Review: Cat Laughs Festival, Kilkenny, Part 1

Last Friday about an hour before I was due to head out to my first gig and file my first review I had a call from the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Comedy Festival press office asking me not to file any reviews until after the five-day Festival was over. This is a festival where the performers don't want to pressure of being judged by journalists, I was told. Fair enough, I thought. This starkly sums up the contrast with the Edinburgh Festival which doesn't start until August and I've already got PRs lobbying me for review space.

In fact one of the lovely things about Kilkenny for the press is the lack of PR pressure. Apart from that initial call and a message telling me where to pick up my magical access all areas pass that was the only contact I had with publicists all week. Now that's my idea of a perfect comedy festival.

Oh, maybe I should review the performances now then. So little space, so many to choose from, so this will be a two-parter. I steered clear of familiar big guns Kevin Bridges and Dylan Moran as I'd seen them both recently, but by all accounts they had storming gigs. My highlight, no contest, was David O'Doherty, who seemed to dog me all weekend. Doherty is famous for his lo-fi whimsy but he seems to be getting more hi-energy with every passing year. On the first night I saw him shout at full volume, strut around the stage and do his "wank on a bike" song for the first time, which is up there with his immortal "sending a text to the person the text was about" ditty..

O'Doherty had a busy weekend. On the Saturday he was billed to appear at the Kitten Club, a daytime children's show run by Bec Hill (pictured, another hit of the fest, whose D-I-Y animations and kooky chic went down a treat). Something was lost in translation though and a group of ten men on stag weekend turned up too, presumably thinking it was some kind of sleazy burlesque afternoon affair. Maybe O'Doherty could have placated them with his "wank on a bike" song but with children in the audience too it was not so appropriate.

On Sunday night O'Doherty was in more laid-back mode, having pulled a hamstring at the Ireland v Rest of the World Football match in the afternoon  (won 4:3 by ROTW - hoorah), but it didn't stop him having another great gig alongside festival debutee Judah Friedlander, best known in the UK as one of the fictional writing team on 30 Rock. Friedlander's winning style is a mix of the mannered and the laid back as he fires out one-liners worthy of Mitch Hedberg in between mock bragging that he is, as it states on his baseball cap, "World Champion".

Another hit was Tony Law. I'd seen Law's Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated show Maximum Nonsense three times in the last year and was expecting him to do a short excerpt from this, so it was a pleasant surprise when he turned up onstage hiding behind a small tree and doing material that was completely new. Most of it was haranguing his Irish audience for blowing all their Celtic Tiger cash on horrible houses in the middle of beautiful countryside and calling them "morons". It is an indication of the generous spirits of Irish comedy audiences that they took this all in good humour. Anywhere else and Law might have been lynched after the gig.

Click on "Next" below to go to the thrilling, Guinness-soaked second page of Part 1

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