THREE Irish comedians took the stage on Wednesday night for the Irish Comedy Club stand-up gig at the London Irish Centre.
London-based comedians Conor Drum, Kevin O’Connel, and Eleanor Tiernan each brought a distinct energy to their set, making the performances feel as varied as the audience, who ranged from early 20s to 70s and was – teeing up Tiernan's wry ice breaker – largely English.
There is a small bar stocked with quintessential Irish refreshments on the right as you walk into the building.
Well-poured Guinness' and packets of Tayto crisps are dispensed by a barman. While chatting with guests, he samples the wine on offer with dutiful care, looking as solemn as if he were Henry VIII’s food taster.
As you walk up the corridor to the presidential suite, you’re met by the short and portly figure of the man himself, in high-resolution portrait form, Michael D Higgins.
MC Ryan Gough kicked off the show searching – with the open-ended questions of a cold reader – for preliminary roasting material from the audience.
One man learned the hard way that wearing a bright red jumper to a comedy gig was not, in high insight, the brightest idea.
Another who made the double-barrelled error of sitting in the front row and letting slip that he lived around the corner was ripped for being a millionaire.
A collective sigh of relief no doubt washed over the audience as the first act, Conor Drum, came on stage.
His most memorable gag was a story he recounted about an elaborate stag-du prank in Prague, involving two real Czech policemen, a stripper clad in police get-up, and a groom begging for his life.
Next up was Kevin O’Connel, whose animated performance, if muted, wouldn’t look amiss on a West End production.
He strode on stage with heeled boots, skin-tight jeans, and a loose fitting Hawaiian-style shirt, pumping his hands in the air as if the applause had not reached a great enough crescendo.
“As you can probably tell”, he quipped, “I thought I’d be a lot more famous by now”.
The 29-year-old from Co Roscommon went on with gusto to slaughter many a sacred cow with his sardonic, no-holes-barred shtick.
“I would never open with some of those things”, he said after the show.
“I wait until the end of the set, they [the audience] trust you by then”.
Last but by no means least was Eleanor Tiernan who, like Kevin, moved to London five years ago around the time of the Brexit vote.
Her nerdy, slightly maladjusted stage persona betrays what is clearly a well-honed and discerning eye for observing the oddities of places and people.
After poking fun at herself and treading the difficult terrain of empathetic – yet unsentimental – comedy, she delves into her experience of coming out of the closet.
Again, she manages to avoid the mawkish and achieve the feats of high-comedy – using humour as a way to say something serious.
Putting off the decision to come out for over a decade was, she says, like hitting the “remind me later” button on a software update.
What could be more relatable?
The audience were sold and gave her a hearty round of applause at the end of her set.
Speaking with The Irish Post after the show, Kevin and Eleanor said that moving to London four years ago meant there were more opportunities to perform, but also that they had to “try harder” to make their jokes digestible for a British audience.
While in Ireland, there are “shortcuts you might rely on” to achieve the desired result, Eleanor said, “[in another country] you have to contextualize yourself, and I think every immigrant has that challenge.”
But the challenge comes with the territory, and while they were both expecting more Irish to be in the building on Wednesday, they said that every line is a feeler sent out to the audience, and they can adapt as the set goes on.
“From that opening moment, all crowds, its all data”, she said.
“Every crowd you play for is a new dataset that you get, and it just goes into your brain or blood somewhere”.
“The challenge isn’t ‘how do I say what I want to say’, but ‘how did that person need to hear it’", Eleanor said.
Eleanor is does writing for TV comedies, including a the ITV show Holding which is due to be released next year.
Kevin is performing at an upcoming Fringe show called Gutter Dandy.
The pair confirmed that if they’re allowed to return home to Co Roscommon for Christmas, they will be there.