This year at the Bulmers International Comedy Festival, it’s all about variety as Lisa Lavelle and Colin Sweetman find out when they caught up with two acts from opposite ends of the comedy spectrum.
Kevin McAleer returned to the comedy scene with an act that takes its cue from the classic eighties comedy series, Nighthawks. His first foray into stand-up was an improvised routine at an open mic night. “It was really exciting, and I just stumbled on a way of making a living”, he says, adding “It’s probably the most improvising I’ve ever done”. Although it could be said that McAleer’s deadpan stand up comedy was a precursor to the culchie magnificence of Father Ted, his surreal ramblings are more reminiscent of the writings of Flann O’Brien. He admits he’s never really been a “keen student of comedy- I didn’t really watch a lot of comedy… I think I was more interested in the written word, like Spike Milligan’s books”. This interest in language manifests itself in McAleer’s startling verbal dexterity on stage, which comes across as being both effortless and slightly insane.
When asked about the return of his show, he says “It’s sort of come full circle, a lot of people started asking me about it recently, a sort of nostalgia thing I suppose”. McAleer’s 2008 show Chalk and Cheese brought him back into the spotlight, receiving positive reviews across the board. His column in the Sunday Independent has also kept him in the public eye, addressing a wide range of topics from physics to the Irish economy to his own espresso machine. “In some of them there is an underlying political view, but most of them are just absurd.”
This refusal to take himself, or indeed anything, too seriously, coupled with his deadpan delivery and verbal shenanigans, makes McAleer’s show a refreshing contribution to the Bulmers International Comedy Festival.
In this spirit of pushing the boundaries of entertainment, comedy moves into a very different type of nostalgia. The festival concludes on the 27th September with The Crack, a throwback to the variety show, which promises to be just as bawdy and entertaining as its name implies. Amy Saunders, aka Miss Behave, is the Mistress of these unconventional Ceremonies as well as comedienne and world record holder for most swords swallowed simultaneously for a female. She herself has been described as “Betty Boop meets Marlene Dietrich” and she seems perfectly happy with such comparisons, revealing matter-of-factly that she has a tattoo of Betty Boop in an intimate area.
Miss Behave & Co. first shot to notoriety as part of the cabaret show La Clique, which has been doing the rounds, to great acclaim, of the British alternative entertainment circuit since its appearance in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2004. Her other act, The Crack, is different in a number of ways even though it embraces the same circus sideshow spirit: “ultimately it is about having a laugh, which a lot of these acts do,” she explains, “you get that lovely feeling, ‘That was just for us, because he didn’t say that yesterday’”.
Like McAleer’s act, The Crack is eclectic and eccentric, and like McAleer, Miss Behave embraces a certain nostalgia in her own show. “There’s a need to re-educate all round,” she declares, “performers and audiences. Performers need to understand that they are there for their audience, and the audience need to understand that it’s live and happening there in front of them and that they have a say… it’s just silly and fun and inclusive.”
She is very clear about the meaning behind her show: “Ultimately what I want to do is to put together a show that I want to watch. The goal is to entertain… if there is a deeper meaning, you’ve either put it on it or it isn’t there.”
Miss Behave and The Crack make their appearance at the festival on Sunday September 27th at the Olympia Theatre.