A friend of mine suggested we go to Dalkey Comedy Club last night. I reluctantly agreed. You see, Neil Delamere was compeeering. I've never been a fan...
Until now, Neil Ofthesea... I take most of it back. Not all of it. Most of it. You are funny. I didn't want you to be, but you were. You're quick, at ease and self-aware ("I'm incredibly arrogant") in your natural environment. TV studios must be to blame. Cameras must morph you into a great big eejit who straddles a joke until it's throttled and begging for mercy at the feet of Andrew Maxwell. As mentioned last week, scripts are your enemy (don't try and argue that The Panel isn't scripted).
Frankly, Delamere had a hard task ahead of him, trying to cajole a giggle out of me and my companions given the wiiiiiierd situation we found ourselves prior to him coming onstage. We managed to get four seats in a row, about five rows back from the miniature stage. So busy were we nattering away with neighbours, and what not, that I got a shock when I turned to my right to see the couple we'd arrived with had turned into an oversized bald man with glasses and a grey frizzy woman. Both were in their mid-fifties, and therefore old enough to know better. The conversation went a little something like this.
"Oh, sorry *smiles*I'm afraid those seats are taken, our friends have just gone to the bar."
"Well, I'm not moving. We went to the bar and when we came back our seats were taken."
"OK, well that's not our friends' fault. These are their seats. Look, you're sitting on their jackets."
"I don't care, I'm not movin'. Someone took our seats so now I'm takin' these."
"I see I'm going to have a great laugh with you..." A steely look in return. " Listen, there's no need to be aggressive. There are plenty of other seats closer to the front. Look at the second row there." Yet another thunderous look.
"I'm not movin'." Ah... probably too insecure to leave himself open to a comedian's ridicule.
Having had enough of the belligerent oaf's jip, I turned my attention to his date for the evening. "Is he always like this?" I said. She just smiled a little and rolled her eyes. Dormouse. At this point, I got my friend, Naomi, involved. For those of you who've heard of her through naomiskitchen.ie (yes, plug, plug, plug, gis a break, I never do it), you'll be aware that what she lacks in stature, she makes up for in vocal prowess. She went through the same motions as me; initial apology with a smile. Mild confusion. Bargaining. And then rage. "Are you not embarrassed to be with this man?" she said to the lady. "I can't hear you," came the dormouse's reply. "You can hear me, you are embarrassed." And probably petrified by the notion of what'll happen when she gets home, but that's a story for another day.
All the while, the man's oversized, pointed features glowered down on me, a real menace in his stare. I said "You're not a very nice man." He replied "You're not a very nice woman." I was about to launch into, "Based on me trying to stand up for my two mates who've had their chairs swiped by two belligerents?!" But then I thought, what's the point, and just mumbled "There's no point trying to reason with ignorance." He said nothing. But at least he'd stopped glaring. He had turned his attention to his grey Nokia from 1999.
Our two friends returned. The people in our vicinity and therefore privy to the exchange played a blinder, shuffling up seats so the pair had some semblance of a perch in the end. However, did anyone try to help us stand up to nobchops? Nope. We're part of the self-preservation society, you see. "It's a comedy night, we're here to laugh!" That's how a bully gets away with disregarding the pleas of two birds half his size. What a gent.
Needless to say, the atmosphere wasn't the best before Delamere took to the stage. Just before the lights went down, belligerence personified started wriggling around in "his seat", knocking me in the process. "Ah, jaysis, you're not going to be elbowing me all night 'n all, are you?" He mumbled something ending in "unt".
So yeah, Neil, thanks for breaking the ice. You managed to avert my mind from the list of "Comebacks I was too shocked to say in the heat of the moment" (no.1: "Roll up your doormat and f*** off up the front, you sad tosspot"). First he ensured everyone had a seat... then he flitted about the first two rows, asking people where they came from, what they did, and so on. And it was actually funny.
The first act of the night, not so great with the funny making. He was Fred Cooke who's currently most famous for playing "Fergus", the dude in the Spar ad. As a stand up, his shtick involves utilising two plastic wind instruments to blow out requests. He also plays guitar. He should've kicked off the proceedings with a sing song, 'cause his banter was as flat as Jordan's ass - especially after Neil's quick fire barrage of wit (I can't believe I'm saying it either). If you can't handle the chat, warm yourself up with the gimmick until you've found your feet, fellah. Or you could just stick with the gimmick. David O'Doherty's made a career out of it.
And on to the main headliner, Kevin McAleer. Since leaving Nighthawks in the late 80s, he's aged approximately five years, and has nurtured a persona of a motorbike helmet sporting loner, with severe mental health issues, who takes it upon himself to source out meringue in restaurant kitchens before exhuming the bodies of those whose headstones claim they're "only sleeping." It shouldn't been funny, but it is, mainly because - unlike Neil - a script is McAleer's friend. He excels at writing and performing verbatim, carefully crafted and wonderfully bizarre monologues.
If you fancy having your eyes opened by comedians and chair-thieving gobsh*tes alike, check out southsidecomedy.com for more details. You'll have to book in advance, upstairs in the Queens wouldn't be the biggest.