I'm Eddie Izzard's warm-up, jokes Jose
JOSE Manuel Barroso faced some stiff competition at Trinity College Dublin.
The self-confessed "warm-up act for Eddie Izzard", the comedian will visit the university next week, was appearing an hour before YouTube sensation, American Jenna Marbles – a woman whose blogs include "how to trick people into thinking you're beautiful" and who already had a queue forming outside.
However, the European Commission president took it all in his stride.
"My speech is not the only one on Europe in the next few days. In fact, in many respects, I'm the warm-up act for Eddie Izzard," he told 200 students, who gathered to see him honoured by the College Historical Society for his outstanding contribution to public discourse.
"I'm just as passionate about Europe," he continued. "That's not a terrible trendy thing to say."
Indeed, the subject matter – the financial crisis, youth unemployment, the future of the EU – didn't have the comedic potential of that being offered by Izzard and Marbles.
Mr Barroso spoke of his unhappiness that so few people bother to vote in European elections and his confidence that Britain will not opt out by referendum.
"Ireland has a long tradition of public debate. The subject of Europe is not immune from that debate, nor should it be," he said.
"Constructive criticism does not pose a threat... passivism and indifference does," he warned.
The European Union is complicated, but it deserves citizens who are interested and who make themselves informed, he argued.