Seven million hits on YouTube sends Irish-born funnyman into the big time

John Purcell grew up in Ireland and lives in New York

Thanks to a YouTube video that has gone viral in the US, John Purcell could well be on his way to becoming the most famous Irish comedian you've never heard of.

Based in Queens, New York, the writer, actor and improviser has been working to make a name for himself on the local comedy scene. Now a single sketch he wrote about Starbucks has catapulted him into the big time.

The premise: When a Starbucks barista writes your name wrong on your coffee cup, it’s not because they can’t spell or weren’t listening. It’s because they’re doing it on purpose – to mess with your head.

The sketch was used by fellow comedian Paul Gale as the script for a video that was uploaded to YouTube last week. So far the sketch has been viewed more than seven million times.


Purcell (30), from Co Meath, got involved in comedy while studying psychology in New York.

“I’ve been a comedy fan for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t feel like I had an outlet for it in Ireland,” he says. “When I moved to New York, I signed up for an improv class at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. I became obsessed with it pretty quickly.”

Purcell was later cast in one of UCB's improv teams, a highly coveted position considering that UCB comedians have gone on to star in The Office and Saturday Night Live. Now he performs regularly at UCB, has featured on US website Funny or Die, and writes for The Onion.

Purcell is also part of the improv group Greasy Lake, which will perform in Dublin in November for Improv Fest Ireland.

Despite such successes, could Purcell have anticipated the Starbucks sketch would become so popular?

“There’s so much stuff on the internet that you can’t predict what will catch fire,” he says.

“I honestly can’t process how many people have watched it. It’s more people than live in Ireland.”

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If the Starbucks video is anything to go by, the name John Purcell could be one to look out for.