Carlsberg Comedy Carnival: Des Bishop, Natasha Leggero

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Dublin’s Carlsberg Comedy Carnival, a festival of funnies held over four tented venues, attracts an impressive line-up of circuit A-listers from Ireland and the UK, plus the occasional intriguing name from further afield.

Hence Illinois’ Natasha Leggero, opening for Des Bishop. ‘You may have seen her on The Sarah Silverman Program,’ goes the typically American introduction, though in truth she guested on only one episode. But it’s an apposite reference, as the 32-year-old has much in common with her more famous colleague; not least in turning on the girly charm and butter-wouldn’t-melt expression as she doles out pointed put-downs.

She has an inherent superior-to-thou attitude that gives her withering quips a hardened edge. Her dismissal of her nondescript home town is wonderfully sardonic, though she is particularly obsessed with bad musicians, whether they be rappers ruining classic hits by talking over them, or the warbling histrionics of American Idol contestants. That she’s got a decent singing voice aids this mockery.

Most unforgiving, though, is this precious princess’s take on women who give birth without ever knowing they are pregnant – a savagely acidic take on those she sees as beneath her, admittedly a fairly broad demographic.

Leggero has some fun with the Irish, too, dropping in Ballymun as a reference, as if she knew anything about it, and inviting one of the unsalubrious suburb’s finest up on stage… and immediately appearing to regret it. But for all her apparent meanness, Leggero has a strong playful streak, which this interaction only served to underline.

In utter contrast to all Leggero’s tongue-in-cheek negativity is Des Bishop’s upbeat, positive attitude – even on a set that revolves around his dying father. For him, this is reason to celebrate Pa’s life, and to tell the world about the acting career he gave up to have a family.

He lost out on the role of James Bond to George Lazenby – a narrow escape, some might think – but that fact allows Bishop to contrast 007’s fictional heroics and frankly irresponsible behaviour in the bedroom with real life and real responsibilities. The spirited extended set, told with passion and gusto, also covers the ‘retarded’ emotions of Irish men, people trying to bring him down a peg or two, and the occasional ‘erectile dysfunction’. Yes, folks, these are basically knob gags, but Bishop intellectualises the context giving them a touch of class.

By voicing his opinions in a purposefully emphatic style , Bishop gives a compelling performance, while the set – a slimmed-down version of his Edinburgh show – is underpinned by a consistent through line.

The combination of his issues-driven TV comedy shows and clean-cut good looks have earned Bishop a strong fan base, but this thoughtful and heartfelt routine proves he’s got the stand-up skills to match his fame.

The show was compered by Eric Lalor, who owes his comedy career to Bishop’s Joy In The Hood. He had some fun with his rough accent and nostalgic memories of Christmases past, although a couple of gags fell flat and a couple more were as old as the hills. But as comedy grouting, he fulfilled his job of holding the proceedings together as the broad, affable host.

Review date: 23 Jul 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Dublin Iveagh Gardens

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