Jarlath Regan

Jarlath Regan

Jarlath Regan: Organ Freeman

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

In the context of the Fringe, Jarlath Regan at the Tron feels weirdly like a normal gig – a straightforward comic playing in a room that could have been made for stand-up (except for that ****ing pillar). Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when Regan at the outset does some hack crowd work about how long couples have been together, and the perils of being a bloke trapped in a marriage to a wife who spoils his fun. My heart did sink a bit, I must admit.

What I didn’t know was that Regan would later work this back into his show, so more fool me. Bantz with purpose – I like it. In fact, Regan’s show – the title of which is so bad I can barely bring myself to type it – gets better as it goes along. It tells the story of how his big brother, the favourite child, suddenly needed a kidney, and Jarlath got the call. Cue lots of moral dilemmas and concerns about whether it was worth the risk, not to mention some interaction with American doctors who provide plenty of comic material.

Regan essentially invites us into a family drama between him, his brother, their respective wives, and his son. There are tensions and complications between them that make the matter of kidney donation that bit more difficult, and he expertly drip-feeds us this information like a massive tease. It’s a superb piece of storytelling.

He questions his own motives for wanting to fly to the USA (where his brother lives) to make the donation – is it really generosity or is there ego in it, to make him look good? Is he, as one of his family accuses, trying to make the whole kidney situation about him? For a show that has such a clubby feel to it, there’s a surprising amount of soul-searching.

But that’s the trick that Regan really pulls off in Organ Freeman (Lord, forgive him): it’s a terrific combination of club set and Edinburgh show. The narrative is strong, he’s completely invested in this exploration of familial love and obligation, plus there are strong standalone routines and actual punchlines too.

The only routine that felt like it was crowbarred in for the sake of it was one about how ‘lads’ don’t exist in Ireland, something he only realised when he moved to London. This is apparently part of his motivation to donate his kidney, but it feels a bit tenuous – it does, however, lead to probably the best line in the show, about the prevalence of pricks in London.

His meeting with an American doctor who assesses his suitability for a kidney donation provides some of the biggest laughs, largely about the difference between US and Irish attitudes towards alcohol. And another highlight is his description of how his young boy has incongruously got into politics at the age of six.

And it all wraps up with the gratifying feeling you want from a storytelling show.

Regan’s a crowd-pleasing comic who’s known for being able to work a room and deliver a solid set. What he’s done this year is bring all that into an Edinburgh show that has as much heart as it has laughs.

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Published: 7 Aug 2017

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