John Colleary

John Colleary

Dublin-based John Colleary is a regular compere at a number of gigs in Ireland, including the Craic In The Box, in his native Sligo. He appeared in the C4 Comedy Lab pilot Headwreckers and is half of the wacky cop duo TJ & TJ (with Bernard O’Shea), who are regulars on Today FM’s Last Word.
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The Savage Eye at the Carlsberg Comedy Carnival

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

The Comedy Carnival is not just about the star names, though it mainly is. Local circuit acts also get a look-in, thanks to this reunion of some of the contributors to last year’s satirical, if not exactly widely watched, RTE Two show The Savage Eye. Hard-hitting satire wasn’t much in evidence tonight, mind.

Opening act John Colleary had a bit of bash at Taoiseach Brian Cowen, but calling him a ‘fat fucker’ and pointing out that he speaks like a trumpet probably isn’t going to rock the foundations of government. But it’s entirely in keeping with Colleary’s fun, fast-paced shtick, which perfectly provided the high spirits needed to get the gig going.

Most of his set involves affectionate ribbing of various Irish archetypes, from simple-minded culchies to the dodgy young chancers, or worse, hanging around on Dublin’s streets. He takes broad sweeps at pretty easy targets, but Colleary has a light touch and a clear affinity for those he mocks, making for a jovial, upbeat and thoroughly entertaining set.

For all Collearry’s broad appeal, Dermot McMorrow is a more difficult act to like. Probably about five per cent of the room were on his wavelength, laughing uproariously at his bizarre ramblings, while the rest of us were left largely bemused.

His delivery is haphazard and the thinking confused, propagating the image of a slightly bewildered old man. Out of the sprawling chaos, the occasional inspired line rises magnificently, although you have to endure rather a lot of ill-considered, nonsensical mumblings to get to them. His ‘poem’ of aphorisms is by far his best moment, as it forces him to focus on words he’s carefully prepared, rather than letting the mind wander, however deliberately, and indicates what he may be capable of.

But the good work is swiftly undone by his slide show, flashing up religious imagry as he imagines bizarre conversations involving Jesus and the other protagonists. It’s a sequence of childish non sequiturs, but without the charm, leaving the vast majority of the audience to humour the mad outpourings of a lunatic, rather than enjoying any comedy.

Fast-talking Patrick McDonnell had plenty of fun with the extinction of the Celtic Tiger, likening Ireland in the boom years to a ‘knacker winning the lottery’, sure to end badly. The recession is, inevitably, a theme for many Irish comics, and McDonnell isn’t pushing the boat out for inventive idea. But he does the obvious well, whether on this or other familiar topics such as poncey wine-tasters, using an engaging personality and driving rhythm to entertain the crowd.

‘Lowbrow, isn’t it?’ he asks self-effacingly, making a virtue of the lack of sophistication, and no one seems to mind.

A special sort of kudos, too, for his charmingly cack-handed attempt to make old material seem relevant: ‘It was just four years ago we were marking the 90th anniversary of 1916.’ Way to date your material…

Headlining was the man who gave his name to the Savage Eye, opinion-dividing Dave McSavage. Where Scotland has Phil Kay, Ireland has McSavage, strumming idly on a guitar as he semi-improvises a monologue around what’s happening in the room. To call it a song would be overstating the case, it’s banter with incidental music.

By commenting on absolutely everything, including his internal monologue, he treads a fine line. He’s clearly trying to engineer a sense of ‘event’ that will have people talking, but runs the risk of self-sabotage by revealing the workings of his stand-up.

Sometimes, he does trip into the wrong side, semi-mumbling half-formed ideas to himself, or distractedly going down a blind alley – and you sense he enjoys these moments of audience discomfort. ‘It’s more fun when you struggle,’ he says, a man enjoying his manipulative power.

But on the night – this night at least – good McSavage triumphs. And as someone who’s seen him crash and burn before, admittedly a few years back when he was still on the booze, no one was more surprised than me. But he negotiated the minefield of inviting an attractive, drunk, attention-seeking girl on stage, aided by her being sharper than her inebriation would suggest, but all credit to him for bringing the gig home safely, yet maintaining an air of spontaneity.

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Published: 24 Jul 2010

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