Friday 17 January 2020

From Marian Keyes to Trevor Noah - the best of spoken word, comedy, and conversation in 2020

Author Marian Keyes is appearing at the NCH, Dublin. Photo by Tony Gavin
Author Marian Keyes is appearing at the NCH, Dublin. Photo by Tony Gavin
Off-piste: Tommy Tiernan embarks on a nationwide tour later this month. Photo by Tony Gavin


The mind-broadening capacity of one person with a microphone feels more important than ever at a time when thesis seems to be losing the battle with tagline. Talks and seminars share DNA with stand-up for this reason. That many of these can be eye-wateringly funny to boot is an added bonus. So as we're forced to get used to horrid haircuts either side of this little island, take comfort in the crop of excellent stand-up talent in this country that will be augmented this year by some choice overseas guests and illuminating speakers.

Brass Eye Night

The Sugar Club, Dublin (January 19)

Brass Eye was one of the most notorious and incisive TV comedies in broadcasting history, one that cut so close to the bone, it heaped controversy at the feet of its creator Chris Morris. This night at Leeson Street is devoted to the show that caught everyone - including celebrities who queued up to embarrass themselves by endorsing its invented campaigns - on the hop. Director Michael Cumming will be in conversation about working with Morris, as well as introducing Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes, his behind-the-scenes documentary. Tickets from

Tommy Tiernan

Nationwide (January 7 - February 29)

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Tiernan is at risk of becoming more synonymous with his improvised RTÉ chat show and his considerable acting chops (on stage and screen) rather than his stand-up excellence. An extensive, month-long nationwide tour is an ideal way to see the Navan motormouth in his natural habitat, the place where he can go off-piste in a way TV doesn't allow so readily. All dates are sold out, but you never know your luck. Try Ticketmaster or

Marian Keyes, in Conversation

National Concert Hall, Dublin ­(February 3)

Few are able to cut to the big issues in these complicated lives of ours via laughter quite like Keyes. The proof of the pudding is in the 35 million-odd sales she's enjoyed since her 1995 debut novel Watermelon, with a devoted following ready to welcome new novel Grown Ups. Keyes' sharp wit and keen observational skills are just as formidable in the live setting, as anyone who gets along to this launch night will discover. (Roddy Doyle will also get the Earlsfort Terrace treatment on March 25 for the release of his new novel, Love). Tickets available from

David McSavage: Poor Me and the Bastards

Olympia, Dublin (February 13)

Now you see him, now you don't - this seems to be the rhythm of David McSavage's profile, meaning any chance to catch new material should be snatched at. Deprived as we are of his laceratingly funny The Savage Eye comedy series, we may have forgotten just how pointed and unrestrained he can be, especially when he's got a good old Irish chip on his shoulder to explore. As with the most vital stand-ups, a vague undertow of danger makes McSavage an evergreen prospect. Tickets available from Ticketmaster or

Robert Fisk, in Conversation

RDS, Dublin & UCC, Cork (February 18 & 21)

The permanent air of instability much of the Middle East exists in has made it an excruciatingly hard area to get a clear geopolitical perspective on. Central to this are decades of outside meddling by resource-hungry governments and widespread religious zealotry. Award-winning journalist and author Fisk has been embedded in the Arab world for more than 40 years as a Middle East correspondent. Expect a nuanced, first-hand take on events too often blurred by the fog of war. Tickets available on

Catherine Bohart

Comedy Cavern, Cork, and Whelans and Draíocht, Dublin (March 5-7)

Dubliner Bohart studied acting in London but after her career stalled, she moved into the world of comedy and never looked back, winning awards for her stand-up material and becoming a staple of UK comedy television (both on camera and in the writing room). Openly bisexual - she featured in a devilish roast against partner and fellow comedienne Sarah Keyworth - no subject is off limits, so faint hearts should approach with caution. Everyone else, meanwhile, is advised to check out one of the country's most talented female comics on this brief home visit. Tickets available via Ticketmaster or

Ger Staunton: Friend of your Dad

Whelans, Dublin (March 11)

A rising star who has creased sides in the UK, US and mainland Europe, Staunton headlines Wexford Street with new material plus routines from last year's triumphant Edinburgh Fringe show. The Castlebar native creates a tempo all his own, unpackaging his deadpan, immaculately woven anecdotal riffs with a smooth pace and a dark twinkle that has no qualms about upsetting safe sensibilities (as all comedians should). Touring commitments outside the Pale and overseas can be found on

Trevor Noah: Loud & Clear

3Arena, Dublin (March 21)

While some may argue he took his time, Noah has settled in as host of The Daily Show after it felt like no one could replace the exceptional Jon Stewart. Like Stewart and so many of the best political comics down the years, stand-up is where Noah began life. Thus, this live date should see a looser incarnation than we're used to as the South African star gives both barrels to the demagogues and spoofers that litter global politics these days. Tickets available from Ticketmaster.

Deirdre O'Kane's Live From Dublin

Olympia (April 8-11)

O'Kane will be the ringmaster for this new Sky One comedy series being filmed in the hallowed Dame Street venue. Over four nights and one matinee show, O'Kane and her house band will host a variety of big-name comic talent from Ireland and the UK as well as promising up-and-comers. It's too early to say who will be on the bill, but you could do much worse than popping along to any of these instalments to see who turns up. At the very least, you'll have O'Kane's charisma and stage-smarts to look forward to. Tickets available from Ticketmaster or

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