Des Bishop

Des Bishop

Des Bishop was born in New York, but raised in County Wexford, and forged his stand-up career in Ireland, running the International Comedy Club in Dublin for several years. His first Edinburgh show was Comic Warfare, in 2002, which received a Tap Water award, the anti-corporate answer to the Perrier.

He landed his first TV series, The Des Bishop Work Experience, on RTÉ Two in 2004, which saw him trying to survive doing minimum-wage jobs. Another RTE show, Joy In The Hood, saw him teaching stand-up to people in impoverished areas of Ireland's major cities.

In 2008, he took on the Irish language, with the TV series In the Name Of The Fada charting his attempts to pick up enough to perform an entire stand-up act in the language.

Bishop also appeared in the 2002 film, In America, in which he played a high stockbroker rapping in the back of a NYC taxi cab.

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2000, and had one of his testicles removed - but turned the experience to his advantage, and created a stand-up show about it.

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Des Bishop: Made In China

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Seven years ago, New York-born Des Bishop learned Gaelic to better understand the culture of his adopted homeland of Ireland. As he now points out, wryly, all that effort opened up a potential new audience of 60,000 people who speak the language regularly.

Fast-forward to present-day, and he’s learning Mandarin, which counts just shy of a billion of the 1.3billion Chinese as native speakers. And with a stand-up comedy scene in China taking its first faltering steps, if he can crack this market he could be the world’s biggest comedian. The similarly polyglottal Eddie Izzard would most definitely approve of such barrier-breaking.

Moreover, Bishop did this by moving for a year to Hegang, a smallish city of just over a million people on the Russian border, where he got a job as a restaurant greeter. Immersing himself in everyday life like this gave him a clear insight into a culture far removed from his own; though there’s a limit to how far under the skin of a society you can get in 12 months  – let alone explain in an hour.

Yet with a missionary’s fervour, Bishop crashes plenty into this fast-moving show, mixing personal experiences with reflections on the world’s most populous nation. Stereotypes are demolished, or at least played with, as he racks up first-hand experiences. Who knew that what liberal Westerners would consider a racist mocking of the Chinese’s heavily-accented attempts at English is, to them, one of the funniest things in the world?

Bishop genuinely celebrates the differences and revels in his adventures in getting a job, learning the tonally difficult language, or finding a wife – all of which were also documented for an Irish TV series. To the latter aim, he appeared on a Chinese knock-off version of dating show Take Me Out, where he conspired to sing the inflammatory Republican fighting anthem Come Out Ye Black and Tans to the blissfully unaware Chinese.

It’s typical of the playful, upbeat spirit that pervades an astute, yet still work-in-progress, show that’s as entertaining as it is informative. An obvious omission is much reference to human rights and censorship issues– but aside from bypassing the Great Firewall of China, such things may not be a daily concern for the average citizen, and potentially too heavy subjects for a comedy show as cheerfully good-spirited as this.

It’s clear Bishop is excited by his experiences, which required a commitment few comedy documentarians would take. And for all that, there’s still little sign of that commercial payoff: even with Melbourne’s thriving Chinese community, only a couple were in this audience which was, as ever, dominated by bargain-seeking Irish. Still, that’s two converts. Just another 1,299,999,998 to go...

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Published: 2 Apr 2014

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Past Shows

Adelaide Fringe 2007

Des Bishop: Fitting In


Edinburgh Fringe 2002

Des Bishop's Comical Warfare


Edinburgh Fringe 2003

Des Bishop's Wage Slave


Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Des Bishop: Tongues


Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Des Bishop: Desfunctional


Edinburgh Fringe 2012

Des Bishop Likes To Bang


Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Des Bishop: Made in China


Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Des Bishop: Grey Matters


Agent

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