LAUGHTER is a powerful tool for bringing us together. Add healthy food to the mix and you may have a soul-fixing solution.
The delightful combination is a new project in West Cork for comedian Cornelius Patrick O’Sullivan and Clonakilty chef Sharon McSweeney.
Called Soul Fix Comedy Club, it is intended as a travelling place of laughter and gastronomic joy for rural Cork. Cornelius makes the jokes and Sharon cooks the food!
Sharon says the idea is to use the two things as a vehicle for care.
“I think in this day and age people don’t laugh enough because life can get really serious,” she says. “And good food also enhances your mood.”
The name Soul Fix, Sharon says, is an ode to her lifelong quest for a fix.
“I was always looking for some sort of fix in my life to make me feel better, either drink or drugs, it was always something,” she says. “You’re always looking for something outside of yourself.”
Those external, temporary fixes prompted alcohol dependency and depression for Sharon.
“When I was taken away from the alcohol, I was left with nothing but feelings, intense feelings that I would have been so used to numbing with alcohol,” she says.
“Once I got in connection with my soul, I realised that I needed to nurture and love myself, and that was my fix.”
After her recovery, the Clonakilty woman bought a food truck and began serving organic fresh food on beaches around West Cork.
“When you’re going to the beach, and you’re going to eat some nice food, there is a lot of mindfulness in that,” she says.
“That brings people together and makes them happy. It’s healthy. I had people coming to the beach last summer who hadn’t been to a beach for years.”
After the summer, Sharon found out that her brother, Donal, a construction worker, often travels to Cork city to try stand-up comedy.
“When winter came, I thought, ‘Jesus, what am I going to do?’ then I contacted my brother and said, ‘because I’m moving locations, can you do a night with me where you do the comedy, and I do the food?’”
One night, in The Co-Co Comedy Club, Donal told Cornelius, who runs the club, about his sister’s plans. That’s how Soul Fix Comedy Club was born.
A mindfulness fanatic and a devoted vegetarian, Cornelius says boosting rural Cork’s mood with food and laughter sounded like an ideal plan.
“Food to nourish your body and laughter to nourish your soul, that is the idea,” he says.
Nightlife in rural Ireland has been facing a slow demise with many pubs closing. Cornelius, however, thinks we can still share intimacy over a few laughs. “My generation and before that were all brought up in pubs, but we’re not focusing on alcohol with this,” he says.
“There will be locations where alcohol is served, we’re putting on something that is completely unrelated to alcohol, but the option is still there, although there would be dry events too.”
Sharon, who serves up freshly made, fish, chip, burgers, says: “I’m going to risk and try to bring a new meaning to wellness; I want people to come to pubs, but for food and comedy.”
Sharon and Cornelius put their idea to the test in November and December, and it was an instant success.
“It was unbelievable, the first night we completely sold out, and we had 80 people in, and we sold out in a couple of days,” Sharon says, smiling.
A full-time comic for more than a decade, Cornelius says that the idea of making people laugh drives and inspires his career.
“When I truly fell in love with comedy, making people laugh became the most important thing, I didn’t care about the attention I was getting any more,” he says.
Cornelius, who also runs Kingdom Comedy Club in Killarney, has overseen the growth of many Cork comics, offering them stage time and advice.
Last month, Cork’s comedy scene lost a few of its popular comedians after Roger O’Sullivan, Denis Len and Mark O’Keeffe left the country for England.
So, finding fresh talent who would contribute to his new West Cork project is another significant plan.
“A lot of people are now gone, so I really want to help new people to come and get a buzz out of (doing comedy),” Cornelius says.
Clonakilty’s iconic pub, DeBarra’s, hosted the Soul Fix comedy club on Valentine’s Day.
“The idea is bringing as many people as we can together, and we’re hoping to do three gigs a month,” Sharon says.
Soul Fix Comedy Club will travel across West Cork, from Leap to Clonakilty to Skibbereen. For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/SoulfixComedyClub.