Thursday 21 February 2019

Review: Vodafone Comedy Festival Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

Ed Byrne
Ed Byrne
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Music festivals in some shape or form have been synonymous with summer for decades. Stand-up comedy traditionally resides in the upstairs room of a pub, but the Vodafone Comedy Festival presents an annual opportunity for acts and punters to enjoy live stand up across multiple stages at the largest dedicated comedy event in the country.

The best known name on the line-up, who could easily have a pop at the O2 on his own, is Dara Ó Briain.

Familiar stalwarts of Irish comedy such as Jason Byrne, Andrew Maxwell and Ed Byrne rub shoulders with the stars of the more recent wave of indigenous comedy such as Bernard O’Shea and Fred Cooke and exciting newcomers like Mary Bourke.

The marquee name comics such as the aforementioned |Ó Briain and Russell Howard play in the Big Top, a large tent adorned with fairy lights that Howard accurately likens to the kind of place you’d imagine Chris Martin using to write a Coldplay album.

Ó Briain rises to the occasion of his Saturday night homecoming appearance by touching upon the Garth Brooks fiasco from the point of view of an Irishman based in England.

Ed Byrne is another Irish comedian who hasn't played here in years. The Swords man also makes a triumphant return. “The great thing about living in England is that no one gives a f*** about Garth Brooks”, he says to enthusiastic applause.

The Americans Anthony Jeselnik and Neal Brennan bring something darker to the party. Brennan uses three microphones for his set, one for one liners, one for confessional truths and one for fully formed finished material. This novel tactic works a treat.

The major talking point, one that ended up trending on Twitter, is an appearance from Massachusetts comedienne Jen Kirkman.

Her first show with Stewart Francis goes very well, but her Friday show is allegedly met by a barrage of heckles from “sixty drunken dudes” prompting Kirkman to take to Twitter to express her disdain for drunken Irish crowds.

Cue a storm in a Tweet cup and varying degrees of support and harsh criticism for her outbursts, which were perhaps nothing more than a little controversy stirring fun, without which the world would be a much duller place. Kirkman signed off a series of profane tweets with “Dear Ireland. I'm sorry I sent out a drunk tweet after having two horrible shows. I guess we are even.”

Comedy possesses the power to provoke and divide as well as entertain. Thankfully, the Iveagh festivities prove just how vibrant, divergent and vital the art form can get.

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