I was always making people laugh — so I made a career of it...

Award-winning Cork comedian Mark O’Keeffe tells SHAMIM MALEKMIAN about his job, living with his parents, and the degree that he will never use
I was always making people laugh — so I made a career of it...
Comedian Mark O'Keeffe

CONSIDERING he is a comedian, Mark O’Keeffe has a fully-developed serious side — not to mention a laconic and laidback attitude to life.

The 30-year-old has been heralded for his comic routines, but will often tell people he is unemployed.

“I just don’t want to talk (about my job) because people would get the idea of this travelling artist when I’m just a guy sitting here drinking coffee,” he explains,

“And then, sometimes, I go and do a gig,” he explains.

Mark happily opens up about his fairly privileged background and lack of ambition, and says they are often hallmarks of his generation.

“We’re losers; we’re loser generation, our parents broke their backs to get rich, honestly, like,” Mark says.

“My parents worked hard, and then they brought me up, and they instilled some sort of work ethic, but at some point, I lost that.

“I think the generations that came after (millennials) were the ones who could work, and they built everything.”

It’s not as though the Corkman lacks an education.

He holds a BA degree in Recreation and Leisure from CIT, and says now that he never believed in the practicality of the university course, but found courses with better career prospects harder to undertake.

“I finished my three years of college, which is like a degree I’m never going to use,” he admits.

“It’s like, would you like to spend your life working at a gym?”

Perhaps there is a blurring of the lines here between real life and his comic routine.

Mark recently won the title of best comedian at Galway-based comedy festival, Show Me The Funny; a coveted accolade which allows comics to perform at the Electric Picnic festival in September.

However, he says that he has no recollection of winning the prize, reasoning that he was drunk throughout his award-winning routine!

Mark O'Keeffe in Grand Parade. Picture: Shamim Malekmian
Mark O'Keeffe in Grand Parade. Picture: Shamim Malekmian

Mark reflects on his childhood and teenage years as marked by “boredom”, and “drinks”, a “bland” life which left a sizeable void in his heart.

“Whatever I am, I am the product of people who worked before me, and then I had a ’90s childhood which was so easy,” he says. “And then I just got older and told myself; I suppose I will become a comedian.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m too middle-class to have an opinion.”

Mark left Ireland after he graduated to engage in ‘unskilled’ professions abroad, but his work visas often expired because he “forgot to look into it”.

“I was in Canada and Australia and New Zealand, I was always doing unskilled work, that’s what I’m really good at, unskilled work,” he says, laughing.

Mark’s comedy career started five years ago while he was living in Vancouver, Canada.

“I was always making people laugh and stuff, so I thought, maybe it’s time to monetise it,” he says.

Funds for his flight back to Ireland was also raised through a comedy event called ‘The Roast and Deportation of Mark O’Keeffe’ in Vancouver.

He has moved back home, to Glanmire, with his parents since last May, an experience he describes as “sad but comfortable”.

“Yeah, these days it’s really cool to be 30 and living with your mum, ten years ago that would’ve been unheard of,” he says, smiling.

He’s right. Recent European data, confirmed by the CSO, revealed that a quarter of Irish adults over the age of 25 are living in their family homes.

The country’s ongoing housing crisis is the primary driver of the new trend, but is there an element of Mark’s generational theory going on here too?

The Corkman thinks that, unlike film and theatre, there is not much support for stand-up comedy projects from the Arts Council. He says he earns little to nothing from doing stand-up across Ireland.

“I could probably get another job if I wanted to, but I’m more comfortable doing comedy at the moment,” he admits. “The Cork comedy scene is nice; it’s very small, but it’s friendly.”

Mark agrees that the public’s support is vital in helping to keep the genre alive and wholesome.

“People are too isolated these days, staying indoors watching Netflix and YouTube, but humans are made to connect, aren’t they?

“So, people coming out and supporting us and getting out of their houses instead of staying indoors is important.”

Two things matter to him the most: “Making people laugh and being respected among my peers”.

See Mark every Thursday at Cashman’s pub in Cork city.and every Tuesday at Kingdom Comedy Club, Killarney.

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