Sunday 22 September 2019

The world laughs with Gearoid

Comedian Gearoid Farrelly talks about growing up gay

'I am saying prayers before I go on': Comedian Gearoid Farrelly who has opened for Joan Rivers.
'I am saying prayers before I go on': Comedian Gearoid Farrelly who has opened for Joan Rivers.

Andrea Smith

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith, which is exactly what comedian Gearoid Farrelly is doing this summer. Having worked for years in IT, the Finglas man has handed in his notice to concentrate on a comedy career, as he is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with on the entertainment scene.

Happily, his schedule is already jam-packed with festival appearances, including next weekend's Cat Laughs festival in Kilkenny, the Body & Soul Festival in June, and no less than 27 performances of his show, Gearoid Less Travelled, at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.

Gearoid, 37, is the eldest of Eamon and Deirdre's six children and has four sisters. "A shining example to everyone else," he laughs. "The youngest is also a boy, although we couldn't be more different as Ciaran is all relaxed and chilled out. We're all very close, but we absolutely killed each other growing up. We have a family WhatsApp group, and the banter on it is hilarious - even our parents are in it."

As the eldest child, Gearoid was confident until the age of 11. Being gay made school awful, he says, but he had good friends, three of whom are still his best mates to this day. "School knocks the stuffing out of you and it took me a while to get over that," he says. "I was a bit of a swot, and it became all about getting into college. It's amazing to see 15- and 16-year-olds today who are completely comfortable in themselves, and I think that's a great age to come out, because you do it before your life gets completely flipped up when you go off to college."

Gearoid has a degree in business studies, and has worked as a computer programmer for years, describing himself as "a bit of a techie." He also has an MA in theatre, and his career in comedy developed by doing support to people like PJ Gallagher, Neil Delamere, Sarah Millican and even, the late, great Joan Rivers. He was PJ's right-hand man on RTE's Meet Your Neighbours, and has appeared on numerous TV and panel shows.

"I think it takes years to actually get to the level of being a comedian, so I just kept writing and tried to get better." he says. "I always thought I was a work in progress until I did a solo show a few years ago that people actually came to see. I was in bits the first time on stage, and still to this day I have the sweats and am saying prayers before I go on."

Having opened for Joan Rivers for three nights at Vicar Street, Gearoid was invited by Joan to support her for a gig in the UK two years ago, which was filmed for her reality show, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, in front of 4,000 people. She may have been famous for her acerbic wit, but she was extremely nice to Gearoid and he was very sad when she died last September.

"She made me feel like we were in it together because we were both going on stage to do the gig," he says. "Joan was a legend, and even gave me advice and tips. I think I appreciate it more in hindsight, because at the time I was working hard to make sure my stuff was good enough."

Gearoid is thrilled with the reaction to his new podcast chat show Fascinated in which guests who have done fascinating things reflect on their stories and journeys. Last year's series got to number 3 in the Irish Podcast Charts and 74 in the worldwide comedy podcast charts, and in the new series, he chats to actress Pauline McLynn, singer Carnie Wilson of the 90s group Wilson Phillips, Tony award-winning Frances Ruffelle, Mike Stock of the legendary Hit Factory production team Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and director Stephen Bradley. "The first series got a lot of downloads which I was delighted with, so hopefully this will be the same," he says, adding that the podcasts are completely free.

The most challenging thing Gearoid has experienced is when his granny Marie passed away in 2012, as he was really close to her. She was a great character who inspired some of his material, and when she died, getting up on stage and cracking jokes felt pointless to him for a while.

These days, the funny man lives with his boyfriend of four years, Darren. His family were completely supportive when he came out and adore Darren. We did this interview shortly before Friday's marriage referendum, and the comedian expressed fear that it would not pass. He found the No campaign posters shocking, and some of his gay friends told him they would leave Ireland if it didn't pass, because they felt it was saying they weren't wanted in this country. "It's kind of terrifying, to be honest with you," he said of the prospect of a defeat. "I feel like I have been lulled into a false sense of security, as I do gigs all around the country and have never had anyone make a homophobic remark. Coming out is traumatic, because you accept things like you aren't going to have kids or get married, but now in my thirties, it's like all these things have become an option again."

Fascinated is available on iTunes and SoundCloud

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