Nominated for best headliner in the 2008 Chortle awards.
Glenn Wool Videos
Galway Comedy Carnival: Mid Festival Gala
The Spiegeltent at the heart of Galway’s Vodafone Comedy Carnival just about survived the onslaught of ex-hurricane Gonzalo as it lashed Ireland’s Atlantic coast earlier in the week. But even now it rattles and creaks in the wind. Its flimsy nature and high ceilings count against it as a comedy venue, but it certainly makes an exciting statement about the circus coming to town when local see it erected.
And what top-notch clowns filled it for those festival-goers prepared to venture out on a midweek night, with the cream of international touring acts – Tommy Tiernan, Andrew Maxwell and Glenn Wool among them – all on the same bill.
It was a line-up that was deemed so powerful it required not one, but two comperes… which in hindsight might not have been the best decision. Phill Jupitus and Karl Spain’s stop-start impromptu double act didn’t build the momentum needed, especially in such a potentially difficult venue. Even their excellent ad-libbed, lines didn’t get what they deserved since othertimes the banter stalled. They came good in the second half, thanks to a couple of longer, stronger anecdotes each, but upfront they showed that sometimes one head could be better than two.
Tough, then, for Grainne Maguire opening, compounded by material that never really soared. Plenty of jokes about her bookish appearance yield to tales of living in London with a weak punchline about the aggressive language used to describe stand-up, no matter what story surrounds it. She has a couple of smart, knowing jokes: one about abortion, another on feminist porn, especially, but she mostly dale in longer, more political diatribes. These tend to get claps rather than chuckles, a sign of approval – and generated by well-timed pauses – compared to the more primal reaction of a laugh.
So it was up to Canadian Paul Myrehaug to properly grab the gig, with a hard-hitting set that’s simultaneously provocative and silly, telling of penis-filled dreams, his unPC pulling techniques and more. Yes, it’s often filthy, but there’s a playfulness to the thinking behind his gags. Mix that with an impactful, commanding delivery that efficiently drives through the punchlines, and you’ve got the sort of set that every club comic ought to boast, but very few do.
Myrehaug’s globe-trotting compatriot Glenn Wool also did the business, as befits his reputation as one of the leading international road comics. With cap and waistcoat that evokes something of the air of man grafting on the railroads of the 1920s, and tells tales that seem to entertain himself as much of the audience, a satisfied guffaw never far from his lips. He flatters the Irish audience by telling of how their expats shouted down the Americans at a UFC bout before pondering being single at 40, and tackling potentially tricky issues such as the plastic surgery designed to make Asian people look ‘more white’ with a gloriously light touch, a deft turn of phrase, and some stand-out gags.
The second half started with two hilarious stories about the density of Jedward, one from host Jupitus, the other from Andrew Maxwell. Seems the double-dunces are keeping the comedy world in anecdotes. Most of Maxwell’s set, though, is social comment disguised as barroom banter – migration, racism and sectarianism all given a chipper presentation without dulling the edge of the topic.
For all the strong acts so far, Tommy Tiernan was the man who sold the tickets, a local hero since he moved to the town, and he didn’t disappoint. He, too, evoked big ideas about the way we live but with his irresistible, romantic lyricism. He is a free spirit who embraces the madness and wants us to do the same.
He explains fanciful Irish behaviour as coming from the void between the poetic Gaelic thoughts and the utilitarian English language forced to express them… not that there is anything quotidian about the way Tiernan expresses himself. ‘The past doesn’t exist,’ is a typically bold, offbeat and intriguing sentiment to kick off a section, and the set’s full of such thoughtful creativity.
Even in ostensibly more straightforward routines, such as running through some regional Irish accents, he offers an imaginative spin. But he’s not keen to impose much meaning on even his widest comments, suggesting that opinion, argument and banter are all but the human equivalent of a cow’s vacuous mooing. But few moo quite as elegantly as the spirited Tiernan.
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