Category Archives: Ireland

Lynn Ruth Miller in Dublin – on Irish comedy, Ryanair & middle-aged women

Lynn Ruth – Where will she turn up next?

Lynn Ruth Miller, itinerant American comic based in London, has blogged here about her gigging jaunts to exotic locations in the last few months. She spent last week gigging in Dublin. She writes…


I have been headlining at Anseo, this lovely small room on Camden Street, for at least four years. It is run by a prince of a man named Jonathan Hughes who has built the club up from nothing into a comedy staple on the Dublin scene.  

I did a 40-minute set for him and discovered that the Irish are still squeamish about some of the landmark decisions that have come down from their higher courts.  

I made a reference to the woman whose rapist was not convicted because she was wearing a lace thong. Either they didn’t get it or didn’t want to.  

But they did love the one about all the pipes leaking in Dublin’s ancient buildings. They also got the one about how my generation killed their roaches and now their young people smoke them.  

Thursday night was my first night at The International Comedy Club: the reason I return every six months to do comedy in Dublin. It is run by Aidan Bishop.

All comedians complain about the glass walls we need to break: the unsaid prejudice toward women, minorities, disabilities and age.  

Aidan gives everyone an opportunity at his club and, not only that, he always pays his comedians fairly. To make the experience even nicer, there is always a good audience at The International. That means everything to a performer. It is a lot easier to tell your jokes to 100 people than it is to 20, no matter how badly those 20 want to laugh.

Friday night was my big night. I was booked in three comedy clubs.

I left the International (it was packed with standing room only) to get to Anseo’s new Friday night where twenty people were waiting for me (the headliner) and then off to Comedy Gold, Emily O’Callaghan’s’ new room, where there were a dozen people remaining to see me, the late night headliner.  

The interesting thing about all these rooms is that I arrived ten minutes late to every one of them and I still had plenty of time to unwind before I went on stage. Evidently, Irish time is like Jewish time… very flexible. This rarely happens in London. You almost always go on very close to the time you are scheduled. The English pay attention to time.

The Irish comedy scene is growing and very solid yet everyone I talk to there wants to come to London where they think the action is. I certainly felt that way in San Francisco… but now that I am back home IN London I wonder whether wherever you are doing whatever you do, you always think the market is more open somewhere else.

One of the things that makes my Dublin trips so marvellous is that I stay with this magic family that reminds me of an episode of Leave it to Beaver: a happily married couple with three amazing sons and a tight, loving family unit with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents all intricately woven into their lives.  

When I am there, I am treated like another granny: fed, pampered and transported to my gigs.

This is an immense novelty for me as I have lived a very long time and usually make all my arrangements, get myself to wherever I am going and make sure I am properly fed.  

For these short periods in Dublin, I get all the rewards of being a grandparent in a large functional family without having done any of the groundwork.  

I never fool myself however.  

If I had had my own family, my children would have been so over-indulged, they would have become psychopaths and serial killers.

Judging by the caliber of the men I fall in love with, my husband would  have been a conscienceless misogynist with a whip and a gun in the closet to keep me in line and I would have spent my days scrubbing toilets and ironing shirts, never dreaming I could live a life without a dust mop and a sponge.

On Saturday night in Dublin, there are two shows at The International and both are always filled. This time there were two new comedians. One was Robbie Bonham, who is in his forties and has that wry Irish wit that always amazes me.  

I am convinced that a great deal of comedic ability cannot be learned.  

It was Bonham’s very Irish-ness that made his jokes even funnier.  

I know that being Jewish has always given me an edge – and black comedians usually have a dimension to their delivery that adds to every joke they tell.

As our world becomes more diverse and television and the internet reduce our differences, I suspect this will not always be so. The more we assimilate, the more we lose those special ethnic characteristics that add flavor to our jokes and our conversation.  

Much as I applaud universal acceptance of everyone everywhere, I think this loss of ethnic identity is a loss for us all in so many ways. I know we are all alike essentially, but there are attitudes and mannerisms that are handed down generation to generation that I hate to see homogenized.

This intense week in Dublin convinced me that I love the performing life. It does not tire me. Instead, each show I do inspires me to go further and do better.  

Is that what being professional is all about?  

Or is it the stuff of a nervous breakdown?

Sunday was my last performance at The International and it was wonderful.  

Sunday night is normally a slow night but this night it was very crowded.  

I was in the first section and David McSavage was the headliner because he is on TV and is very famous in Dublin. The interesting thing about this night was how diverse the audience was. We had a huge segment from France, so English was their second language… and a girl from Lithuania who had no idea what was going on. But we all managed to hit a responsive chord and the evening was a success despite the immense cultural diversity of the audience.

The Irish have a way of taking you into their hearts and the family I stay with make me feel very loved and important. However, I was brought back to reality sharply when I approached Ryanair on the flight back. Rules are rules and, by God, you are going to pay if you don’t follow them.

I saw a man who could barely speak English (and obviously did not understand the regulations), gulp down a huge bottle of tea as fast as he could. The poor fellow gurgled as he sloshed through the line and I couldn’t help thinking: How on earth would that container of tea with all the tea bags in it have endangered anyone but the poor guy who had to drink it so he wouldn’t have to pitch the container?

I have seen the personnel at Ryanair pat down a tiny baby and all I can say is I hope the kid had a giant poop as the inspector checked out his diaper.

The other interesting thing about this trip was the number of single women in their late forties and fifties who are feeling unfulfilled. They are at that “Is this all there is?” stage of their lives. 

Do men get that feeling? Or do they just put another porn film on the computer and wank off?

These women I met in Dublin were all earning good livings, but still feel they want more than coming home to an empty house with perhaps a dog or a cat to greet them.  

There is no way I can explain to them that these are normal clouds before the rainbow splashes gorgeous color on a grey sky. It is very much like what Winston Churchill said: “When you are in hell, keep going.”  

Middle aged femininity is not hell at all, but it often feels very bland.

For some reason, none of us realize that the best is yet to come.

But it is.

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Comic Lynn Ruth’s Irish adventure, from passport control to birth control

Just over a week ago, Lynn Ruth Miller, the 84-year-old currently-globetrotting stand-up comic, blogged here about her trip to Prague. She is off to Berlin on Monday and has just returned from Dublin. Here she goes again…


Young chicken about to go out on the town…

So. I was in Dublin again. My trip ended in a blast of sunshine and alcohol. If my liver survives all this travel, I just might live to see 85.

My Irish adventure always begins with passport control. The last time I arrived in Dublin, the officer in charge looked at my passport and said, “You don’t LOOK 84,” and I said, “I would if I took off my clothes.”

The man who admitted me this time said he agreed with that officer and there was a spring to what is left of my step as I waltzed through that green door with nothing to declare except that I was a young chicken about to go out on Dublin town.

When I am in Dublin, I stay with an amazing family filled with geniuses who are actually fun. So it is that when I am there I get an education in how to cope with cyberspace.

Zak is the eldest of their three amazing boys, each of whom are going to remodel the world and bring peace and happiness to all of us on earth.

After two days with them, I had already learned how to create my own video blogs and set up a conversation on Reddit where I answered 36 questions and had 5.7k views and an 81 point rating just because I said nothing shocks me anymore. I did not add that this is because I don’t hear anything.

The matriarch of this gorgeous family is Lisa, a woman who really is not shocked by anything. That is her secret to bringing up three boisterous boys with amazingly perceptive and active minds and training a husband who is such an angel that he has to wear a larger suit jacket to hide his wings.

“Luca is now as tall as my first husband and far fonder of my crotch”

Lisa picked me up at the airport and I hurried to her home to change clothes and look glamorous. This is called comforting self-deception. I nurture it by never looking in a mirror. As soon as I entered the house, I was accosted by the family’s new puppy, Luca, who is now as tall as my first husband and far fonder of my crotch.

Three of the family – Lisa, Zak and Ken (the angel, remember?) – came to the show at Anseo, the wonderful comedy club where I headline each time I come into town.

The delightful thing about this show was that Jim Elliott from Washington DC had ASKED to host so he could see me again.

I made the audience laugh for about 45 minutes, which is an accomplishment in Dublin’s fair city because usually, after about 5 minutes, the audience is so drunk they are asleep or singing loudly in an off-colour manner. A dog loved the show and I got three barks and a tail wag from her.

On Thursday I began my run at The International, THE comedy place in Dublin for the past 16 years.

The interesting thing about this particular Thursday night audience was that there were only two couples from Dublin. Everyone else was from somewhere else and there was a preponderance of Americans: four from Lake Tahoe in California, three from Dallas, plus a group from Sweden and another couple from Vancouver.

That makes the comedy I do more challenging because I could not use either my Dublin or my London references because no-one would know what I was talking about. The funniest gaff was when headliner Damo Clark talked about putting a dummy in a baby’s mouth and the Americans thought he was stuffing in a stupid person into its mouth instead of a pacifier. God only knows what the Swedes thought.

I have also now learned how the Irish say goodbye. Evidently they do not. They just walk out as unobtrusively as they can. Very different from the Jews who stay at least an hour after they say good-bye explaining why they are leaving. (Lynn Ruth is Jewish.)

Lynn Ruth Miller sought romance on TV’s First Date series

Walking down George Street on the way to The International a woman stopped me and said, ”I KNOW you! First Date! – The nicest thing about dating at my age is that you don’t have to meet their parents.

I was in the Irish papers for appearing in that TV show.

My final night in Dublin was spent at The Comedy Crunch where we get free ice cream at the interval and by this time the weather was so warm that they probably got the last ice cream bars left in Ireland for the show.

The big issue that everyone was joking about and happy about was the Irish Abortion Referendum. Its passing did more than simply make it easier for women to terminate a pregnancy. It gave women renewed status.

All over Dublin, women’s comedy shows are springing up. Emily O’Callaghan has one series at The Meltdown Café that has an all-woman line-up and she said she got a lot of grief about that. Irish women are very, very funny. I heard several this trip and every one of them was top notch. For way too many years women have been totally left out of comedy line-ups. Perhaps now our time has come?

Next week, I will be performing in Berlin. I am hoping NOT to run into any swastikas or Jeremy Corbyn fans.

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A serious song about being a comedian

Ursula Burns in Belfast this afternoon

Ursula Burns at home  in Belfast this afternoon

Ursula Burns – 2013 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee and dangerous Irish harpist – has just posted online the video for a new song – about being a comedian. So, obviously, I Skyped her about it this afternoon at her home in Belfast.

“It really is a serious song about comedy!” I said.

“Yes,” she laughed, “It is, isn’t it? The whole new album is serious. It’s not comedy.”

“What’s the album called?” I asked.

The Dangerous Harpist.”

“Of course it is,” I said.

Ursula’s upcoming Dangerous Harpist album

The upcoming Dangerous Harpist album – released in May

“It’s a collection of songs,” she explained, “that got sort of swept aside when I was on the comedy circuit for three or four years. There was a backlog of songs written along the way. I wasn’t just writing comedy stuff in that time. Some of the songs were written when I was on the road with the circus; some are more theatre-based, about when I was writing for theatre. I wrote a musical: we did 41 performances. So the album has theatrical, circus, comedy elements in the songs… and there is actually one happy one!”

“What’s it about?” I asked.

“It’s about crying in the toilet,” she laughed. “But it’s a very happy song. The songs are all slightly different flavours – snapshots… I suppose it’s like taking a picture wherever you are. Lots of songs had built up. It’s five years since I made an album and the last one was so different.”

“How?”

Ursula in a previous creative incarnation

Ursula in a previous creative incarnation

“It was really kinda Celtic and there was an esoteric aspect to it. It was inspired by a book of poetry I found in London by a poet called Fiona McLeod, who was actually a Scots guy called William Sharp, who was actually a mate of W.B.Yeats. The poetry was very spiritual, very nature-based. It was almost like John O’Donohue in his book Anam Cara. It was very Irish, very Celtic, very poetry, very musical, intensely musical.

“It was just before I wrote the Comedian song – There was that kinda crash of the dark side, going to somewhere. It was like I went from the light to the dark.”

“The light was the Celtic,” I asked, “and the comedy was the dark?”

“Sort of. Within myself. I think the thing about being funny… I think you have to tell the truth and, for me, it felt like a darker aspect – engaging with something dark.”

“You mentioned writing for theatre,” I prompted.

Little Red Riding Hood,” Ursula told me, “for the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. I composed the music. I wrote the wolf’s songs in the style of Tom Waits and Little Red in the style of Kate Bush and Björk.”

“And your album is called The Dangerous Harpist.”

“Yes.”

Ursula, on stilts, plays her harp in Belfast

Not dangerous? Ursula, on stilts, plays her harp in Belfast

“Are you dangerous?”

“No,” she laughed.

“The Comedian track,” I pointed out, “says you are ‘dangerous on the inside’.”

“Well,” Ursula replied, “you know the stereotype of comedians being depressed? It’s this on-the-edge feeling. I’ve been operating as a self-employed artist for 20 years and it’s about how that kind of really takes its toll on you. The aspect of smiling on the outside – making people laugh – but, behind it all, on the inside, there’s an intensity or a dangerous on-the-edge aspect to how you are living and how you are feeling.”

“When is the album being released?” I asked.

“On May the 4th – Star Wars Day.”

There is a video for the Comedian track on YouTube.

and here she is as a harpist.

 

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Edinburgh Freestival organiser faced 2 murder attempts and got neck broken

Al Cowie drinks his own Laughing Juice brerw

Al Cowie – a man who has several stories to tell

The venue chaos at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe got even more complicated yesterday when venue organisers Freestival announced they had a new venue which will host up to 40 free shows on four stages every day. I had hinted about this venue in a blog earlier this month, which also mentioned another rumour which has not yet happened and one particular jaw-dropping fact which may eventually emerge, I suspect, next year.

“So I hear Freestival have a new venue,” were my opening words when I talked to Al Cowie. He was involved in organising the original Freestival last year but this year (entirely amicably) he is not involved with Freestival.

“Mmmmm….” said Al. And that was that subject over with.

Al last appeared in this blog last month when he was organising a laugh-in in a brewery. And, in February 2014, I blogged about his ancestor Horace Cole who was a massive practical joker.

“So,” I said when we met this time, “titter-making runs in your blood?”

“I do quite like a practical joke,” Al agreed, “Horace’s idea of a practical joke was a friend of his waking up with a carving knife embedded in his pillow. OK, that might seem a little bit mean, but I can see the funny side of it.”

“What’s a good example of a practical joke?” I asked.

“I was,” replied Al, “growing chilli plants in my house and so, one evening, we decided to squeeze the chilli onto one of the flatmate’s toothbrushes, which I thought was very funny, though he didn’t think it was so funny the following morning when he brushed his teeth.”

“Schadenfreude?” I suggested. “Did he get his own back on you?”

“He squeezed chilli onto my toothbrush. But I knew he was likely to do it, so I checked. And he was driving to Newcastle the following day and when he put his contact lenses in… Oh yes! With chilli! Really strong chilli!

“Is that not dangerous?” I asked.

“Well,” Al said, possibly avoiding an answer, “there’s the tequila suicide where you snort a lemon and put tabasco in your eye.”

“And you die?” I asked.

“Oh no, it’s just a horrible way to drink tequila.”

“It surely can’t be good for your eyes,” I suggested.

“I don’t think it is. It is too dangerous to do practical jokes now: you would get arrested. We’ve become too serious. I really do enjoy popping brown paper bags behind people. I have a 120 decibel air horn on my bicycle.”

“You have aristocracy in your blood, don’t you?” I asked.

“A little bit.”

“That means a lot?”

“Not at all. I come from a military family. Winston Churchill’s 2IC was a guy called Alanbrooke and he was my great-grand-uncle.”

“What’s a 2IC?”

“Second in Command. He oversaw the retreat from Dunkirk and was generally credited with saving 300,000 there. And the Germans reckoned if they had had Alanbrooke to advise Hitler, they would have won.”

“Difficult for anyone to advise Hitler,” I suggested.

“True enough, but I think Churchill was equally difficult. He needed someone like Alanbrooke to temper his worst tendencies… and keep up with his drinking… I grew up very much in the countryside in Gloucestershire and Northern Ireland.”

“Your family were…” I prompted.

“We were sent over after the (Irish) Clearances. We were sent over to land that had already been cleared, rather than…”

“Where was this?”

“Donegal and Fermanagh.”

“There’s no reason I can’t print this, is there?”

“No. One of my cousins was Roger Casement, who was hanged by the British government. So I have family on both sides.”

“Cousin?” I asked. “Not a direct cousin.”

“Well, in Ireland, if you’re related, then you’re cousins. I was reading the history of Ulster recently and it’s quite clear that most people changed sides many many times. But I don’t really know my history. My great-grandfather was Prime Minister.”

“What was his name?”

“Brookeborough.”

Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough was third Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. 1943-1963.

“So,” I said. “Military family. Why weren’t you in the military?”

“I was in the Territorial Army for ten years. I joined in 2000 and the general feeling then was that there was going to be no more war. I joined the TA as a fun thing: keep me fit and a nice group of guys. And then 9/11 happened and suddenly everything gets a little bit serious.”

“When did you leave?”

“2011. I stopped really going after I broke my neck.”

“When was that?”

“Six months before I got into comedy, about seven years ago. I was riding one of the Household Cavalry horses out in Hyde Park first thing in the morning while I was working with the City of London Police and, of course, the Commissioner of the City of London Police would sometimes ride out with me…”

“Of course,” I said.

“…and he would then give me a lift into work. So I was galloping down Rotten Row and the horse tripped up and pitched into the ground on its head and so did I and I got compression fracture in my spine and, yeah, it was really annoying.

“I got an X-ray where it didn’t show up. I was in so much pain. It was like someone taking a sledgehammer and smacking it into my back every time I took a breath or took a step. I went to my GP, who was called Dr Savage, and she said: Well, you don’t know pain. You’ve never been through childbirth.

“She didn’t want me to have a second opinion, but I went and saw a neurologist and he said: Don’t do anything. You’re going straight in to have a CT and MRI scan. By that stage, I had already been on a military unarmed combat course for a week. Someone had grabbed my arm in that and I had lost feeling in my legs. I also rode a green horse who threw me off…”

“A green horse?” I asked.

“A very young horse. Then I went and saw a chiropractor who successfully cracked my back because I just couldn’t breath. Then I went to the South of Ireland and bonnet-surfed on a speedboat in a storm on a lake in Galway. That would not be sensible even if I hadn’t broken my neck. I do consider myself very lucky.”

“I think you should reconsider the facts,” I said.

“Someone has tried to murder me a few times.”

“You mean different people have tried?” I asked.

“Yes. Different people. Someone tried to stab me in the head because he thought I was posh and should therefore die.”

“In Ireland?”

“On Battersea Bridge in London. He heard my accent and tried to stab me in the head with a Stanley knife but missed. He swung at me seven times, but I kicked him onto the ground.

“Someone tried to murder me in Argentina. I was hitch-hiking in the desert and this guy gave a lift to me, my friend and a random Argentine bloke. Then we set up camp in the desert and the Argentine bloke came up to us and said: Look, I think you guys should probably get out of here, because the other guy has just suggested to me that we murder you and take your kit. So we left that situation.”

“Has your neck mended?” I asked.

“I have an ache, but it’s nothing important. I don’t believe in pain. I think it’s your body complaining. Pain is not real. the damage is real, but the pain is not real.”

I must have looked bemused.

“Does that not make sense?” Al asked.

“Not remotely,” I said.

“Pain is not real,” Al repeated. I was not convinced.

“Isn’t it,” I asked, “something like electricity travelling down your nerves?”

“Exactly,” said Al. “The pain is just a signal. I once tried to take the blade off a circular saw. I put a spanner onto the central lug and pulled the trigger. The spanner flew out the window and the circular saw went straight through the side of my palm; I’ve still got the scar. I am so lucky; really very lucky. It’s enough to make you believe…

“…that God hates you?” I suggested.

“No,” said Al, “believe in multiple universes: that there are many other universes in which I’ve died.”

“Apart from running comedy gigs in breweries,” I said, “what are your plans?”

“Well, I do a drivetime radio show on Wandsworth Radio, 7.00-9.00 in the morning on Fridays. It’s only online – great for people who live in Hong Kong. And I’m setting up three technology businesses at the moment, which I can’t really talk about. And I’m moving more into clowning now. Clowning and cabaret and burlesque. I really enjoy doing different things. I had an awful lot more fun when I first started doing comedy. I once ate a girl’s sock on stage. Now I am enjoying myself again and having fun.”

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Comedy genes in one Irish family?

Kate Talbot with her 2014 Cunning Stunt Award

Kate Talbot with 2014 Cunning Stunt Award

A month ago, I blogged about Irish comic Christian Talbot and his now 13-year-old daughter Kate who jointly won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award last year and who are both performing at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Christian is currently doing previews.

“How’s your daughter?” I asked him.

“She’s now booked in for I think it’s two – might be three – dates for Comedy4Kids and Bob Slayer sent me a message:

Hey! The good show you talked about on Fleming’s blog – Let’s do it on the bus! We have Grace the child (11) and Robin (3) who are both performing on the bus.

Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus

Bob Slayer BlundaBus currently in Croydon; soon Edinburgh

Bob Slayer has a double decker bus – the BlundaBus – as one of his Edinburgh Fringe venues this year.

“I sent him dates when Kate was over,” Christian told me, “but then he didn’t reply. I think he’s got caught up touring with Electric Eel Shock (Bob’s Japanese rock band) and then with the BlundaBus. I must email him again and refresh his memory.”

“So are you encouraging Kate to be a comedian?” I asked.

“I don’t really want my daughter to be a comedian though, if she’s good, I’ll happily take the money. She’s interested in doing it and, if she wants to do it, then… It just really depends on whether she enjoys it. We’ll just have to see.

“She can write phenomenally well. Her teachers are just blown away by her writing. The only trouble is she gets distracted by doing that to the detriment of anything else – her maths, her languages and the other stuff. She just wants to read books and write stories. She did this thing for school where she had to describe what it was like to be a cliff.”

Kate and Christian Talbot

Christian Talbot – not an éminence grise, just a proud dad

“A what?” I asked.

“A cliff. And she was talking about the weeds coming up out of it, like the dead fingers of sailors who had crashed against the rocks. I’m very proud of her. And some of her stuff’s quite dark.”

“Got her parents’ genes, then?” I asked.

“Gayle and myself went to Queen’s (University, Belfast) and we were the only two people to do the same degree. We both did English and Anthropology – social anthropology. Kind of learning about cultures. But I started off doing chemistry and physics and computer science and then I changed because I didn’t like it. I was good at chemistry; I just didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life.”

I told Christian: “I think my chemistry master emigrated to New Zealand because he couldn’t face teaching me any more. I always came last – except once when I came next-to-last in the class – and he wrote on my report: A fair try. He emigrated shortly afterwards. He probably thought his teaching career had peaked.”

“I remember,” said Christian, “going to the Head of Chemistry at university when I finished my first lot of exams and asked: Is this what it’s going to be like? Just doing titrations and bunsen burners and beakers and working in a lab? And he said: Yup, pretty much, unless you’re very lucky and you get into petrochemicals and work for somebody like Exxon or Esso or BP or Shell. That didn’t really appeal to me, so I changed courses.”

“Has your wife Gayle got any performance genes?” I asked.

Gayle Hayes with Christian Talbot

Gayle Hayes with Christian Talbot – a showbiz couple or not?

“She did stand-up a couple of weeks ago in Belfast. She did a course on stand-up with a load of other new people and wrote a thing but she had no interest, really, in performing it. She enjoyed the writing and the creating part of it. So she got up and read it off the sheet. Her heart wasn’t really in it and I asked her: Do you want to do it again? She said: No. She just doesn’t have that need – that void – that comedians have… I have to get up and say something!

“Gayle doesn’t admire it particularly. She just thinks there’s something lacking in people who want to get up and show off and talk about themselves. She’s right, of course!”

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Comedian Christian Talbot is sh*te at being Irish + news of an ISIS fundraiser

Christian Talbot at Soho Theatre yesterday

Christian Talbot was drinking Coke at Soho Theatre yesterday

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Christian Talbot was in London yesterday so, before his flight home to Belfast, I had a chat with him.

I thought: There will be a blog in there somewhere.

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe I was right.

Christian won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award last year with his 12-year-old daughter Kate because of her excellently cunning flyering for his show. I can’t be bothered to repeat the story. This year, Kate is appearing on stage herself.

“She’s been plaguing me,” said Christian, “for the last few weeks saying: I want to do stand-up. If we go to the Edinburgh Fringe, can I do a spot?

“So she’s going to be in a one-off children’s gig at the Freestival. I was also in touch with Comedy 4 Kids, who are running a gig at Assembly and Kate’s been offered a spot on one of their shows. And Bob Slayer has offered her a gig on his double-decker bus.”

“Has he got a name for the double-decker bus yet?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. I told him to call it The Folly.”

“I suggested Desmond,” I said. “How’s your wife?”

Kate Talbot (right) with mum Gayle: future comedians both?

Kate Talbot (right) with mum Gayle: future comedians both?

“Oh, Gayle’s doing a comedy course at the moment,” said Christian. “So she might be doing a gig in Edinburgh too.

“She says I’m hellbent on embarrassing myself by getting better comedians from the family on stage.”

“Didn’t she used to be a boxer?” I asked.

“She did used to work in a box factory,” conceded Christian.

“Does she not,” I asked, “realise there’s no money in comedy?”

“She just wanted to do it for a bit of fun, because she likes the writing. I don’t know that she will ever do a gig. She’s telling me she won’t. But then there’s Edinburgh in August.”

“Why,” I asked, “is she doing a comedy course but then says she’s not going to perform a gig?”

“She’s just awkward. Stubborn. That’s my wife. She’s contrary.”

“From County Contrary?” I asked.

“I’d like her to do a gig,” said Christian, ignoring me. “I think she’d be very good.”

“What is your show called?” I asked.

Christian Talbot ponders the title of his Ediburgh Fringe show

Christian Talbot ponders his Edinburgh Fringe show title

Christian Talbot is Shite at Being Irish. I’m really bad at being Irish. I can’t speak Irish and all Irish traditional music sounds the same to me It’s all Diddly-diddly-aye. I also don’t ‘get’ Gaelic Football and hurling.”

“Oh,” I said, “hurling is great. It’s beautiful! I used to make TV trailers for it when I worked in Dublin. Hurling in slow motion is like ballet – but interesting. I’m amazed people don’t get their heads sliced off. Gaelic Football’s graceful too. They were made for television slomos”

“A bit violent: all of them,” said Christian.

“Wildly dangerous,” I agreed. “But, in slow motion, graceful…”

“Like one of those martial arts films,” said Christian.

“Hurling and Gaelic Football,” I said enthusiastically, “are much more exciting than soccer and don’t let’s even mention cricket, the world’s most boring game.”

“I just never got into them,” said Christian, who was born and brought up in Dublin. “My dad wasn’t particularly Irish; he always watched the BBC, so I always liked Monty Python and I’ve never been a mad drinker.”

“Heard of any stunts for Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Well,” said Christian, “I see Bec Hill is renting out space on her body. If you give her clothes – like a teeshirt with an ad for your show on – she’ll wear them. She’ll wear a different set of clothes every day during her show: clothes that other people have given her to publicise their show during her show.

“And, it’s not for Edinburgh, but did you hear about Sean Hegarty over in Northern Ireland? He had a competition on his Facebook page for people to name his show in Belfast and he said whatever got the most likes would be the title… They picked ISIS Fundraiser, so now he has to go through with it under that title. Someone told me there were threats made against the venue.”

Sean Hegarty faces up to his publicity stunt

Sean Hegarty faces up to reaction

Christian told me that yesterday so, obviously, this morning I got in touch with Sean Hegarty.

“Yeah,” he told me. “The show’s going ahead on April 13th with that title, unfortunately. All press is good press, though, and I’m using it to my advantage. I’ve got in contact with the isis charity in England who support young people against sexual exploitation. So I’m hoping to do a collection for them at the end of my show. I’ve also been in contact with the police who are completely behind me and understand the predicament I’m in.”

I feel we may hear more of this.

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No farting records in Ireland in 1999

I have to admit to laziness… I cannot face listening to and transcribing an admittedly interesting two-hour recording this morning so, continuing occasional extracts from old e-diaries this week…

In October 1999, I was in Ireland. This is one day’s entry.


Irish flag

Ah, the things my electronic diary never shows. Like, the chat today with a tennis-playing guest at my Dublin hotel about Soviet economic policy and a man called Pat Murphy in Cork who was matey with Lenin, Trotsky and all the rest in 1917… Then there was the blind woman I met on a train and took to the other station for a trip to Portadown… And having a fight with Hertz about hire cars at Dublin Airport and changing to Avis, then losing my return air ticket and finding it again elsewhere… Ah! the things that disappear on a day-to-day basis..

Today I drove from Dublin to Limerick (just under 200 km) in a hire car. In a very Irish way, it seems that road distances are given in kilometres; the speed limits are in mph; and car speedometers are like the British – in mph but with tiny km equivalents underneath.

The Irish seem to drive slightly slower than the British, but make up for it with some seriously dangerous overtaking on blind bends and on straight stretches with oncoming traffic. The other disconcerting thing is that traffic lights go from RED to GREEN with no amber in between, so it is always a shock when the green lights up.

mrmethanebendsIn the evening, I drove to Shannon Airport to phone my mother and my chum Mr Methane – the world’s only professionally performing farteur. He had left a message on my answerphone back in England. He told me his website had registered 400,000 visits in the last month and that he was selling £6,500 worth of CDs a week, mostly to Americans, because his record is being played on local radio stations over there.

He has zoomed ahead of me in internet terms, talking about exceeding his bandwidth, side entrances and all sorts of unknown technical phrases. At least, I think they were technical phrases.

He phoned me up because he is thinking of moving to Virgin for his internet service, as they give 10Mb rather than 5Mb of webspace plus unlimited bandwidth. This means nothing to me but, says Mr Methane, “It’s like a bicycle. Once you learn how to ride, it’s easy to learn more and more.”

I did not tell him I can’t ride a bicycle.

He told me his record cannot be heard on Irish radio because the stations here feel they cannot play lyrics like “the brown eye”.

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