O'Comics 2007

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

The Just For Laughs festival is notoriously tight when it comes to the length of a comic’s set. A strict seven minutes is the norm on the high-profile galas, and there’s not much more leeway in most of the club shows around town.

Such a short spots don’t suit everybody, but thankfully the policy can be relaxed for the right act. And Ardal O’Hanlon – given the entire second half of the O’Comics Irish showcase for his own 30-minute routine – is certainly the right act.

Back on form again, he again proved a delight with his part-whimsical, part-observational set - but it’s a routine that takes time to fully engage. He’s funny right out of the gate, but what O’Hanlon is best at is building up an atmosphere in which polite exasperation becomes elevated into a philosophy, and that takes a little time.

As a professional underdog, he’s constantly bewildered and annoyed by life’s trials and tribulations. Not so naïve as his TV characters, and a damn sight more eloquent, he skilfully captures the frustrations of a mild-mannered everyman wanting a quiet life, but never quite being allowed too.

He gets vexed over the dynamics of playing Connect 4 with his children, then paints a delightful picture of the problems of setting up a trampoline for them in the back garden. The domestic trend continues with material about living with his wife, the oldest topic in the book, but one he subtly manages to make his own. The jokes are warm and witty, but there’s also delight in the detail as he carefully builds up each scenario.

Aside from the homely, he has takes on issues too. Often they are endearingly innocent, such as suggestion that war in the Middle East is driven by sword envy, but often there’s a point buried in the charm, such as his notes on Ireland’s new-found ability to harbour racism.

It all made for a thoroughly enjoyable half-hour, and one that effortlessly entertained the international audience.

The rest of the bill wasn’t so strong. As host, Neil Delamare – who also hosts the coverage of this festival on RTE television – was mostly functional, in the first half chatting aimiably to the audience getting the job done but with little flourish. When introducing O’Hanlon after the break, he stepped up his game, using material – including a nice tale of a road-rage wind-up – rather than banter to hit home much more effectively.

First act Colm O’Regan, less than three years into his stand-up career, was rather too lightweight for the task. He talks at great length, as if in idle conversation, about Ireland’s bad weather, with languid, low-key delivery and underpowered punchlines that never fully engaged. Next was some formulaic material imagining an feckless Irish person in this Hollywood show or that, which was passable if not inspired, before closing with his best routine, about the French language, that was very skilfully executed, if again lacking in originality.

Mop-haired Andrew Stanley also lacked punchiness in much of his material, but he more than compensated for that in a hugely energetic performance, literally bouncing around the stage and infusing the room with an infectious passion. Much of his routine is, well, routine – about the Irish drinking too much or the Australians liking a barbecue – but he can spin an anecdote with skill. A segment about late-night shopping trip genuinely made something out of nothing, and his recounting of his root canal work is very nicely done.

So, a mixed night for the newer talent – but a clear demonstration of what O’Hanlon is capable of, when at his best.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
July 17, 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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