Monday 23 September 2019

Life lessons with Neil Delamere: Nicky Byrne said to me, 'Neil, I think tonight could be our night'

Neil Delamere: As long as it's not disparaging, my wife and my family don't mind when I mention them in my set. Photo: Mark Condren.
Neil Delamere: As long as it's not disparaging, my wife and my family don't mind when I mention them in my set. Photo: Mark Condren.
Funny man: Neil Delamere on The Blame Game history special.

Meadhbh McGrath

Neil Delamere is one of Ireland's best-loved comedians, known through his radio show Sunday Best on Today FM, his sell-out stand-up tours, and his numerous television appearances. Neil currently features as a panellist on the BBC show The Blame Game and will host a new comedy science series, Eureka, which will air on RTÉ2 this spring. Born in Edenderry, Co Offaly, Neil (36) is the youngest of four. He moved to Dublin to study computer applications at DCU, and has lived here ever since. Last year, he married event manager Jane Russell.

I grew up in Offaly, and it was an idyllic, bucolic country lifestyle. When you grow up somewhere like that you're kind of protected from anything that's bad. When I look back, I think it was an awful lot less complicated then than it would be to raise a kid now, anywhere.

Oh God, I remember my first gig. I was working in computers at that time. I had no intention of doing this long-term! I remember knowing the script so well that the venue could have gone on fire and I still would have been able to say the words, because I knew it backwards.

When you go abroad, you become adept at figuring out where the audience is from and trying to tailor it to them. But I learned years ago that if you make it really local, everybody gets it, because everybody has lived on a street, gone to a school or had parents.

There's no subject matter that's out of bounds but nuance is everything, and context is everything. I could tell a joke about Ireland that somebody English couldn't, or a black comedian could do a joke about racism that a white comedian couldn't do.

As long as it's not disparaging, my wife and my family don't mind when I mention them in my set. Obviously there's a line - you wouldn't want to share too much, or you can run things by someone beforehand. My Da actually loves it any time I mention him!

I love the immediacy of stand-up. The more you do telly and radio, which bring their own rewards, the more you realise that stand-up is "bang!", it's all straight away. You could have an idea talking to someone, tonight you could go on stage and the only thing that limits what you talk about is your vocabulary and your imagination. There are different hoops to jump through for radio and television.

I'm curious about everything. My curiosity isn't limited to one particular sphere, so if I had my way, I'd make a show about science, and then a show about philosophy, and the next thing would be a show about art.

I love panel shows, because they are the closest thing to stand-up on television. You're doing jokes, there's an audience there, if you tell a joke the audience laughs immediately.

I've been doing The Blame Game for 10 years, and it's a joy. If you do something for long enough, it becomes like a football team, you fit into a groove with people. You read each other's 'game' and know when not to interrupt someone.

Social media has changed comedy in certain ways. If you're doing a topical panel show, and there's a big event, and everybody's tweeting jokes about it, it forces the comedians to come up with an extremely original joke, and forces them to work a bit harder.

I think radio forms a different connection with an audience than television. You're in their homes, you're in their cars, you're in their sitting rooms, and there's a kind of intimacy there that I enjoy. And I don't have to shave!

Acting looks very scary to me. You have to learn someone else's words, and other actors take their cues off you. Whereas if you're on a stand-up stage, even if you mess something up, you can deliberately go, "Well I made a balls of that," and you'll get a laugh out of it. There's a certain looseness to it, whereas the responsibility of acting is terrifying.

In my downtime, I play indoor football extremely badly. I think most people, especially fellas, think they're average at sport. But we can't all be average. If you can imagine a wildebeest that's just been born, and it's staggering around the place and it looks wrecked and it has no motor control - that's how I play indoor football. And if you can imagine a luminous yellow bib on the wildebeest, and about five minutes in, one of the other wildebeests goes, "Maybe you should just go on goals," that's what I do on a Monday night.

I went to the Germany game recently, and Nicky Byrne was sitting beside me. I don't know him, but he seems like a very nice man. As we were one nil up with about 10 minutes to go, he turned to me and said, "Neil, I think tonight could be our night." There was a moment there where I thought 'what the…' and then I realised he meant our night collectively. Many a young lady and a young man would like Nicky Byrne to say that to them!

There have been definite moments that make you go 'wow'. The first time I played Vicar Street, that was amazing. If you get a platinum DVD, that's amazing as well. Those are things where you should sit back and enjoy the moment.

The best advice I ever received is to just compete with yourself. Don't compete with anybody else, because there'll always be somebody who has a different skill set than you or gets different opportunities, and you can only be happy with what you're doing yourself.

If I wasn't a comedian, I would love to go off and do something like Greek and Latin and classical studies. I'd be an old academic who wears tweeds and a bow tie, and eventually one of Dan Brown's heroes might come to me for inspiration on how to figure out a puzzle.

'The Fresh Prince of Delamere Live' is available now on digital download and on DVD. The 'CTRL+ALT+DELAMERE' tour kicks off on December 27 and runs until April 2016.


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