RTE in good comedy programme shock! After years of neglect and sub-standard farce, the national broadcasting channel finally produced something worthy in the very strong Paths of Freedom. Let's hope it's not a one-off and a corner of sorts has been turned. The other Irish comedy TV highlight of the year came in the shape of the Graham Linehan/Dylan Moranscripted Black Books on Channel 4 - a second series is to follow soon.

On the live circuit, the Apres Match team cleaned up most everywhere with their well-scripted and brilliantly performed routines. A major hit at the Cat Laughs Festival in Kilkenny, it's unfortunate that the nature of the material makes it difficult to translate to the international stage - or does it? Elsewhere, Dara O Briain consolidated his position as the biggest and best of the local mob - he's off to London to find out whether the streets really are paved with comedy gold. If anyone can push through to another level, it's surely him. Ardal O'Hanlon came back with some strong new material this year, Jason Byrne expanded his fan base, Ed Byrne turned himself into one of the biggest box-office comedy acts in Britain and Dylan Moran continued to supply the sort of quality material that has made him the best comic this country has produced.

E It was a lively Edinburgh, with Dubliner David O'Doherty getting himself a Perrier newcomer nomination (there's a lot more to come from him) and much joy to be had from honorary Irishman (at a push) Rich Hall winning the Perrier proper. The year closed with Tommy Tiernan unveiling his new show and demonstrating that he has made a major creative leap. One of the most beguiling of all the Irish comics, Tiernan has the courage to experiment and go down the odd cul-de-sac in search of something new and fresh.

There still remains a sizeable gap between the established names and the regulars on the local circuit, who just don't turn their material around fast enough. They could perhaps take their cue from the wonderful British comic Ross Noble, who'll be doing a three-week tour of Ireland in January. Listen and learn.


The proposal to move the Cat Laughs Festival from Kilkenny to a city (ouch!) such as Cork or Dublin. The festival is Kilkenny and Kilkenny is the festival.

Brian Boyd