an agent. Either I’m asked to do a gig or I’m doing the asking. I can point people to YouTube or give them a 40 minute DVD of me performing live.
Kevin: Doing a festival, it reminds you of just how much overlap there is in subject matter. It always reminds me of that village called Muff and they have a diving school there. Every comic who finds that out thinks they’re the first one with it . . .
Gearoid:Other people’s material is something you’ve got to be very careful about. When I was younger I played football in the Home Farm Mini League in Dublin for a good few years. I have this material about being a “camp footballer”, about being the “shy, sensitive” one in this competitive sporting environment. Then I was watching Alan Carr’s DVD and he started to talk about playing football when he was younger and my heart just sank. Even though the content of what we say is different it’s still the same theme – the camp guy playing football.
Moshe:I’m writing a book at the moment. It’s about my family. I had to go to my mother and tell her what I was going to be saying. That was . . . interesting.
Willie:I come from a dysfunctional family. I don’t blame my upbringing on me later becoming an addict. I became an addict because of peer pressure. Either way though, addiction is addiction. I know plenty of people from a dysfunctional family who turned out fine. As for using my family experience as material, there’s a thin line between comedy and stupidity. You have to be prudent about it. I’ll speak to them beforehand and get the ok first.
Kevin:There’s your real family and then there’s your comedy family. You can talk about your comedy family.
Gearoid:If I do a show and my family haven’t heard I’m doing it, they’ll automatically think: “He didn’t tell us because he’s talking about us on stage.”
TV comedy panel shows
Kevin:It’s changed everything. A few good appearances and you go from small rooms to big theatres. Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, there’s so many of them now.
Willie: It’s different over here. Irish TV won’t do an awful lot for you. There’s The Panel– which I’ve yet to be asked on. The British panel show circuit is entirely different. There’s so much more money put into them, so many more millions watching them. TV exposure will only really help long-term if you’re a really good comic to begin with – look at Des Bishop. Put a great comic on TV and watch him soar.
Gearoid: I haven’t done The Panel. I don’t think I’d be any good on it. I’m not a topical comedian at all. Something about Michael Jackson is about as far as I’ll go with news events in my set. Everything I do seems to revert to being about “How I Feel About Something” – which isn’t really what they’re looking for.
Moshe:I’ve done loads in the US. It’s fractured now. Years ago, it was just The Johnny Carson Showall comics built up their career to. Now there’s Leno, Letterman, Jimmy Kimmell. You do a big chat show in the US and you get extra people at your shows, but nothing like what I’m hearing about the British panel show experience.
Willie: Doing the Edinburgh festival is like taking €10,000 [the average minimum charge of putting on a one-month run] and flushing it down the toilet. I’ve done it a few times but never the full month. Unless you get a four-star review on your opening night, you’re finished.
Moshe: It means nothing in America. You hear about it as a place which crushes you financially, emotionally and spiritually. I’ll go when I have a producer and backing, but not before.
Kevin: I’ve just been playing football, should I change out of these shorts before the photographer arrives? (Note: Kevin Bridges was one of the biggest box-office earners at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – selling out every single seat of his month-long run) Gearoid: I’ve already done my Edinburgh preview shows for this year’s festival. I did those back in November in Dublin. Since then, though, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve a full-time job and a mortgage. I don’t need to take a €10,000 hit. It’s heartbreaking.
Why they do it
Moshe:Healing . . . revenge . . .
Gearoid:A cliche, I know, but I was bullied at school. Is this my psychological remedy? You do find that handsome, good-looking, well-adjusted people don’t make good comedians.
Willie:So others may learn.
Kevin:I love it!
Worst thing about being a comedian
Willie: When people ask you what you do and you say you’re a comic and they say: “Tell us a joke, then.” I ask them what they do. If the person says “I’m a bricklayer”, I say “Build us a wall then”.
Moshe: People telling you a really bad joke and saying: “You can use that.”
Best thing about being a comedian
Gearoid: There’s no best thing. I think, for us, it’s just a case of there’s no not doing it.
Kevin Bridges plays the Olympia theatre, Dublin on October 2. Gearoid Farrelly performs at Dublin’s Carlsberg Comedy Carnival, July 22-25. For more on Moshe Kasher, see moshekasher.com. Willie White plays at the International Bar, Wicklow St, Dublin until Saturday
1 Moshe Kasher
Biggest and brightest new US comic of his generation. Voted Best New Comic by iTunes this year. Based in Los Angeles. When getting his hair cut, he asks the barber to make him look like “a gay Hitler”. Cutting-edge indie comic.
2 Gearoid Farrelly
Says “it was harder coming out as a stand-up comedian than it was coming out as a gay man”.
Came late to stand-up but within a few months won an Irish Bulmers Comedy Search Competition and was a finalist at the Edinburgh festival “So You Think You’re Funny” competition. Intelligent, reflective comedy.
3 Kevin Bridges
Still only 23, but in the last few months has gone from playing to 100 people to 10,000 people. Stand-up’s next big star. Was on Jonathan Ross’s TV show two weeks (a very big deal for a stand-up).
A totally natural, instinctive comic. Has the cross-over appeal of a Peter Kay.
4 Willie White
An independent comic. Was “discovered” during Des Bishop’s RTÉ TV show, Joy In The Hood. Specialises in high-class observational comedy routines. Has an engaging autobiographical style.