Comedian and actor Patrick McDonnell was boasting about marriage equality in Ireland. “And we don’t have gays in Ireland” he smirked, “so we don’t even have to!” McDonnell is perhaps best known for his role as Eoin McLove in Father Ted. Yup, the “I have no willy” Eoin McLove. The one who smelt wee.
He was on stage for the Out To Lunch festival as part of the Further Ted tour, with fellow comedians Michael Redmond and Joe Rooney who also played iconic characters in the show. Or maybe it’s got nothing to do with Craggy Island Ted? Maybe it’s just three comics who got together under the clever guise of Father Ted?
Let’s look at the evidence. There was a Lovely Girls competition, where they managed to corral two lovely ladies and a lovely man onto the stage – to the dulcet tones of Daniel O’Donnell. That wasn’t easy. Nobody wanted to enter the competition. Daniel, the lovely man, was asked to show his bottom to see if he was lovely enough. The ladies weren’t asked. “That would be creepy.” The winner was judged on how nice their laugh was and their standard of sandwich making. Daniel and his lovely bottom won because he cut the sandwich straight across. “Catholic” it was pointed out. “Come on ladies” the other two entrants were berated, “You gave yourselves away with the triangles.” There was an intermission after the competition, and as the comics walked past us on their way to the green room, Michael Redmond was eating the sandwiches on the hoof. He mustn’t have had any tea.
In Father Ted, Redmond played Father Stone, the world’s most boring priest. In the Black Box he was learning how to swear, Belfast style. It started when he called Bono a gobshite and things just rolled on from there. “He’s saying female genitalia things” he muttered of a suggested swear word to describe Bono. “So I don’t want to go any further with that.”
But he did. And it got funnier. “I’m nervous asking this but are there any Catholics in the audience?” he asked the room. “Yes” came out from the candlelit tables. He peered into the darkness. “All gathered in the same section I notice.” He was born a Catholic. It was a terrible shock to his parents apparently, as they were Protestants.
Around the Lovely Girls competition we had three classic stand up acts. They were political and observational, rude and innocent, all at the same time. Irish to the marrow. Side-splitting, irreverent, boyish grumpy old men. Notes were taken but I didn’t do well. I nearly pulled a rib I was laughing so hard. So there’s a chance I don’t get the names right here –
The aforementioned Patrick McDonnell was getting political. “What did the English ever do for us?” he asked the room. “Well I live near the border so I got BBC free for years” he answered for us, to loud cheers. “They shot my grandfather but fuck it … At least the English bothered to invade us, not like the Nazis the arrogant bastards.” Then there’s Martin McGuinness “who said he’d never go down on his knees to a queen.” And how he reckons the Orange Order could have their own gay pride – The Forbidden Flute Festival. The jokes were relentless, no fillers. You missed bits if you laughed too long.
Then there was Joe Rooney. He played Father Damo in Father Ted. The insolent teenager who stole the groundskeeper’s whistle. Rooney was feeling old, complaining about having to wear glasses to eat. “I’m used to focused food” he stated. “I worry about restaurants giving me blurry food – ‘Ah will ye look at that oul fella, we’ll give him some oul blurry food.” He went on to tell us a classic tale of an Irishman in America. He ended up going to a strip joint and suffered voices in his head about it. He put on his priestly pious voice as he quoted the voices. “Ah no you dirty boy … them waving their dirty arses.” Apparently he just got annoyed while he was there. Women would be shaking their booty at him and all he could think was “It’s like mass, but instead of a collection tin it’s a feckin arse.”
And so it went on. The quality of the individual stand-ups took over the show. They had nothing to do with Father Ted and it didn’t matter. I get why they’ve gone along the Further Ted theme, but the reality is that Michael Redmond, Joe Rooney, and Patrick McDonnell, are hysterically funny characters all on their own. Without Ted or Dougal or Jack in sight.