The Story Of O

Adam Hills unlocks the secret of tOp cOmedy

There is a new tide swelling through ranks of comedians at this year's Edinburgh Festival - a tide so subtle and unnoticed that it has largely gone subtly unnoticed. But scratch the surface of that tide a little deeper, and the shining underbelly of the pearl inside that clamshell is clearly revealed. Comedians are starting to use the letter ‘O’ twice in their name.

Such names as David O'Doherty, Ross Noble and Josie Long are not only making names for themselves on the stages of the comedy world, they are doubling up on the letter ‘O’ in those names, names that they have made for themselves.

‘I toyed with the idea of calling myself David Doherty’ says David O'Doherty, whose brother, actor Mark Doherty chooses not to call himself Mark O'Doherty, "but decided to go with David O'Doherty, as that is my name.’

The move clearly paid dividends for O'Doherty, who last year won the entire Edinburgh Festival Competition, a result that may or may not have happened had he called himself David Doherty. Perhaps if Dave Gorman's ancestors had kept hold of their original name of O'Gorman, Gorman himself may not have been O so disappointed when he himself lost the Edinburgh Festival Competition, a loss that some say is the reason Gorman never made the transition to television.

‘I think it's a great thing to do,’ said Long, when asked about playing Boggle late at night, but clearly referring to the practice of using the letter ‘O’ twice in her name. And who could argue with her? How many people would even be able to pronounce the name ‘Jsie Lng’, let alone buy tickets to see its owner?

Ross Noble is often known to mention owls on stage, a reference that cleverly references two owl-like eyes represented by the evenly-spaced ‘O’s in his name. If you stare at his name for long enough, especially on a poster, you can see the two ‘O’s staring back at you, like some woodland bird, probably an owl.

Of course, ‘O’s in comedy is not a new thing. In fact, in many ways it is a throwback to a bygone era when names like Tommy Cooper and countless others graced our stages. Tommy Cooper of course, was most famous for having three ‘O’s in his name, a move that many at time thought to be superfluous (which is a word that ironically has two ‘U’s in it)

Of course there will always be the trendbuckers - Robin Ince and Daniel Kitson for instance tried to pioneer the use of two ‘I’s to no effect, Richard Herring has gone with four ‘R’s and Eddie Izzard doubled up on both ‘E’s, ‘Z’s and ‘D’s - but not one of these has ever won an award or been in any way critically acclaimed.

Some industry pundits have already claimed that there will be a new breed on the horizon soon, ushering in the dawn of a new age of comedy names, as well as the simultaneous sunset of the ‘double O three’ (a name that is much funnier when printed 003, as it looks like 007, James Bond's nickname) as Noble, O'Doherty and Long have become known.

However, as you take in this year's Edinburgh Comedy Festival, and gaze down the programme at those assembled, have you ever wondered where each and every comedian in Britain did their first ever gig? That's right - The Assembly ROOms. Case closed, Your Honour.

Published: 29 Jul 2009

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.