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‘When you are abroad you learn how magnificent the Irish psyche is’

Irish people are are quick, dark and silly, writes Ciaran Sammon, an Irish comedian working in Australia

When I departed for Australia, I hadn’t much interest in going. I really love Dublin.

Plus, I had lived in New York and tried to visit Dublin when I could, so moving so far away from both seemed a tad ludicrous to me.

My twin sister was in Australia and invited me for a year. I found myself, as so many of my cohort had, in unhappy and bored employment in the years following our undergraduate degrees and the economic implosion of 2008.

Years later, after finishing my master’s degree at Trinity College, I had interned in Leinster House with a lovely senator. I had worked on the marriage equality campaign. Then I worked on the senator’s general election campaign. In a hard-fought district, she had a narrow miss on the win.


I had worked in Brown Thomas for years selling diamonds and, while I had some fun and formative memories, going back there seemed like a fate worse than death. And so, with job prospects still on less than desirable ground, I decided that the sojourn to Oz would be worth a shot.

Five years later, still here in Australia and in a solid day job, I decided that it was time to be a comic.

People had been telling me that they found me amusing since I was a child. But being amusing with a vicious but well-placed retort in day-to-day life does not a comic make. Comics have to be relatable, command control of a room and take the crowd with you to different places and topics that aren’t always comfortable. And the competition is fierce. There are more comics than locusts roaming the streets out there.

To try bypass the nerves, I signed up for a comedy course that ended with a graduation showcase a few weeks later.

I needed this way into comedy. I was meant to do five minutes that night, but I did nearly 12 (only because it was a showcase – usually rooms are vicious with time limits).

The ability to have a full room of people who want to see what insanity you have to show them for an hour is an enticing challenge

Before I set foot on the stage there, I had completely blacked out, couldn’t feel my legs, couldn’t remember anything and had forgotten how to use the English language. Once I settled into it, I was like a racehorse and off I went.

After that night, I spent the following two years going all over Brisbane and its outskirts looking for spots at open mics. I have lost count of how many gigs I have done now.

It can be gruelling getting the spots and not all comedians are loving and kind to one another (it sometimes feels like a dogfight). That, along with all of the travel, and occasionally performing to rooms with three people in them after a long day at work is hellish. But if there is even one person there, you’re there to perform. Plus, hustling around different comedy venues is much easier with good weather all year round – I’ll say that.

Lots of comedians say you can learn something from every gig. I don’t find that to be true. The only thing I’ve learned from certain gigs is that I would have been happier at home in bed. But it’s all part of the process.

There are commonalities with Irish and Australian humour, but being abroad, if you weren’t already aware, you become acutely conscious of how sharp, quick, warm, cutting, dark, silly and all-out magnificent the Irish psyche is. That and the accent, and you’ve got the makings of a winning formula.

Earlier this year, I had decided that it was essential to do my first hour set. Quite a daunting task when I’ve only done much shorter sets over the two-year period. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Standing there looking for riotous laughter for an hour can be an uphill climb. Ultimately, though, it’s very rewarding. The ability to have a full room of people who want to see what insanity you have to show them for an hour is an enticing challenge. And you want nothing more than to deliver for them.

I owe Ireland for the great material I use on stage and occasionally owe Jameson for giving me the ability to get up there to perform.

I educated myself quite a bit to not be left on the street, so quitting the day job won’t be happening until Netflix comes knocking. But for now it’s not bad being “Broke and Alone in Brisbane”.

Until I can get home to Ireland over Christmas and see if my act passes the taste test!

  • Ciaran Sammon is from Ayrfield, Dublin 13. He left Ireland in 2016 and now lives in Brisbane and works for the Australian government. He will perform Broke & Alone at BackDock Arts, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, on Friday, December 1st
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