A major part of the Irish comedy scene over the last three decades, Kevin Gildea takes time out from his busy mirthmaking schedule to tell GG all about his comic heroes.
And there are a lot of them. Which is how it should be when you know your comedy.
Take it away, young Kevin…
My first stand-up gig was in college at DCU. It was a debate but I realised later it was my first attempt at stand-up. One gag I remember: ‘My father died when a leaf fell on his head – it was attached to a tree at the time.’
In the year before me were Ardal O’Hanlon and Barry Murphy, with whom I later formed Mr Trellis – the sketch group. Also in that year in Communications Studies was my sister, Anne, who later went on to form The Nualas. Also in my year was Dermot Carmody, who was in Mr Trellis in the early years.
We all turned debates into stand-up. When we left college we set up The Comedy Cellar.
Dylan Moran is a favourite of mine… He uses a brilliant surreal vocabulary. He is a fan of the American writer S. J. Perleman, who used fantastic language to create comic prose. Dylan is like a Perleman creation brought to life. Add to this a very intelligent insight into modern living and wonderfuly performed surreal comic set pieces, and you have one of the best comics ever.
Sam Simmons Winner of this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award. Saw a show of his last year and it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Crazy surreal crackers. Absolutely wonderful… Seymour Mace was also short-listed – a wonderfully surreal comic also. Claudia O’Doherty, another who performed surreal shows almost impossible to describe – brilliant. And Mr Surreal himself – Tony Law.
And Barry Murphy… …who has done some of the my favourite odd material over the years.
Doug Stanhope has been called the new Bill Hicks. I saw him in Edinburgh and what he was was the new Doug Stanhope – an original. But he shared Hick’s ability to spin comedy from the truth. A fearless verbalisation of the unsaid. Two other comics who share this ability are Tommy Tiernain and Dave McSavage. Both of whom I love. And, of course, the old Bill Hicks – Bill Hicks. Oh, and Reg D. Hunter.
Phil Kay Mr Trellis once shared a show with Phil in Edinburgh and over the course of 30 or so nights he made us ache with laughter – often doing entirely different material each night. Phil improvised a lot, and it was a mad surreal improvisation that was also brilliant because of what it said about the world we lived in. Jason Byrne shares this ability and while he does not have the commentary aspect of Phil, he is absolutely brilliant. They are both big, free children, though Phil is also a philosopher!
Daniel Kitson I heard a story of a crazy late night show in The Comedy Store in London where the audience were uncontrollable until Daniel Kitson came on. He made his reputation as an MC on the London circuit and could handle any audience. He went on to become the king of ‘indie comedy’ taking an ‘art’ vs ‘commercial’ path. He has a vast loyal following. I saw a show in Edinburgh and he is brilliant – there is no sense that he is performing on stage – he just ‘is’. Possibly the most natural comic I’ve seen.
Stewart Lee Deconstructs events to the point of reducto absurdum. He takes an idea and runs with it well past the point where other comics would have said: ‘Gone Down a Comedy Cul de Sac there.’ By pushing on further he elicits laughter from a point no other comic reaches. Often says the unsayable. Brilliant.
Simon Munnery Comedy as performance art. But comedy. Original. Fantastic. Wonderful. Lots more positive words.
Louis CK The current King of Comedy.
Wow. The best acting of stand-up situations. But stand-up – not acting. Again – telling it like it is. One of the greats.
There are loads more I love and could give reasons for each (it’s not just a random, inclusive list!)…..Maeve Higgins, Glen Wool, Barry Murphy, Edard Aczel, Aprés Match, The Nualas, Adam Buxton, Patrick MacDonald, Sara Pascoe, Joe Rooney, Eleanor Tiernan, Ardal O’Hanlon, David O’Doherty and many more.
And I’m sure the moment I walk out the door, I’ll think of another one that I should have listed.
Kevin Gildea headlines the Hardy Har Comedy Club on Thursday January 9th. This interview originally appeared on The Guide in October, 2015.
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