Mary Flanigan | Comedy Review
Comedy Lab | Mary Flanigan is a Pisces, Obviously
Black Box, Belfast • Saturday 08 July ’17
By John Patrick Higgins
There’s an unusual ambiance at Mary Flanigan’s new show: Mary Flanigan is a Pisces, obviously. The comedy audience is usually a pit of angry men in black t-shirts, with folded arms and “impress-me” stamped onto their scowls, like the internet in 3D. For this show the audience is 90% female and everyone seems to be having a good time before the turns have even turned up! The miserable scowling man in black is me! I unclench, smiling expansively. Passersby begin to back away.
First on is Roman Linseed, a man who has, over the years, repeatedly accused me of spelling his name incorrectly. So I have. He is very funny, paring back his usual six hour set to a twenty minute powder-keg of comic cuts. Highlights include a spate of recent anxiety attacks, his inability to read anything but Wrestling biographies, and the edited version of “Love Actually” he forces his girlfriend to watch by means of the Ludovico technique.
He is very good: Ronan Linskey is a name you can trust!
When Mary Flanigan leaps onstage I am mildly disappointed. The promotional material that I had seen had caused me to believe face painting might be involved and I was expecting the full Marillion. (That’s an 80’s prog-rock reference, there. You can Google it – I assure you that it does make sense!)
Flanigan soon allays any disappointment – she is remarkably accomplished, her comic persona snappy and faux flakey, but there is genuine steel and command to her performance. She’s also unafraid to be clever – there are Jane Eyre gags here: do not be afeared!
We get a whistle-stop tour of her world: her dismay at the lack of Cathedrals in the Cathedral Quarter, a girls night out where they play “Amy Wine Hands” and “everybody cries”, a sudden and unexpected jaunt a thousand years into the future where the danger of probing is all too real and “voice-boxes can be ripped out by marauders”, and the long dark night of the soul when you’re sat alone in Lavery’s with just the baleful light of your phone for company.
She maintains a young fogey stance throughout – despite her recent laser eye surgery she always appears to be peering owlishly over bifocals: “Is Halo still a thing?” she enquires, like a high court judge investigating the distractions of the youth of today. Some of the individual jokes are fabulous and if the astrology theme is a little bit over stretched (she admits at the very start that she knows it’s a load of rubbish “but as a Pisces she would think that!”) then she more than makes up for the sketchiness of the concept with some sublime passages on beards and how they’re “green screening chins for fat guys”.
She’s taking this show to Edinburgh this year, and while it’s running a little bit short, it’s a fantastic calling card for Northern Irish comedy. She is clever, interested and deft, producing gags from nowhere with a legerdemain flourish. I get bored of a lot of modern comedy: there are too many men in t-shirts limboing beneath the common denominator. Both of the acts at Comedy Lab today prove that comedians can be witty, clever, full of ideas and still fully engage with an audience. And it is nice that there is something like Comedy Lab at the Black Box giving them a proper platform.