DUBLIN — With circus tent venues and stiltwalkers milling around the beautiful Iveagh Gardens, Dublin’s Carlsberg Comedy Carnival, four days of stand-up in the heart of the Irish capital, attracts a host of top American comics alongside their Irish and British counterparts.
Performing her first gigs in this part of the world, Illinois’ Natasha Leggero has impressed with her brash assurance. But she was unsettled by a British bachelor party, one of their number loudly belowing that she looked like a hooker.
Dressed as superheroes and Thriller-era Michael Jackson, security might have thrown these braying, drunken berks out in the US. But here, Leggero was left to hammer them down from the stage, something she accomplished with ease. Deriding her Rockford hometown, musing on the ‘toilet babies’ of accidental pregnancies and mocking the stilted, overly passionate delivery of American Idol contestants, the accomplished singer earned a rapturous reception from the crowd, not least for warbling through a histrionic rendition of Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ in the Idol style.
As a law student, MC Keith Farnan worked on death row for a while and you hope the garrulous Irishman brought some comfort to inmates before they passed over. Certainly, his Tiger Woods computer game gag is to die for.
Reginald D Hunter from Atlanta, Georgia, might not be a household name back home. But in the UK and Ireland he’s rightly revered as one of the most thoughtful, provocative comics on the circuit. It takes a certain size of cojones to argue that 92-year-old humanitarian icon Nelson Mandela is a conman. But Hunter can usually back up his philosophical leaps of faith with reasoned logic, his calm, rational take on words like “nigger”, “cunt” and “spastic” as impactful as his playful reaction to the phrase “bear with me”. Howled back on stage for an encore, he noted of the lively Irish crowd that “you motherfuckers drink the way Americans eat”.
Before this, I’d caught up with New York-raised Irish comic Des Bishop to talk about Reggie Watts busking, his forthcoming gig in Boston and performing House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ in the original Irish language of Gaeilge:
Here’s a clip of that ‘Jump Around’ performance on Australian television:
I also got the opportunity to see Emo Phillips live for the first time, his impression of a French existentialist seagull even more outlandish in a marquee tent setting, the roof illuminated with tiny lightbulbs like the night sky. I’m told that a lot of his set was older, tried and tested material. Coming to most of it fresh, his gloriously off-kilter world view and perfectly pitched one-liners flavoured with just a dash of misogyny, were enough to reaffirm for me that I was in the presence of a legend.
After Phillips came Ardal O’Hanlon, still best known here for playing a priest with juvenile dementia in the much-loved sitcom Father Ted, and he had to work hard to justify his headliner status. Although he’s toured the [US] East Coast with Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran in The Three Fellas, he’s far less savage than his compatriots. And while he rails grumpily against the world and his wife, he’s invariably the butt of his own jokes, a misguided fool whose kinky role-playing leads to the loveable dolt being cuckolded.