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Al making big impression on fight against cancer

Portmarnock comedian, Al Foran talks to Ken Phelan about 'standing up' against prostate cancer for the Marie Keating Foundation

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Portmarnock comedian, Al Foran

Portmarnock comedian, Al Foran

Portmarnock comedian, Al Foran

Portmarnock comedian and impressionist extraordinaire, Al Foran has joined some of Ireland's leading comedians for the second annual 'Stand Up For Your Prostate' campaign, which aims to raise awareness of prostate cancer in men.

The Marie Keating Foundation 'Blue September' campaign hopes to challenge the taboo or embarrassment that some men can feel discussing their prostate health, and encourage them through comedy to talk about what is an important health issue.

Sponsored by Astellas, the campaign is fronted by comedians Des Bishop, PJ Gallagher, Danny O'Brien, Al Foran and Gearoid Farrelly, and hopes to raise awareness, encourage conversation and raise vital funds to support the 3,665 men diagnosed in Ireland every year.

Al, whose alter-egos include Donald Trump, Conor McGregor, Robert DeNiro, Mike Tyson and many more, explains how he came to be involved with the campaign: 'It was through a fellow comedian who was involved with the campaign, Danny O'Brien, he had kind of told me about it and from there they got in touch with me. He was kind of the middle man for me so I got back to him and said, 'yeah, I'd love to get involved with this.'

'We did a promo video, and as I said the other night on the Six O'Clock Show, this is a subject that's actually close to my heart, as my grandad passed away from cancer when I was nine years' old with colon cancer. So I suppose in a sense, cancer affects us all in many ways, that's kind of why I gravitated towards the campaign. Obviously it's prostrate cancer, but it's a generalisation of cancer that brought me into doing this.'

He says: 'So when we did the video, we kind of twisted that in kind of a humorous way to get the point across.

'Sometimes when you blend something that is serious with a bit of light heartedness as well, it's a potent combination at times. Obviously I spoke about my grandad and that was the serious element of the campaign video, but when I started doing the different characters, that kind of brought the humour element to it.'

With 3,665 men in Ireland being diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer amongst men in Ireland, with one in eight affected by the disease in their lifetime. However, if detected early, prostate cancer has a 93% survival rate.

The Marie Keating Foundation, therefore, is advising men who turn 50 years of age, or who are 45 years of age with a family history of prostate cancer, to begin speaking to their GP about PSA testing, a simple blood test than can save lives.

Al says: 'I don't think there's enough awareness with the issue, to be honest with you. I think something like this, especially from us men, we're male comedians doing this, we're speaking up about this and it gets the message across. There's kind of a bravado about men that it's 'No, get my prostate checked?, no way', it's kind of that tough guy image that they need to maintain but honestly there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.'

A 'Stand Up For Your Prostate' live comedy night takes place on September 24 at the famous Laughter Lounge comedy venue in Dublin, featuring sets from all the comedians involved with the campaign, and of course Al's famous impressions.

For Al, it's a chance to highlight a cause very much close to his heart, and team up again with some of his comedy pals.

'I'm looking forward to it. I've worked with Danny O'Brien, I've been on PJ's (PJ Gallagher) radio show, so I've done a few bits and pieces before, but they're great guys, they really are. It's a pleasure to be involved with this campaign alongside such prominent comedians in this country as well.

'I've been gigging about five or six years now. It's a rarity for me to do live stand-up, I do it the odd time every year, but it would mainly be corporate and I'd mainly do speaker dinners. That would be dinners with ex-footballers, ex-boxers and I'd do a segment with the MC where he'd interview me with as many of the different characters.'

The Portmarnock comedian says: 'I did my first gig ten years ago in the Portmarnock Sports and Leisure Centre, ten-and-a-half years ago. I did 20 minutes' material, and 15 minutes was just pure improv, and I remember the day after thinking I'll be in the Apollo next, and no! ha ha. That wasn't to be the case, it took a bit of time, and then 2014, 2015 I started making a name on social media, especially Facebook, posting my content and I kind of latched onto that.'

Al says that thankfully, none of his gigs were cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and were instead postponed to a later date. Things, he says, are 'kind of starting to pick up now', with a few online gigs booked over the coming months.

Speaking of his plans for the rest of 2020, he says: 'I was going to mention this on 'the Six O'Clock Show' but I didn't really have time, but like many people, I have a podcast that I launched back in April for which we have a potential sponsor onboard, which is very beneficial for me from a monetary point of view. So we're launching that in the next couple of weeks.

'We've a couple of guests lined up as well, a couple of high-profile guests, and it should be interesting. I've done ten episodes already, I've done one with the wrester Finn Bálor and one with ex-Man United player, David May.

'I did one with Rory's Stories and Conor Moore as well, another impressionist from Ireland. So that's kind of the big kind of thing I'm launching in the next couple of months. And of course there's a few gigs as well, a few private gigs coming up as well, online of course.'

With his passion for the 'Stand Up For Your Prostate' campaign, and his inimitable takes on famous celebrities, Al certainly leaves a lasting impression.

Fingal Independent