Carlsberg Cat Laughs 2010 [1]

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Top-notch international acts, buckets of playfully mocking banter and a top TV star graphically miming acts of sexual depravity – what a fitting start to the Carlsberg Cat Laughs festival in Kilkenny, always the comedians’ favourite playground.

Compere Jason Byrne has been here often enough to know how to press all the right buttons. Thursday is the locals’ night, before the long, booze-fuelled weekend properly kicks off, and he plays them perfectly, warning: ‘You know who’s on their way, don’t you? The Dublin knackers.’ Though ever Irish town comes in for a ribbing – even Kilkenny – as he wades into the willing audience, exploiting every regional stereotype for a quick-witted insult, and being loved all the more for it.

Moshe Kasher is one of the select few Americans visiting this weekend, and gave an instant masterclass in how to do jokes at the expense of your own appearance with a flair and originality absent from the usual ‘bastard child of….’ quips. This wiry Jew with a ‘gay Hitler’ berates us, tongue in cheek, for laughing not ‘at the jokes I wrote but the body I’ve been cursed with’. But it isn’t just his physique that’s built for comedy, but his sharp mind and his camp personality, too.

We’re all accustomed to hate-filled comments on the internet, so reading out the contributions to the flame war on his YouTube page is brought to life entirely because of his delivery. But the big laughs come when he reveals that, despite the evidence, he’s straight – and goes on to describe in some graphic detail his experiences in that field; but only after warning us that if anyone gets offended, he simply couldn’t care less. He’s also got a great closer up his sleeve.

The Pajama Men have already wowed the States, Britain and Australia – and now it’s Ireland’s turn. Performing character-based sketches on a bill of stand-up can be fraught with difficulties, but they managed expectations brilliantly, with a quiet, awkwardly stilted explanation of what they were about to do.

But the set-up is only the start; and with a script as funny as theirs and an unrivalled talent for performance, success is virtually guaranteed. This is a brutally fast-paced set, with each scene delivering exquisitely-observed comic creations and witty punchlines with the minimum of fuss.

Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen key talent is their ability to create instantly-recognisable characters in a heartbeat; flicking from realistic types such as Dweezl, the punk with the uncannily accurate English accent, to surreal creations such as the chess-playing bat in an instance. And everything, even the weird shit, is played with such conviction it all seems entirely plausible, even when they are communicating in animalistic grunts, or re-enacting a sex scene as if it was a flickering What The Butler Saw stereoscope.

Another nation is about to be conquered by the men in their nightgear.

After two American acts, an Irishman – albeit one with an American accent. Des Bishop asked it we wanted the ‘dirty stuff, or the serious stuff that I can make funny’. It’s probably both paths led the same way, for after a brief mention of his dying father, he concerned himself with the subject of what countless spam emails call ‘erectile dysfunction’ – thus managing to fuse the serious with the dirty, while throwing in some commentary about Ireland being an emotionally retarded nation along the way.

The routine – which forms a substantial part of his forthcoming show at the Edinburgh Fringe – got the raucous reaction it deserved from such a successful combination of high and low comedy.

Time got the better of him, though, and as Byrne was wrapping up the night, he returned to the mic for the story of his threesome that he’d promised, but forgotten to tell, roping in the ebullient compere to sign the routine for the deaf – clearly no more than an excuse for him to demonstrate his clear gift for improvised X-rated mime. The audience’s obvious delight was only heightened when Dara O Briain bundled on to the stage to complete the threesome, doing things you’ll never see on Mock The Weak.

Funny, spontaneous, and haphazard – it looks like the festival has started in style…

Review date: 4 Jun 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Kilkenny KK Ormonde

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