Wednesday 25 April 2018

Passing of a true funny man who helped a nation find its sense of humour

Michael Twomey Picture: Darragh Kane
Michael Twomey Picture: Darragh Kane
Frank Duggan and Michael Twomey as Cork legends Cha and Mia

Frank Coughlan

The stereotype of the know-all, mouthy Corkman is not a recent creation. Safe to say that ever since Corkonians have stalked God's green earth they have been telling the rest of humanity how things should be done and why Cork is the place to do it.

So when Cha and Miah showed up on RTÉ's hugely popular 'Hall's Pictorial Weekly' in the 1970s they fulfilled a need they probably didn't even know existed.

Here at last was a show where the rest of the country could laugh at the delusional notions of a city that had somehow managed to convince itself that it was, well, the real capital.

But if the joke was on Cork, it didn't notice.

Instead, the success of Cha and Miah over the ensuing years was only seen as more proof that the second city was really a first among equals.

Fantasy? Of course.

But growing up there at the time, I had no reason not to believe it.

But Cork did have things to boast about in the 1970s. The most popular politician in the history of the State in Jack Lynch, for one, and Jimmy Barry Murphy, the GAA's first sex symbol, for another.

In those days too, Cork used to do hurling three-in-a-rows without breaking into a sweat. Imagine. And did I mention Danny la Rue?

'Hall's Pictorial' was capable of biting political satire. Some commentators suggested that the show helped unseat the Coalition government in 1977.

But Cha and Miah wouldn't have known how to be nasty. Their sketches were gentle and often whimsical.

Whatever the subject, the punchline was always about the effortless intellectual superiority of Cork people.

Michael Twomey, who played straight-man Miah to Frank Duggan's Cha, cleverly created and developed a character who could make the rest of the nation belly-laugh at Cork's grandiose notions, while still managing to keep the home crowd smiling.

But most importantly, Cha and Miah were truly funny, the sketches were polished and the delivery exquisite.

Comedy doesn't often age well, but their 'Hall's Pictorial' vignettes are worthy of a revisit, if only for the warm glow of nostalgia that will wash over anyone of a certain age.

It's always sad to see a true funny man pass and Twomey's ability to make Corkonians feel better about themselves, while having a laugh at their expense, was a very clever two-step from a true song and dance man.

Irish Independent

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