David Hennessy

Last weekend saw the inaugural London Irish Comedy Festival take place at The Irish Centre, Camden with well known comedians Andrew Maxwell, Aisling Bea and Neil Delamere being joined on the bill by innovative and improvising musical comedians Abandoman, Fred Cooke, The Nualas and Sharyn Hayden with Colm O’Regan, John Lynn and Cariad Lloyd completing the line-up.

The first evening of comedy on Friday October 12 was presided over by the MC Willie White who got the crowd chuckling at his witty observations from his background and life in general. Describing himself as being from “the posh part of Ballymun”, Willie recalled when he sold drugs and became his own best customer (“I found it very hard to refuse myself”) and spoke about the television programmes of Ross Kemp (“It’s called Ross Kemp on Gangs, I’d like to see Gangs on Ross Kemp”) and in particular (Ross Kemp and the Glue Kids of Kenya): “’What advice would you have for the glue sniffing children of Kenya?’ ‘I would tell them to stick together’.”

With the crowd well ready to laugh, Fred Cooke took to the stage guitar in hand. Although he has toured with such heavyweights as Ardal O’Hanlon, Tommy Tiernan and Dara O’Briain, rising comic Fred made light of how he is not yet well known in the UK, saying it was great to get away from home where everyone knows him: “You should see me walking down a lane way, it’s like: ‘Hi’, ‘hiya’, ‘hello’.”

Next to the stage was Neil Delamere, well known from his appearances on The Panel and other RTE television shows. When an audience member revealed he taught customer service, Neil asked him to give Ryanair a call. He also went on to muse over how Ronan Keating cheated on his wife with a woman who looked exactly the same: “Only someone from Boyzone would do a cover version of his own wife”.

Before introducing the main event, hip-hop/comedy group Abandoman, MC Willie spoke about talent shows such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent and this was quite apt as the lads would have blown away any judging panel with their unique and original show. Winners of Hackney Empire New Act and The Musical Comedy Awards, Abandoman started with a rap about items the audience produced from their handbags or pockets. Hilarious and sharp, the whole rhyme was all the more impressive for how rapper Rob Broderick interacted with the crowd whilst always keeping his flow. The audience lapped up Abandoman’s insane style with even people who were brought onstage and poked fun at a little seeming to really enjoy it. 

“They are electric,” MC Willie White said of Abandoman after the show. “They’re extraordinary lads, very unique and I would recommend to anyone to go and see any of the acts on here tonight, whether it’s going to see Neil Delamere at The Soho Theatre on November 20/21 or Abandoman if you see they’re playing, go and see them, they’re class.

Although now based at home, Willie told The Irish World he is no stranger to London when we caught up with him after the show: “I loved it over here. I did, I suppose, what most Irish people do when they come over here. I worked on the building sites and I did whatever I could to earn a few quid. I had a great time. I lived here on and off for about ten years. London was always good to me.”

Although the first night of this new festival clashed with Republic of Ireland taking on Germany in a World Cup qualifier, the attendance was good with a responsive crowd: “What was the final score? I think there was more laughing at our gig tonight than there was in Lansdowne Road but it was great. They were a great audience and it was very enjoyable all round, they were all great acts tonight.”

These were sentiments echoed by Neil Delamere: “Given that we’ve got the results of the gig and the football, the gig was probably better to watch than a 6-1 defeat to Germany although it probably bodes well for tomorrow night with people needing a bit of a lift so I imagine Saturday will be even better attended than tonight.

Neil flits between home and the UK but hints we could be seeing much more of him this side of the water: “I’m back and forth a bit more often now as my UK agent is trying to line up stuff for me over. I haven’t decided what I’m doing next but I’m shifting focus a little bit to the UK, I have to say.”

For the full article, pick up this week’s The Irish World


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