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Roisin Conaty: Hero, Warrior, Fireman, Liar

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Like a lot of comedians, Roisin Conaty was the weirdo outsider at school, a painfully uncommunicative creep unable to make friends. In the 15 or so years since those difficult teenage years in County Kerry, she’s certainly learned a thing or two, because as a stand-up her greatest assets are her easy charm and innate likeability.

So she spends most of her best newcomer-wining show telling us about embarrassing incidents when she acted like a klutz, but delivery with such a lack of awkwardness that she can now successfully ‘own’ the shame. She still stuffs up some social situations – when trying to chat up a boy she fancies or attempting to convince herself she’s still attuned to today’s youth, not some grown-up square – but on stage, she’s a natural.

A misplaced boastfulness of youth is, in fact, one of her favourite comic devices, using such phrases as ‘Yeah, I said it!’ that might sound swaggeringly rebellious in her head, however inappropriate it is. It’s a common trick among mild-mannered stand-ups, but Conaty never makes it sound forced. Another trick is to say something incorrectly, then riff off the mistake. Whether this is pre-planned or not, it’s impossible to tell, as it all fits seamlessly into that open conversational style.

The show is framed by the idea that she has been invited back to her old school to share all the wisdom she’s acquired since, causing her to conclude that the sum of all her knowledge isn’t all that great. It’s not exactly high concept, but allows her to fit just about any topic in, though some of the less personal material doesn’t resonate as much as the moments when she’s revealing something of herself.

For that reason, and others, her character turn that opens the hour is a limited success. Jackie Hump is an angst-ridden poet with overblown verse and overemphasised mime. Such earnest performers are a much-mocked target – and she’s certainly no Paul Hamilton – although the caterwauled song Our Love Is Like Monopoly has some good lines. The creation is carried – just about – because Conaty never accepts how truly ridiculous what she is doing looks.

Her greatest strength is her personality and willingness to look the fool, however incredible that would have sounded to the 15-year-old freak she once was.

Review date: 29 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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