When I spoke to Jarlath Regan this month he bemoaned the fact that the Irish audience equates off-the-cuff audience interaction with genuine comedic talent. If this describes your take on comedy then I implore you to change it: some of the most complacent comedy comes from relying solely on audience interaction.
A prime example would be Karl Spain’s gig at the Laughter Lounge, an affair that was saved by Regan’s own short set. Steve Cummins was the night’s compère and managed to work in as many offensive angles as he could throughout the night while imploring us all to lighten up. The result however was not close to the bone humour that made you laugh in spite of your own moral compass, but a cringe-fest that included Cummins asking a pair of fairly eloquent South African women to repeat themselves while he derided their inability to speak in a way he understood. Karl Spain himself appeared on stage with little direction and spent most of the evening bantering half-heartedly with the audience albeit in a less derogatory fashion. For a gig that rang in at around the €20 mark for tickets depending on how you bought them it was a pretty disappointing affair.
Meanwhile, a Monday night at Dublin Comedy Improv which takes place upstairs in The International Bar proved to be the perfect antidote. This venue is intimate and cosy and while you might worry about your proximity to the risky nature of sketch improv there was no risk of embarrassment. Carried out seamlessly by improv vets Tara Flynn, Sharon Mannion, Danny Kehoe and Dermot Carmody this was one of the most consistent comedy experiences I’ve had in a long time. Jokes weren’t allowed to overstay their welcome, the standard was extremely high and the women were on par, if not funnier than their sketch counterparts. You might tend to overlook weekly nights in some of the regular comedy clubs but this improv night is definitely one way to dispel the Monday blues.
This month I experienced my first ‘Stand-up and Answers’ – the comedy/table quiz hybrid that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Sugar Club is firstly a lovely place to hold a comedy night and lends itself well to this format. The line-up of great comedians came in tandem with hilarious quiz rounds such as the ‘Crisp Round’ and the ‘Evil Bonus Round’ all with a backdrop of ridiculous PowerPoint slides. This month’s offering was 90’s themed and organisers Matt Smyth and Jarlath Regan seemed keen to continue the themes for future nights. Headed up by the Rubber Bandits and featuring great sets from Chris Kent and Joe Colleary the atmosphere was good and the whole night seemed far better organized than Regan’s Laughter Lounge appearance.
Finally, I witnessed Tim Key’s show ‘Masterslut’ in the Project Arts Centre which was a great reminder of just what you can do with a good venue and a little imagination. Key had brought his own bath to proceedings and used it at various points to create surreal skits of an alternate reality beneath the water as he submerged himself. Key’s style is typified by his short poems that play on audience expectation and his obnoxious English ‘lad’ character and at times he could almost do with toning down the ‘lads on the lash’ references in favour of his excellent poems. His deconstruction of his poetry drafts was a particular highlight. Meanwhile the bath was mostly used to great and bizarre ends but Key’s insistence that both he and the audience discussed their own attitudes towards a good soak at length was probably unnecessary. Regardless, a good show and an inventive concept, whenever Key’s gags fell flat he had the charisma to keep the audience assured that it was a momentary failure. Something that often counts the most.