Funny Old World


The Bulmers Comedy Festival is the apply of Ireland’s eye, writes Zelda Cunningham


A cultural revival is brewing in Ireland. The increasing popularity and success of music, theatre and art festivals illustrate that the Irish are nudging their way onto the international stage.The Bulmers Comedy festival is a prime example of this, shining the spotlight on Dublin as a venue worthy of the attention.

Boasting such stars as Chris Rock, The Mighty Boosh and Jimmy Carr, the festival utilizes various venues throughout the capital’s city centre in a showcase of quality comedic escapades.

Otwo speaks with Keith Barry, Richard Hall, Dead Cat Bounce and Nob Nation about comedy, their acts and very explicit diversity in performances.

Keith Barry is of County Wicklow stock, but has earned world-wide fame with his unique blend of magic, comedy and hypnosis.

Barry cracked the difficult American market by infiltrating the celebrity night-club circuit, using “me Irish charm and me magic.”

Barry’s big break is worthy of a Hollywood movie in itself.

“I was in a club performing magic for Jack Osbourne, Paris Hilton, Eminem’s manager and Eve, the rapper, and they were freaking out!” the hypnomagician reminisces.

“An MTV executive comes over to me and asks if I want to do a show for Spring Break in Mexico. It was easy as that!”

Keith Barry has performed hypno-magic for Jessica Simpson and Matthew McConaghey, but actor Keanu Reeves was less than happy to delve into Barry’s bag of tricks.

After being asked to perform for the Matrix-star, Barry laughingly remembers an unusual reaction.
“He started shouting ‘I can’t see this! I can’t see this!’ and literally ran out of the place! I started roaring laughing! Apparently, he has some phobia of magic! ”

Barry’s stateside success continues to soar. He will play a residency in Las Vegas Planet Hollywood in late October.

Rich Hall is one of the few American stand-up comedians who have successfully made the often perilous jump across the Atlantic.

Under the guise of his “red-necked uncle”, Otis Lee Crenshaw, Hall performs his individual brand of comedy and rustic country-blues.

With tracks such as ‘Women Call it Stalking’, Hall tells Otwo that his alter-ego allows him to fulfil his musical ambitions.

“I love the whole country music scene, but I am not that talented a musician.” Through this narrative, Hall unleashes an element of his true-self.

“Otis is what would I would have turned into had I have stayed in Tennessee”.

Another of our home-grown favourites, Nob Nation, also exhibits in the Bulmers Comedy Festival.

Undulating through 2FM radio waves, Nob Nation has earned great affection amongst Irish listeners with a pessimistic outlook on the country’s political, sports and entertainment figures.

“[Keanu Reeves] started shouting ‘I can’t see this! I can’t see this!’ and literally ran out of the place! I started roaring laughing! Apparently, he has some phobia of magic!” – Keith Barry

The master-Nob if you will, Oliver Callan, leaps from the dark recesses of the radio-studio onto the stage for the first time during the comedy festival. The Bulmers Comedy festival strives to demonstrate different slices of the quintessential comedy-custard pie and Dead Cat Bounce’s rock and roll goon show fits in perfectly.

The Dead Cat Bounce troop began their theatrical careers in Trinity College’s drama course, but as Cat-Bouncer, Mick Cullinan says, “It’s more the experience that counts.”

The foursome’s ecceletic act, Radio Play, promises to be one of the more unusual acts in the Bulmers Comedy Festival. Over twenty-four-nights, audiences can expect everything from straight-forward slap-stick to lavish theatrics to cynical satire, with sporadic interludes to the surreal. So what can audiences expect from our acts?

“I was asked to do a fundraiser for Barack Obama, but I turned it down. I think there is something wrong if you are trying to educate an audience before making them laugh.” – Rich Hall

Rich Hall tells Otwo, “I have nothing in particular planned; I like to let it all happen organically.” However, Hall is quick to add that he’s “definitely not going to try to sell any of that Bulmers stuff!”

Keith Barry promises “malarkey”, in which 7he offers the opportunity for a member of the audience to win €10,000 of Barry’s own cash in “psychological warfare”.

Through mind-control, Barry ensures that he will have the money at the end of the night and audiences will be at the edge of their seats.

And for something completely different?

Mick Cullinan, one quarter of Dead Cat Bounce, plans to whip audiences into a frenzy with Radio Play, encompassing a quick-succession of fast-paced acts.

“It’s a sketch show done in the style of a 1950s radio recording. The sound effects and background music are done live by us on stage”.

Nob Nation’s translation to the stage also promises to be hectic.

Seventeen acts compose a scathing survey of the up-to-the minute Irish polictics.

“I like to keep it very topical. It is always changing because there is stuff happening in the world, and it’ll probably continue changing.” Callan tells Otwo.

Speaking of contemporaneous satire, will American comedian Rich Hall have anything to say about the all-consuming race for the White House?

“It is important for comedians to comment on important things that are going on, but I try not to be a political comedian.” Hall states.

“I was asked to do a fundraiser for Barrack Obama, but I turned it down. I think there is something wrong if you are trying to educate an audience before making them laugh.”

With high expectations and the undeniable risk of faltering live on stage, is there a slight sense of nervousness for our comedians?

Keith Barry admits that the stage allows no margin for error. The substitution of television for a stage is not an easy transfer.

Recounting his first live-stage performance, Barry remembers how he had difficulty waking a participating audience member up from a deep hypnosis.

“He had a bit to drink, and I couldn’t get him to snap out of it. The audience didn’t notice though!” Barry tells Otwo “I just left him to sleep it off on the stage. He woke up to an empty theatre- It was hilarious!”

Oliver Callan, from Nob Nation is also aware of the technical difficulty of the live stage, particularly when breaking through from radio.

So how will the Nobs cope? “The honest answer is, because I haven’t done the show yet, I don’t really know! Callan reveals.

“I’m approaching it completely differently to being on radio. On radio, I can be five people at once, but on stage, only one character can appear at once!”

To add to the theatrics, the source of Callan’s satire, former-Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, will be perched in a box in the Olympia, surveying the damage to his reputation.

An exciting range of comedians crack the boards of the Bulmers Comedy Festival. Which acts are the comedians looking out for?

While the epic Chris Rock is a popular choice, even performers Dead Cat Bounce cannot get tickets.
The Mighty Boosh are also insider favourites, however, Callan is slightly sceptical.

“I’ve seen a few clips on youtube just because it’s in the festival, it’s very weird stuff altogether. It’ll be quite interesting to see how they’re going to do that onstage”.

Instead, Callan will be enjoying the dead-pan comedy stylings of British Jimmy Carr.

However, revelling in the glow of the big stars is not the only purpose of The Bulmers Comedy Festival.
It also acts as a launch pad for those bidding to break big time.

Supporting the likes of Chris Rock is an accelade any comedian would strive to obtain.

The benefits of a such festival with such broad appeal will be seen as the careers and sucess of young comedians blossom and ripen.