Review: Cat Laughs Festival, Kilkenny, Part 1: Page 2 of 2

The Cat Laughs Festival does feel very Ireland-specific. It is like comedy in a bubble. There were very few references to Jimmy Savile, though Karl Spain drew some gasps suggesting that bec hillSavile was now a very modern celebrity because he was famous for who he slept with. I'm not sure if I heard a mention of David Cameron all weekend, although there were plenty of barbs aimed at Irish politician Alan Shatter, who has become embroiled in a scandal over here.

A newly bearded Andrew Maxwell also took in Irish affairs. When I caught him at the final G'night Cats show he spent half the gig bantering with an over-excited Polish fan in the audience. This patter segued nicely into Maxwell's unflinching insights into Irish racism. He explained that the Irish were very good at racism when immigrants started to come over in the 1990s because while they had not had any outsiders to practice on, sectarianism had been a good way of honing their prejudices.

Of the local comedians the ones that stood out were Chris Kent, who feels like a comedy natural, good with both scripted material and off-the-cuff riffs. He had a neat way of endearing himself to the crowd by commenting on the popularity of hurling in Kilkenny. Everyone seems to have a hurling stick, he noted. He was even offered his change in the petrol station on the end of one.

The other Irish stand-out stand-up was cheeky imp Neil Delamere, who I've seen in Edinburgh in the past but never seen him go down quite as well as this. Playing at home seemed to boost his confidence no end and free his mind up for some lovely flights of fancy. Delamere was another ubiquitous figure, cropping up not just at his own gigs but on Sunday night doing a surprise spot at the O'Doherty/Friedlander gig (which also featured Michael Redmond, who seemed, perversely, younger and more lively then when he played funereal bore Father Stone in Father Ted two decades ago).

Delamere was a master of bouncing off the audience and mixing scripted routines with ad libs. Finding anyone medical in the audience gave him an opportunity to do a well-honed skit about the time that Gerry Adams had to go to hospital and have an anaesthetic – imagine asking Adams to count down from five…

These are just a few of the highlights. There were the odd frustrations too. I'd been told that Eleanor Tiernan (sister of Tommy – he is a bona fide superstar here, rumour has it he may return to the festival in 2014 for its 20th anniversary) had a good story about Doug Stanhope. Unfortunately when I went to see her final show she had dropped out of the line-up. But there were plenty of bonuses and surprises, and not just straightforward gigs but impro, live pilots, simple madcap humour and last, but by no means least, Mitch Hedberg's flakey widow. Oh, and sunshine, which always helps. Part Two of this round-up follows here.


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