Ardal O’Hanlon | Review
With Colin Murphy and Joanne McNally
Queens Comedy Club, Belfast • 22 November 2017
By Conor O’Neill • Photos: Bernie McCallister
Five more of these shows and the Mandela Hall is gone, and with it the Comedy Club in its current form. Thankfully, these last gigs are somewhat close to victory laps. For the final show of 2017, we are, on paper at least, in for a cracker.
Regular host Colin Murphy welcomes 450 of us in for a night of howls, raised eyebrows, smut and unnerving innocence, all from three of Ireland’s best. “We’re packed the night! Regulars will notice we’ve brought out the good seats!” And so we move on sorting out the Queen’s students from the others, the students from the real people, i.e ‘those that pay taxes!’ before Murphy picks on a mechanical engineer graduate. “Do you hear that? That’s the sound of women getting turned on.”
“And do you now work?” Where? Cookstown? You relocated to Cookstown? Fuck, the only things that relocate to Cookstown are pigs and they get killed!” Turning 50, comb-over pubes, trying to scratch your balls being like trying to scratch a goldfish in the bag you won it in and a few other asides all get an airing before he welcomes on the first southerner of the night.
I’ve never heard of Joanne McNally before, 20 minutes on youtube before the gig and I’m an expert: she loves her gin, is from South Dublin, drew on her eating disorders to write the hit run Bite Me, and is something of a regular on the tele down south. She’s also the first person I’ve ever heard use the word ‘Shitemare’, lives with her 70-year-old mum, “She used to tell me before I moved out, ‘This place is not a hotel’ now I’m back and living in the attic because all the other rooms are for Guests.” McNally is also a traditional feminist, in that she’ll burn the bra as long as a man buys her new ones. She’s also looking out for one with a job, preferably a ‘mechanical engineer!’
On online dating and sex McNally is hilarious. “What’s man got to worry about online dating for? That my tits are going to be a bit smaller or I’ve developed a double chin? What have we got to worry about? Well, I might wake-up as a lampshade. You can’t put a price on love girls, even your life.”
Ex-lovers she legally can’t mention, ‘I call him Pichael’, shagging sober and how laughter is the great knicker remover, “We’re all only one knock-knock joke from spreading like a jam sandwich.” She’s bombastic and animated. A well-deserved rest of the jaws and the interval follows.
Murphy’s back, still on form and still on jobs. “What’s the worst sort of cut? A paper cut. Try a machete! People who work in filing: really dangerous job.” He shares the same birthday as Hitler, not that they’ve anything in common, like, “He didn’t start off in beer houses talking to people and giving out opinions.” And we’re on to the main draw, Ireland’s second favourite fictional priest, Ardal O’Hanlon.
O’Hanlon gets the elephant out of the room immediately. Dressed in sobering black shoes, black jeans, shirt and navy jacket combo, he somewhat apologises for being in and apart of the hit program. “People think I’m stupid because of a TV show. A taxi driver asked me ‘Do you remember being in it? I started using big words, quoting Shakespeare and naming all 50 states of the US, before remembering I’d left my car in the airport car park.”
Addressing the audience as himself, or ‘Pichael’ as some know him, O’Hanlon has us all in his dreamy world. I can’t decide what he says is in jest or in truth. A mixture of the two is probably close to reality; if he can remember it. He’s married, ‘To a real woman, ya know’ and acts as both husband and biographer as he retells her retelling every sentence spoken and event of a night out. “Maybe I’ll remember mine when I’m shuffling about with dementia and recount whole passages of conversation.” Showing off, keeping the family spaghetti nights secret or ‘we’ll be known as the Musselinis’ and other curious childhood details have the hall hanging on every word, furrowed forehead and carefully crafted anecdote or reflection.
Trump worries him, as does the Harvey Weinstein scandal, ‘I’m frightened to touch my own knee’. Bono’s shopping mall in Slovakia is something to be admired, “My mother would be over the moon if I opened a laundrette in Kazakhstan!” No aspect of life, large or small is beyond observation: modern eating, gin and tonics at 12 euro a pop and the side effects of anti-anxiety drugs, ‘We should be throwing the stuff at ISIS’… fuck-it lists, the park-swings and heroin connection, skinny jeans and 50-year-olds at Electric Picnic – are you listening, Murphy? – O’Hanlon finishes on the topic of Irish sarcasm. Apt!
For details on the final four instalments of the Comedy Club visit www.mandelahall.com/comedy or phone the box office on 02890 973726
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