When you can get a complete stranger to laugh.. a real belly laugh, it's exhilarating!

Ahead of the upcoming Cork Comedy Festival, ROISIN BURKE chats to some of Cork’s rising comic talent about what inspires them, how stand-up gives them an unbelievable high... and what happens when a gig goes terribly wrong
When you can get a complete stranger to laugh.. a real belly laugh, it's exhilarating!
Dawn McDonough who lives in Midleton.

CORK comedy is having a moment right now, according to Neil Delamere, with raw talent popping up all over the city.

With the second Cork Comedy Festival just around the corner, now is the perfect time to showcase some of Cork’s up and coming talents, who may yet be playing The Apollo in the coming years.

The local comedy scene has taken off, with a number of amateur and semi-professional comedy nights now taking place to cater for the growing demand.

One of the biggest comedy gigs of the week in Cork is the CoCo Comedy Club, run by Cornelius O’Sullivan every Wednesday and Thursday at The Roundy. He set it up in 2008 in order to give himself a place to perform.

The CoCo Club has come on in leaps and bounds and is now recognised as one of Cork’s staple venues to catch some comedy gold.

Cornelius O'Sullivan, from Ballyclough in North Cork.
Cornelius O'Sullivan, from Ballyclough in North Cork.

Cornelius, 40, kicked off his comedy career in London at the age of 33.

“I was running a bar over there and I was looking for something to do on my day off,” he explained.

Cornelius said it was much easier to get gigs in London and he found himself quasi-booked all week long. Then he moved home to Cork and soon realised the scene here was not as developed as in London.

“I decided to run my own night in order to gig more myself. It started off as a glorified open mic night seven years ago (2008) and grew from there.”

Speaking about where he got his grá of comedy, Cornelius said his mother was a key component.

“My mother has a very dry wit, she was very sarcastic when I was growing up, there was always humour in the house.”

Explaining the power of comedy and the reason he takes to the stage a couple times a week to share amusing musings with complete strangers, Con said comedy can connect you in a beautiful way to your audience. It’s about creating your own content from your own mind to be judged and it is judged by the volume of laughter you receive.

“For me, there is nothing better on this planet than going up on stage in front of a bunch of people you know nothing about and connecting with them and bringing them into your mind and your world and bringing them on a journey for whatever amount of time you are on stage. For them to resonate with you and to be able to connect with them, for me it is the most beautiful thing to do and it is incredibly addictive. I get a high from it and it is cheaper than cocaine. Just about.”

Christopher O’Leary, 35, is another club running comedian who created his own night in order to up his stage time.

He is behind Comedy Cavern, a new comedy night that runs every second Tuesday at Coughlan’s on Douglas Street. Christopher is another Corkman who began his career in comedy in London.

“I have been doing comedy for three years, but for about three or four years before taking up comedy I would write down things that I thought were funny.

“I am not a joke writer but I just kind of wrote down ideas I thought were funny but I had no outlet for them, I had no way to perform them.

“I hadn’t really thought about performing them but my work situation changed, I ended up working in London two days a fortnight, which meant I had Tuesday nights to myself in London. I found a club doing stand up comedy, when down there, felt the standard was generally appalling and thought I could probably do better.”

Unfortunately for Christopher, his assessment of the situation fell slightly short.

“My first night, there was mostly silence. It was a strange night, no one really laughed at anything that night and there were some fairly polished acts there, but the second time my set went really well and it gave me encouragement that the way I was approaching it was worth continuing with.”

Christopher, who works as a statistician, was in London for nine months and did six gigs during his time there.

Since moving home, he has become a regular on Cork’s comedy circuit, gigging every week since breaking into the Cork scene over a year ago.

With comedy, Christopher said, he enjoyed the instantaneous nature of it.

“You can think up an idea and perform it two hours later, I really like that.”

Christopher O'Leary, from Mayo, who lives in Cork city.
Christopher O'Leary, from Mayo, who lives in Cork city.

Christopher also said he liked the Wild West/no rules aspect of comedy in that there are no boundaries to the sort of comedy you can experiment with.

“If the crowd is interested, you can do what you want. There are no rules.When it goes well it is brilliant, the nights it goes terribly it is not so good.”

Other comedians on the Cork scene include Dawn McDonough and Anthony Riordan.

Dawn, 33, is a full-time mom and a part time taxi base operator, as well as a comedy genius. She started her career in chuckles and laughs in 2008 in Galway. A friend opened up a comedy club in that city and encouraged her to give it a go.

“I used to do comedy sketches so I had an idea but it went really well, I just waffled on and people kept laughing and I have been doing comedy off and on since.”

Dawn then moved to Dublin and co-presented a radio show called  ‘Laughter Tracks’, on Dublin City FM as well as working with RTÉ on a web series for Tweens.

Now married with two small children, Dawn said she gave up comedy for five years after meeting her husband as she was just too busy but has slowly been getting back on the horse over the past year or two.

“Slowly but surely, I have been dipping the toes in the water. Cornelius is very encouraging.”

With regards material, Dawn said it is not something she has to think about often.

“It comes to me very naturally, it is all my own musings, views and perspectives.”

Talking about her reasons for doing comedy, Dawn said she just loves to make people laugh.

“Working part-time and being full-time mom, it’s important to have an outlet to be creative. Nothing beats a live gig, but the more you do and the more you practice, the better you evolve yourself.”

Anthony Riordan, 31, is another comedian who loves to tickle the funny bone of complete strangers. He said he loved comedy as a kid and that performing is an experience like no other.

“When I did it I never felt anything like it in my life, I felt like I was floating, it was like an out of body experience, I just felt this was the one thing that I was born to do.

“The feeling when you get people to laugh, you know that feeling when you get your friends to laugh, like a real belly laugh, well you can do that with a stranger and it is more exhilarating.

“There is just this rush of energy through your body, it is like electric. I’ll never be a rock star but this is the closest I will come.”

Anthony Riordan from Cahersiveen, who lives in Cork city.
Anthony Riordan from Cahersiveen, who lives in Cork city.

Anthony said his material is personal stories about his life.

“I tell stories about my family. At the moment I am working on a show about my dad that I hope to bring to Edinburgh next year.”

With regards getting nervous about performing and perfecting the craft, Anthony said the only way to succeed is to fail.

“Obviously you don’t want to fail, but eventually you realise the only way to improve is to fail in every way possible in every direction.”

Looking for a bit of comedy?

The Cork Comedy Cooperative runs Monday nights, 8.30pm, at The Friary.

The Comedy Cavarn runs every second Tuesday night, 8.30pm, at Coughlan’s, Douglas St.

The CoCo Club runs Wednesday and Thursday nights, 8.30pm, at The Roundy.


The second Cork Comedy Festival runs from Thursday September 21 to 24.

Venues taking part include City Limits Comedy Club, Cork Opera House, Everyman, Crane Lane Theatre, The Roundy Bar, The Imperial Hotel.

See www.corkcomedyfest.com.

More in this section

Sponsored Content