WHEN it comes to truly entertaining the masses, few compare to Irish comic legend Pat Shortt.
As he puts it himself, “someone once described me as someone who doesn’t tell a joke but performs a joke.”
In conversation, it’s easy to understand why Shortt is described as more than just a stand-up; his infectious laugh and humorous tone shine through as he says, “I bring a touch of Irish rural madness to London.”
From the agricultural setting of the Suir Valley, to the stage in London’s Leicester Square, the Co Tipperary native is bringing his solo stage show I Am the Band to a new audience tomorrow night (October 12).
“This show, it’s celebrating the life of Dixie Walsh [the guise under which Shortt scored the chart-topping song The Jumbo Breakfast Roll], a country and Irish star, one created by me,” he laughs. “It’s a celebration of his life’s work, and everyone in the audience is someone he’s worked with or played with or has had some influence on over the years.
“It’s a very parochial ‘this is your life’ almost, where I get into the audience, perform some pieces that are reminiscent and I go into characters,” he explains.
Shortt quirkily portrays the rural Irish characters of Walsh’s mother, teacher and other locals who want to share their funny memories in this tribute to the musician and his music.
“I’m really looking forward to it; I haven’t done a show in London in many years. I used to do Tricycle Theatre with a show called the D’Unbelievables.”
Along with Jon Kenny D’Unbelievables became one of Ireland’s most popular comedy duos, but after a revival of the famous act in 2011, Shortt indicated that a re-revival is not on the cards, at least “not for the foreseeable future.”
Reflecting on the show that kick-started his career on the stage, he adds, “My style of material hasn’t changed since the D’Unbelievables. When you’re a comedian you have a style and that’s what you do, and my style of performance is interactive with the audience and creating mayhem.”
His upcoming performance this weekend in London’s West End arrives after his recent stint alongside Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan, and a busy week in which he flies to South Korea for the Busan Film Festival.
“I’m out in Busan, South Korea, with two films in the festival. There’s a film called Life’s a Breeze, it’s an Irish movie, directed by Lance Daly and starring myself, Fionnula Flanagan and a young girl, Kelly Thornton, she’s like the new Saoirse Ronan,” he says, praising the young actress.
“A film I did many years ago, Garage, is being shown in Busan as well. There’s quite a few of us going over: myself, Neil Jordan, Jimmy Sheridan, Lance Daly and a few others. It’s to promote Irish film in Asia.”
Shortt’s diary is packed-out until the New Year, and the self-declared ‘country boy’ has had to push back his planned English tour as a result.
“I’ll be flying straight from Korea to London to do the show in Leicester Square. I was due to start a fairly big English tour but unfortunately I’m tied to a film and the dates were moved,” he explains, after hesitating for a moment as he recalls his busy schedule. “I had to postpone some of the dates of the tour till next year, because I’ve got a flight to Romania to shoot a film.”
With a reputation as one of Ireland’s best-loved comedians, he has also acted alongside a string of big names including Brendan Gleeson and Stephen Rae (This Is My Father), Mia Farrow (Angela Mooney Dies Again), and worked with writer Mark O’Halloran in Garage, the feature film for which he won IFTA’s Best Actor.
He also has three films coming out this year, but whilst he finds it “great working with the director,” Shortt believes that “there’s nothing like getting up and doing a comedy and performing to get the audience going.”
He adds: “The stage work is instant, you can play the audience. You don’t get that from film, only a year later when the film comes out in the theatre you go ‘oh Jesus what’s this going to be like?’”
Shortt is a man committed to his craft, and when he returns to talking about his inspiration as a comedian and ‘performer’ his voice becomes animated.
“I think you draw on life experiences and memory, and then being a comedian, you exaggerate it and enlarge it and make it funny. I find Irish people very funny; they behave in a mad kind of way,” he says as he bursts into laughter, most probably as he reflects on memories gone by.
“I always look at characters and I suppose in the sense of Dixie Walsh for example, his passion for what he does is the music. It’s almost like him playing in the bar is as much as good as The Rolling Stones playing in Wembley, and it’s as much of an achievement in his eyes.
“So, it’s how a small little community, a small part of the world can be such a huge thing for an individual. That I find fascinating and hilarious.”
“I never grew up aspiring to be a comic and looking towards comedians and studying them and all that. I studied the Irish people where I came from and watched how they got on and I wrote material based on that. That’s how it came about.”
Rural Ireland may be home for Shortt, however, he is adjusting to the idea of life in the city lights of the English capital, despite referring to Dublin as too ‘metropolitan’ in the past.
“The longest period I was over [in London] for was four months, and I really enjoyed. I mean, I think I’ve said that in the past that I’m a country boy. After working in London I got a real buzz for it, I look forward to going back again.
“I think your attitudes change when different circumstances arise and I’d never worked in the West End, I suppose living and working in London doing something you like is very enjoyable.”
If fans of the man who is part of Ireland’s staple comedic-diet are worried that time away from the plains of Thurles will disrupt the authenticity of his performances, they need not worry.
He coolly adds, “I’ve got a comic eye to look at things and see the funny side of them and accentuate that, whether it’s English or Irish.”
Pat Shortt plays Leicester Square Theatre, London tomorrow night (October 12) at 9.30pm