THERE may not have been much to be cheerful about in recent times, but with doors throughout the city now reopened to live entertainment, local comedy legend, Cornelius O’Sullivan, is determined to keep the people of Cork laughing.
The award-winning comedian’s well-established CoCo Comedy Club is back with a bang and delivering the very best that Irish comedy has to offer.
The recently relaunched CoCo Club has made the leap from being a midweek event to a Saturday night comedy club and is boasting an exciting line-up of new talent, regular favourites, and some of the biggest names in the business.
Established in 2010, the CoCo Club had many homes down the years before setting up base at The Roundy bar, on Castle Street, six years ago. Cornelius recounts the host of talent that has taken to the stage of his well-loved comedy club.
“We have had some amazing acts play our club since its inception, Alison Spittle, Neil Delamere, Emma Doran, and we always have an interest in keeping it as close to home in Cork as possible. There are incredible Cork comics on our doorstep and it’s a great mix.”
Con may be full of praise for others but noticeably less flattering when it comes to talking about himself: “I’m a middle aged comic and am told I’m tall for my age (44). I’m married with kids so I am often tired and cranky.”
He says he got into comedy in the usual way: “Your classic dysfunctional family, loneliness, and a desire to be adored by strangers in the dark.’’
The comic cites Basil Fawlty and Pat Kenny as his comedy heroes and says the idea of him launching a comedy club in Cork city is really down to Jesus, who appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to do so. This he found particularly shocking as he was an atheist at the time!
While the jokes come thick and fast to Cornelius, he is slower to mention the very successful run his debut solo show, Family Guy, had at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival of 2017, or just how important a role he plays in local and national comedy.
The North Cork Comedian has a reputation for being hugely encouraging and supportive of newcomers to stand-up and the CoCo club has launched the careers of some of the best talent on the Irish comedy scene today. There is no end to the list of comics currently blazing trails, nationally and internationally, who cut their teeth on the CoCo Club stage, among them even Cork comedy royalty!
The People’s Princess herself, star of stage, screen and radio, Laura O’Mahony, is a regular attraction at the CoCo Club and recalls the earliest days of her thriving career.
“The CoCo club is where I got to do my very first stand-up gig.
"I had contacted this man called Cornelius and weeks passed by but then suddenly he was on with an offer of seven minutes on stage. Little did I know Con would become a firm friend of mine and that the CoCo Club would become my comedy home,” said Laura.
The mum of two now balances a busy stand-up and TV career while hosting the Red FM Breakfast Show each week day, alongside Ray Foley. She describes what makes the CoCo Club so special for her. “The CoCo audiences are always on for the craic. You can go up and blast out your greatest hits, or you can road test some new bits, but the atmosphere Con has created means that you are always safe and always well received. I am so glad that we finally have it back.
"A happy, fun place for the cream of Irish comedy to rise to the top again.”
Well-known Cork Comedian, Tadhg Hickey, whose recent satirical sketches have amassed millions of online views globally, doesn’t hold back when asked about the importance of the CoCo Club.
“If comedians weren’t so inherently self-obsessed, we’d have already done something to mark Cornelius’ unparalleled contribution to comedy in the city,” said Tadhg.
“There should be a statue of him outside The Roundy, capturing him in his pomp: comedy hat on, bag around the shoulder, messing with the microphone, and a big cheeky smile on his face. I count the guy as a great friend and literally don’t know anyone in Ireland who has done more for new comics.”
Tadhg, also a regular favourite at the CoCo Club, attributes the success of his highly-acclaimed current solo show, In One Eye. Out The Other, to Con’s trust and innovation.
“Without Con, and the club, the show would never have happened. It’s part stand-up comedy, part theatre and deals with alcoholism and loneliness, it doesn’t always play for laughs. It’s pretty brave for a comedy venue to give you the freedom to develop a show like that but that’s the mark of Con and CoCo: inclusive, ambitious and incredibly supportive of the comedians who walk through that door,” said Tadhg.
An Irish comedy promoter told Hickey the show had no future, deeming it “too weird” but Con disagreed. In One Eye. Out The Other went on to be the most nominated show at the Dublin Fringe Festival 2019, including best performer. The show received five star reviews at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is set to tour internationally next year.
Speaking of the club’s relaunch, Tadhg notes: “Con and the CoCo Club are the beating heart of Cork comedy and we’re all grateful that it’s pumping good and strong again.”
Bernard Casey has emerged as one of Ireland’s brightest and best new comedians. Many consider the Kerryman to be a natural successor to Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny’s much loved D’unbelievables with his array of weird and wonderful rural Irish characters.
Like Laura and Tadhg, Bernard also launched his career at the CoCo Club and says the sense of community that his good friend Con has created in the club is a welcoming space for new talent to grow their confidence and hone their craft.
“The CoCo Club is such an important resource for comedy in Cork. It gives new comedians the opportunity to get stage time, in front of a good crowd. You are allowed, and encouraged, to progress.
“I started off there performing 10-minute slots before working up to being the main support act. I eventually became the headline act, which was a huge big deal for me.”
Bernard says the club has an especially supportive atmosphere where everyone looks out for each other, adding: “Comedy needs Con! He has brought through a lot of great talent down the years. A lot of people have a lot to thank Con for, and long may it last.”
We all know laughter is the best medicine and if you want to get your dose at The CoCo Club then you’ll have to be quick off the mark. Con explains: “The club aims to offer big names in Irish comedy every Saturday night.
“Our venue is compact and now, with Covid regulations, capacity is capped at just 30 lucky punters so every show sells out due to the nature of the talent on show.”
If you would like to be one of those lucky punters, check out The CoCo Comedy Club on Facebook and Instagram for upcoming events.