The stand-up comedy scene’s dirty secret is that there is often more demand from performers than audiences. Given that Ireland’s proportion of smartarses per unit population is among the highest in the OECD, this is probably not overly surprising. New comedians pop up with the regularity of a whack-a-mole machine, only to be sent packing by hammer blows to their self-esteem. Being a mediocre stand up is easier than most people think, but being a good stand up is more difficult than most people think.
Equally, comedy nights themselves pop up and disappear on a constant basis. Running a comedy club is as unforgiving a task as making people laugh from the stage itself. It is to be hoped, then, that such only-the-strongest-survive competitiveness is healthy for a Dublin scene not short on comedy clubs and with a population not short of people who enjoy drinking and/or laughing. However, this doesn’t necessarily work out in practice, as such competition can easily lead to pressures to conform. Irish comedy is perhaps more orthodox (in its own way) than it likes to admit. In keeping with the Irish oral tradition, stand-up comedy in Ireland has always had a history of storytelling, with less of the format-subverting wing of alternative comedy in the UK or the more off-kilter aspects of US stand-up.
Nonetheless, there are increasingly encouraging signs that such creativity is being rewarded, with comedy nights that feature more than just people with a microphone who want to tell you that they have noticed things. Stand-up comedy is currently booming in both the UK and Ireland, driven by high profile TV shows and DVDs. But it is a huge strength of the form that there are excellent and funny acts at all levels of the scene, (except the very top. Boom). The point remains though, put those Michael McIntyre DVDs down for a minute and there are plenty of Dublin-based comedians worthy of your time, who would love nothing more than for you to laugh in their pathetic needy faces for the evening before they cry themselves to sleep later.
The capital increasingly displays no shortage of variety for the comedy punter. Beyond the established stalwarts of the scene: the International, the Laughter Lounge and the crucible of questionable open mic-ers the Battle of the Axe, Dublin has much to offer, from the multidisciplinary extravaganzas of the Brown Bread Mixtape or Nighthawks at the Cobalt, to cosy little clubs like Aidan Killian’s Laugh Out Loud in Anseo or Colm O’Regan’s Inn Jokes in Kilmainham. Or for a taste of the burgeoning alternative, you could do worse than any of the following…
The Death of Comedy
Held on the first Tuesday of the month in the Workman’s Club, the Death of Comedy combines compere Conor O’Toole’s bright-eyed erudition, the disarming musical comedy of Rob Kearns and the sharply written and brilliantly performed sketches of Gangbusters. Kevin McGahern and Edwin Sammon are among the most promising performers in the capital.
Monthly General Meeting
Shane Langan (of Diet of Worms fame) and Níal Conlon (of Delorentos fame) curate this new monthly, nomadic evening of comedic and musical miscellany, with each night based on a different theme. A moveable feast, they are probably best tracked on Twitter.
A regular Sunday and Monday night fixture in their previous location of Shebeen Chic (RIP), they have been named in the top 2 (fine, they were no.2) things to do for free in Dublin. Since the upheaval of their forcible relocation to the Stag’s Head, like a desperate drunkard, they have been going from strength to strength with great line-ups and packed houses.
Words: Carl Cullinane
Illustration: Fuchsia Macaree