Death of satire just when we needed it? Now that's funny

 

OPINION:Our top Irish comedians were the fat comedy kittens suckling noisily on the Celtic Tiger

WHITHER IRISH comedy and its flagship festival, the Kilkenny Cat Laughs? I keep asking the top Irish telly comedians a deadly Irish question: “Who told ya you were funny?” And why have the big sponsors, such as Murphys, Carlsberg and Smithwicks, abandoned the Ship of Fools? Does recession mean a comedy boom? Not in Éire Free Sud.

On RTÉ you can have the good but overdue Savage Eye, or PJ Gallagher’s ugly, laugh-free Meet Your Neighbours. Hmmm, where is Dave McSavage playing this weekend? Clearly a rule of comedy thumb is: if you’re not invited to perform by the Star Chamber of the Cat Laughs, then you’re a dangerous, edgy Irish comedian.

Joe Rooney, now he’s in and strangely rewarded for his gobshite routine on Cavemyskullin. So how come the festival doesn’t invite an even more mainstream success, such as Brendan O’Carroll? Because Kilkenny is snooty, edgy and topped with great Irish razor wags like, er, Eric Lalor and Gearóid Farrelly?

On BBC Radio 4, Barry Murphy, Big Cat, was recently quizzed by satirist Rory Bremner about modern Irish satire. Murphy was painfully quiet. He diddn’t even offer a fill-in mention of Swift, the Restoration writers, Wilde, Shaw and Joyce? Murphy, the self-styled “Godfather” of Irish comedy, began to witter on about a corporate gig he did for toff merchant bankers in Galway which, er, hadn’t gone too well.

So Barry Murphy’s idea of great satire is doing a very well-paid gig for sozzled merchant bankers and mildly disappointing them? Hard core.

Vain, pushy Des Bishop condemns our terrible Irish faults (curiously all from the 1980s?) with his blaring New Yoike traffic cop accent. Des is not, however, doing Letterman much. Bishop also doesn’t hack it on the UK circuit, having no leverage with the Brits because they sure won’t take second-hand Paddy hokum from a subprime Yank comedian. Call the pope. Ask why we have to defer to another hectoring Bishop.

Bishop is a headliner at Kilkenny.

And the macho posturing motif for the Cat Laughs was cemented by one Eddie Bannon, the former, grandly titled, “artistic director” of the festival. I remember one of Eddie Bannon’s classic “gags”. It went, “Hah, Ladies’ Gaelic Football, wha?! I think they should call it the GEE instead of the GAA!”

Let me see, how many women are on the bill at Kilkenny . . . ?

Irish comedy works exactly like Fianna Fáil. It just hasn’t been chased, hung up and gutted. Yet. So why aren’t our top Irish comedians more satirical, edgy about Ireland, the Celtic Tiger and all that?

For starters they were the fat comedy kittens suckling noisily on the Celtic Tiger’s withered old teats. Still suckling on the fetid corpse.

All unregulated and unchallenged by De Meejia, State or We The People.

Sound familiar? Nothing to say about day-to-day Ireland, because they are not of it.

Surfing the greedy wave, they are well in with the bankers, the advertisers, the sponsors and the media whores, when they should be lining up those very turkeys in their gun sights.

Spotlight the money trail and you find that many of our public, pouting, posturing comedians did fantastically well out of boom-crazed Ireland, but they get moany and sob in green rooms on free booze, that they are true artists, with de integrity, like.

Knights in shiny Armani more like.

Who would I like to see at Kilkenny this year? Michael Mee, Alan Davies, Carol Tobin, Sarah Silverman, Maeve Higgins, Brendan Dempsey, John Lynn, Ian Cognito – but they won’t be there! Mark Doherty, Gerry Kennedy, Sean Kavanagh and Conor Lambert, except they don’t do comedy any more.

I won’t be going to see Adam Hills. He’s like a mild-mannered but slightly sinister failed Aussie kids’ entertainer. Obviously he has been sacked by Hi “Blaady” Five and has taken on stand-up as his community service?

Who will I see? David O’Doherty and Alex Horne (or any combo of these two). Comedy gold written on fine quality, mad music sheets.

Jack Dee. Bedraggled, grim visaged sad Saxon, back on the Pilgrim Roads. Studied to be an Anglican priest, the crazy bastard. Shappi Khorsandi because she is a right Royal Jubilee Persian cat.

Tiny, tiny, brilliant, baldy Ian Coppinger. His Tipperary caves routine is to die for.

Simon Amstell. Funny and very scary.

So what have we learned about the Cat Laughs and Irish comedy? Mostly that they just don’t get satire. As for keeping a Brendan O’Carroll out and letting a Jason Byrne in? Now that’s funny.


Alex Lyons is a founder member and promoter of the Continuity Comedy Cellar, established in 1990

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