Vodafone Comedy Festival 2013 got under way last night and despite the torrential downpour that greeted you upon arrival, it got off to a great start. This was my first year to the festival - I know, I'm hanging my head in shame - but it definitely won't be my last. With a drink in hand and sheltered under the cosiness that is The Nut Hut, I was rearing to go; thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. Note to all attendants of the festival, The Nut Hut is where you can catch some comedy for free from different comedians who are playing over the weekend. There is also the smallest stage in the world for those of you brave enough to try out some jokes. It was a little bit too early in the night for that, so I took off (well, once the rain stopped) to the The Big Red Tent where I'd planned to spend the rest of the evening with Dylan Moran and Jason Byrne.

Dylan Moran was up first. Moran's show was MC'd by Barry Murphy's dodgy wig wearing, German alter ego Gunther. Gunther warmed up the crowd ahead of the support act Mark Watson and headline act Moran. He regaled the crowd or 'pixie headed' Irish as he referred to us, with Angela Merkel references, an imaginary raffle for an Apres Match signed DVD and then some poetry. The hilarious Murphy had well and truly warmed us up and with that came the first act of the night, English comedian Mark Watson. Fresh from touring America Watson's nervous persona was a bit hard to watch to begin with. However, he proved a hit after his friendly banter with the audience won over the crowd. The latecomers seemed to throw him at first but he soon incorporated it into his act, with a joke that you really have to be there to enjoy. I had little knowledge of Watson to begin with and while he did provide some laugh out loud moments, you knew everyone was anticipating the arrival of Mr Moran.

Despite Gunther's best efforts for Dylan to walk out to a slow clap from just one member of the audience, the comedian arrived out to rapturous applause. The comedian strolled out, red wine in hand, and with his ease and casual delivery of his jokes you could be forgiven for thinking you were sitting with an old friend in a pub. His perfectly honed jokes and presentation show why Dylan is a much loved and hugely successful comedian. His material covered the recession, his guilt for not being in Ireland and for not being as worse off as the rest of us, youth, getting older, the Catholic Church and veering a little to the dark side with death. Moran also pokes fun at himself calling himself fat and tells a story of how a cool hipster couple were laughing at him in an art gallery for his mix matched socks. Moran's style of comedy is not only funny but also has an intelligence to it. The biggest laugh was at the end when Moran pulls out an extract from his attempt at a '50 Shades Of Grey' novel. Moran's charisma and expert delivery of punchlines make him a pleasure to watch.

After a quick stroll to the bar I was ready for the next batch of comedians. The half nine show had a trio of entertainers to keep me entertained, MC Karl Spain, support act Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss and headline Jason Byrne. Karl Spain had his work cut out for him as the first heckler of the evening piped up as soon as he hit the stage. But Spain handled her well with some quick quips which soon had her quiet... but not for long. A few words from a bouncer between acts and we were soon on the road again to an enjoyable night. Daniel Sloss is only  22 and this shows in his material, as he talks about making the big move out of home, his Mum and little brothers a lot. Sloss is definitely a star in the making though. Having seen some of his earlier material, Sloss has come a long way since he started out at just 16. The comedian's material also included the Catholic Church and his belief that God doesn't exist, material which he said he thought was risky in Ireland but received a great response. Sometimes he did throw out some rather stupid jokes that even he himself looked disgusted with. All in all, a great support act for Jason Byrne and he wrapped it all up with a lovely story about a gay couple of penguins. 

And then it was Jason Byrne's turn. I now know why Byrne has the title of being one of the best comedians in Ireland, with his side splitting humour he had tears rolling down my face. It's hard to even begin to tie down what his material covered as he talks about everything and anything. Taking it up a few levels, Byrne's jokes came out thicker and faster with each breath. What I love about Jason Byrne is that you can see he is enjoying himself on stage, and off stage he is probably just as much a messer as he is on it. Where Byrne really comes into his own though, is when he interacts with the audience. His put downs are sharp, quick and hilarious and last night we saw just that. He's not for everybody's taste though as I heard the mutterings 'Ah, there's no need for that,'  from an elderly couple shocked by his use of foul language. Byrne was on top last night with an energetic, fun and thoroughly enjoyable show.

Favourite Moments:
Dylan Moran in general and his reading of his version of 50 Shades Of Grey.
Jason Byrne's stories about his Mammy and the time she thought his Dad sh*t the bed.
Daniel Sloss and his penguin story... nawww!

And that's not all there is with three more nights of the festival still to go. It's not too late to book tickets. Click here for full programme and tickets.

 Review by: Claire Duffy