Andrew Maxwell, Barry Murphy, Eleanor Tiernan, Paddy Cullivan
London Irish Comedy Festival
London Irish Centre
Sunday October 13
★★★★ (out of five)
ROWS of seats from Saturday’s show made way for an intimate setting of scattered tables and candlelight in the church-hall-like room of the Irish Centre.
The tables were mostly full at the start of the last night of the London Irish Comedy Festival. However, there was plenty of space left over as MC Paddy Cullivan took to the stage.
And while there was absolutely nothing wrong with Cullivan’s witty comedy songs – from topics about lazy students, to the first McDonalds opening in Baghdad – his opening material struggled against an unresponsive crowd that failed to get buzzing early on.
As the candles got shorter the night got better and better though. Eleanor Tiernan had some brilliantly bawdy gags, as well as plenty of material about her home town Athlone.
A Dallas skit involving Joan Collins – transferred to her Irish schooldays, was a real highlight. The crowd looked to have recovered their spirits as the drinks flowed once again.
Barry Murphy was next, complete with wig and German alter-ego Günther.
While some of his material – like the analogy of Europe heading towards a financial train wreck through passengers as different nations – wasn’t new, the earlier, fresher stuff about Germany’s arrogant view of Ireland (how satirical? It’s left to you to judge) was given added gravitas coming as it did to so close to a political row in Germany about Ireland’s low corporation tax.
With no backstage at the Irish Centre, there’s a feeling of accessibility between the audience and the comics. Barry told me after his show that he once brought Günther to Berlin and it went down a storm with the German audience. It’s easy to see why.
After the interval, Cullivan introduced headline act Andrew Maxwell as “one of the world’s greatest comedians”.
The jury might be out on that comment, but his polished show – complete with a mix of crowd interaction and longer set-pieces – certainly was the cherry on the cake.
The content of Maxwell’s superb set veered wildly through topics including political musings on privacy and Facebook; London’s gangs and drugs scene – complete with plenty of dodgy geezers; to Irish cop shows, English royalty and atheism.
In Maxwell’s world, sectarianism is “basically white on white racism” while Vegas is a “brothel in the desert”. Such themes are given a fresh twist though, like in a great riff about Game of Thrones being sold to Belfast with the ease of flogging candy to a child.
The attempt to rebrand gay marriage as equal marriage saw him return to his favourite riff about knuckled-headed geezers and small town mentality. Like his hair which was parted over to one side – there wasn’t a strand out of place in Maxwell’s set.