Fr Dougal Maguire meets the pope: Irish comedians granted an audience with Francis

Ardal O’Hanlon, Tommy Tiernan and Patrick Kielty among group of comedians to have audience with Pope Francis

Irish comedians Tommy Tiernan, Ardal O'Hanlon and Patrick Kielty were among a group of over 100 international comics to meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

The gilded halls of the Vatican were filled with laughter on Friday morning as more than 100 comedians from around the world, including three from Ireland, gathered for an audience with Pope Francis.

Many of those present – stellar names such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Rock, Stephen Merchant and Conan O’Brien – may have been guilty of the sin of gently (and sometimes not so gently) mocking the Catholic Church in times past so there might have relief throughout the room when the Pope confirmed it’s not in fact blasphemous to laugh at God.

The divine being might even enjoy a bit of divine comedy himself, the Pope suggested.

Among those to meet him were three Irish comedians. Ardal O’Hanlon, who played the role of Fr Dougal Maguire, a priest with little understanding of religion or even a belief in God, was among them.


Alongside him was Tommy Tiernan – a man who started his career in the company of similarly absurd make-believe priests in the Kings Head in Galway more than 30 years ago. The Late Late Show host and veteran comic Patrick Kielty was also in attendance.

The meeting with “artists from the world of humour” was part of the Pope’s efforts to engage with contemporary culture, according to the Vatican.

“Instead of reading my speech, I’ll just do this,” Pope Francis began as he stuck his thumb in his ear and wiggled his fingers.

Then he read the speech in Italian, while the comedians from 15 countries, including Argentina, the US, East Timor and Ireland, smiled gamely.

In truth, there wasn’t much by way of humour in his words.

“Immersed as we are in many social and personal emergencies, you have the power to spread serenity and smiles,” the Pope told them. “You are among the few to have the ability to speak to very different people, from different generations, backgrounds and cultures.”

In advance of the Pope’s turn, Fallon, did a brief routine. Whoopi Goldberg – who had previously said she might offer him a role in Sister Act 3 – confirmed later she had bottled it.

“It wasn’t the right moment,” she told reporters. “I’ll probably send him an email.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor