Carlsberg Cat Laughs 2010 [7]

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

As the only comedian to have played all 15 previous Cat Laughs, Barry Murphy has little to prove. For stats lovers, Ian Coppinger, Dom Irrera and Rich Hall have missed just one, while Jason Byrne and Fred MacAulay have missed two.

With established credentials such as that, it comes as no surprise that Murphy takes a very relaxed, low-key approach to his compering. No big, over-excited introductions – though he did get the audience to hum a gentle Ladysmith Black Mambazo-style World Cup anthem – just an understated confidence.

Danny Bhoy kept the energy on a low simmer, too. Delivering with slick poise, but physical enough to keep the microphone in its stand for his set, so he could talk with his hands – and not just in the bit where he discusses how the Italians, erm, talk with their hands.

Some of his observations are on the mundane side, especially when it comes to such staples as how we react when last orders are called; though he proves adept at the tagline jokes, extending straightforward routines with a small postscript gag that provides a welcome twist.

When his routines have a story beyond the merely descriptive – such as him spotting a naked man in a hotel room across the courtyard from his – the confident, well-paced delivery stands him in especially good stead, as drops the punchlines with masterful timing.

Quirky poet Tim Key was something of a high-risk booking for a festival that traditionally likes to keep its stand-up straight. His over-analytical asides, aloof-yet-awkward persona and obtuse stanzas may have won him last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award, but it didn’t sit too well in Kilkenny’s three-acts-and-a-compere, club-style line-up.

As a result he was greeted with at best mid-level titters, but mostly a respectful, patient near-silence. The audience seemed to appreciate what he was trying to achieve, but they also knew he just wasn’t hitting any of funnybones. That’s the thing with gambles, they don’t always pay off.

You’re taking no chances with Dara O Briain, though. That’s not to mean he doesn’t tackle intelligent, occasionally difficult subjects – but he’s a man who’s guaranteed to be able to make anything funny.

Early in this set he delivered an uncharacteristically vicious, and somewhat delayed, smackdown to a punter who was playing awkward when Key attempted banter. The spontaneous outburst was funny in its disproportionality, with O Briain employing his own intellectual ambitions to berate the poor sap for his lack of the same.

He’s a former student debating champ, and that’s still the essence of his humour – taking a point of view with which he disagrees (or even a simple observation) and distilling down to an hilariously ridiculous extreme. Once he’s done that to the National Childbirth Trust’s hippily unscientific ante-natal advice, for instance, you’ll never believe a word they say again.

Fast-talking at the best of times, O Briain attempted to cram the highlights of his current two-hour touring show into a 20-minute set, which only added to the density of gags – yet still left the audience wanting more.

Review date: 10 Jun 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Kilkenny Langtons

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