Following his successful gig in UCD, Grace Murphy and Killian Woods spoke to Neil Delamere about his burgeoning comedic stardom
Neil Delamere is a comedian that has a special relationship with most college students. Hitting the Irish comedy scene circa 2004, the Offaly native grew up in correlation with the teenage years of the average present-day student.
As he developed his reputation as a comedian and skills throughout the mid 2000s, the comedic taste of the present-day college students also gradually evolved from fart jokes to all out cynicism in every aspect of life. This nature of pessimism and sarcasm that lies at the heart of Irish comedy is a taste that is acquired mostly during the teenage years as most of us strive to act more sophisticated and mature.
Like Dara O’Briain and Colin Murphy, Neil Delamere was one of the many comedians who guided our generation along this path and is partially responsible for our taste in comedy. His exploits on the late night show, The Panel, helped shape our attitude towards comedy and our ability to laugh at ourselves.
Delamere, however, is quick to cite the ever-growing age gap between himself and freshers year on year, while also acknowledging that how he is perceived can be dependent on the type of crowd at his gigs. “It depends on whether they’re all freshers. Sometimes freshers can be a little bit wet behind the ears, but they generally make up for that in their enthusiasm.”
He continues: “The older I get, the more distance there is between us, so you kind of notice that. Once you get beyond 30 you notice it. The first time I ever did college gigs I was supporting Dara O’Briain and he said that to me.
O’Briain is another groundbreaking Irish comedian whose career took off at the turn of the century. Both he and Delamere were an integral part of The Panel, with O’Briain a former host of the show. Delamere is, to this day, very involved in the show that helped develop his career and he speaks excitedly about the upcoming series. “The new host is Craig Doyle. I met him once on the show and he was good craic. I was never on his own show.”
Delamere adds in relation to the new full-time host: “He has a dark sense of humour so we have to bring that out of him, that’s all. This will be consistent; he’ll be the host for the whole thing, so there won’t be guest hosts and stuff. So it’ll just be him as the host and other people kind of getting used to working around.”
Delamere has, in the past, enjoyed successfully hosting The Panel. However, he is happy to be a contributor, as he feels it grants him a greater sense of freedom. “I hosted it in 2007 and 2008. Me and Murph [Colin Murphy] took turns. Whatever they ask me to do I’m happy enough to do.
“I really like being a contributor cos there’s no responsibility. You just fuck around, you know? There’s lots of housekeeping involved when you’re the main host. There’s a guy in your ear going ‘bring him on now, bring somebody else on, plug his book’ whereas me and Maxwell just talk rubbish when we’re on it together.”
Much of the success that The Panel has enjoyed over the past few years has boosted Delamere onto other prosperous television projects. Becoming the host of the Just for Laughs show, which collates best bits from the Montreal comedy festival, and heading the Republic of Telly show, further demonstrated the value of Delamere to The Panel.
However, this decade is a new dawn for the comedian and plenty more is in the pipeline. Neil Delamere told o-two about the array of television ventures he is about to undertake in the coming year. “I do this show in the North called The Blame Game which will be back in the next year. I’m doing another little thing for RTE, kind of a documentary that will be out next year hopefully.”
Further demonstrating his dedication to The Panel, he continues: “I had to give up my other show cos it was going to clash with The Panel and my tour, so I decided to stick with The Panel.”
On the subject of his upcoming documentary, Delamere reveals to o-two that “it’s about Vikings”. With a comedic spin? “Yeah, with a comedic spin. It’s not necessarily cast iron.” So, Neil Delamere – the David Attenborough of RTÉ? “I’m going to grow a big beard and put on some weight, that won’t be too difficult, and I’m going to be generally fierce-lookin’ I suppose. None of those things will be true, but anyway.”
And what comedy tickles Delamere’s fancy at the moment? “Pyjama Men are the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. Hans Teeuwen – he’s a Dutch comedian. They make me sound quite arty. I’m going to pick somebody else. I think Michael McIntyre’s brilliant at what he does.”
The aforementioned sketch group received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer; however, Delamere sat out on those festivities this year. “I wasn’t at Edinburgh this year, it took us so long to make Republic of Telly that I couldn’t go.
“I’m definitely going next year. Definitely. Cos I did it the last three years in a row and you kind of miss it. They got better every year. I got multiple five star reviews in 2009. I got two or three in 2008, so I got better every year.”
Appearing a bit over-confident at first in light of his reflection on the rave reviews received, Delamere was quick to show his real thoughts on the significance of this praise. “But you have to take them all with a pinch of salt. Sometimes you go to a show and they don’t get it. So you kind of try to take them all with a pinch of salt.
He continues: “That’s what my agent says to me anyway. I could ring him and say ‘oh, I got a great review’ and he says ‘yeah, but if you believe that one you have to believe the other one that didn’t really like you so much’. You know whether you’re doing a good job or not. And so do the audience.”
Off the wall and taking the interview onto a different tangent, o-two quizzed Delamere about his pet hates at the moment. “The thing that’s pissing me off at the moment is the increasing propensity of Irish people to become Americans. And that ridiculous Dart accent.”
Delamere, without question, excelled when challenged about his hates. Taking the conversation further away from his career, he continues: “I like finding out what people dislike when it’s entirely unreasonable. I know a guy who hates people who use the word ‘kids’. He thinks it’s ridiculous. They should say children. I think that is just so narrow and so specific. That’s just a bit of an odd one.
“I know another guy who hates people saying ‘I’m good’. ‘Do you want some toast?’ ‘I’m good’. He hates that. I don’t know why he hates that. ‘I’m good at what, what do you mean?’”
Delamere describes how he goes about developing material for his stand-up act, saying: “I just like finding out the weird things that people dislike. It makes you think that you’re not as mental as everybody else. Or you are as mental as everybody else, or everybody is as mental as you.
“It’s just normal to be slightly unhinged. It’s a good name for an album or something, isn’t it?” He continues: “This one [show] is called Implement of Divilment, which is a messy, generic title. It’s Normal to be Unhinged sounds good to me. Or Unhinged. It sounds more arty, cos it’s just one word. I’m doing every county. I’ll bring it over to Edinburgh, as it kind of evolves.”
Listening to Delamere describe his frantic working life, it was evident that something had to give. Something had to go, as Delamere explains, in relation to his departure from Republic of Telly.
“I’m done with Republic of Telly. It’ll still go on, but it’ll have a new host. I just have too many other commitments. I just couldn’t do it all, and my choice was really a tour, The Panel, The Blame Game and stuff in the UK.
“I did Michael McIntyre’s show last year and this year. I did a thing for Paramount Comedy as well. You just can’t do everything. It’s hard to walk away from things you like doing. You just have to toss a coin.”
The work ethic of any successful comedian is always one of utter dedication to their profession. Along with this work ethic, if a connection with your target audience can be forged, this will make the said comedian stand out from the crowd. Although Neil Delamere may be growing older, the connection he has made with this third-level-educated generation will surely be lifelong.
He may be seldom recognised for his role in our generation’s maturation, but when he announces an extensive list of gigs in Vicar Street, tickets will inevitably be few and far between.
Neil Delamare plays Vicar Street on November 12th.