TWO Cork comedians, who formed a friendship through their shared love of making people laugh, are certainly laughing now after setting up what has quickly become the most successful comedy club in the city.
Pulling names like Eric Lalor, Joanne McNally, Tez Ilyas, Chris Kent, Bec Hill, Frank Sanazi, Fred Cooke, John Colleary, Micky Bartlett, Colum McDonnell, Will E Robo, Kevin McGahern and crowds to match, Ross Browne and Mike Morgan are onto a winner.
Ross, aged 34, known to many as one half of the witty morning radio slot The KC Show on 96fm has plenty experience working in comedy after hosting at City Limits for the eight years before branching out to set up his very own laughter lounge.
Mike, aged 26, is relatively new to the comedy circuit but has quickly made waves in the funny world with wisecracks that are guaranteed to have you chuckling.
Together the pair appear to be a formidable force and since opening the doors of the Cellar Theatre at the Mardyke Entertainment Complex every Friday and Saturday last November, the place has been packed with people looking for a good laugh and it seems the boys are certainly providing that.
According to Ross the secret to their success, apart from investing in stellar acts and keeping things fresh and fun is offering people a complete night out.
“Rather than asking people to come to a random street with one bar, we thought, why not put it in the middle of somewhere that is already a hub?
“We do packages where you have food before the gig, so it is a full night out then especially with the infrastructure they have here, people can have some food before the gig, enjoy some comedy and then go for a drink in one of the other bars here or they can go play bowling or the arcade games.”
Ross said selling the idea of a comedy club to the Mardyke managers was an easy one and by happy coincidence, the complex had been considering the same thing.
“I approached them here with the idea, I knew they were always toying with the idea of doing comedy. Then only by happenstance, this room was becoming disused, someone else was moving out and they were saying they were looking for an entertainment option to fill the space rather than another place that sells beer, so they were all up for it.”
Ross said, in his opinion, the Wonky Donkey Comedy Club offers a little something extra to people looking for a good night out.
“A lot of comedy clubs are somewhat improvised in their set up, so like they are a room at the back of a bar or something whereas we are a bespoke area for comedy so everything is set up, the sound is perfect, the lighting is perfect and the atmosphere is perfect so when the customers are in here, they are completely happy, they have a nice drink, they are warm, happy, comfortable, it works.
“If you can cultivate an atmosphere for laughter then it makes the show that much better.”
Touching on how the two comedians formed a friendship and decided to set up their own comedy club, Mike said it was a very organic arrangement.
“We have been doing sketches outside of this for the past two years and travelling to gigs together in cars for hours and hours, so we have talked about this loads of times and we know each other well.
“We kind of always wanted to set up a club. I’m delighted working with Ross all the time, we just have a laugh. I don’t know how we are getting away with it, to be honest!” Ross agreed that the pair were friends first, business partners second.
“We are singing off the same hymn sheet in terms of what we want in comedy and we have the same taste, same kind of ideas for what works and what doesn’t work.
“There has never been the case that one of us had an idea that the other one was like; ‘Nah wouldn’t work’. It’s an easy sell from him to me or me to him, because we just have the same taste.”
In terms of trying new things, Mike and Ross are certainly not holding back, pulling out all the stops to be the most innovative and exciting comedy club that Cork has to offer.
“We are talking of doing other shows such as burlesque, cabaret, magicians, doing wrestling based comedy shows, so there will be really bad wrestling on big screen and then comedians taking the piss out of it in front of a load of wrestling fans,” Ross explained Something they have already tried is the American concept of roast battles where comedians cut verbal strips of each other in front of an audience.
“We didn’t know how good the roast battles were going to be until we did them!” Mike said, “Everyone seemed to come in saying to me ‘I hope you flog Ross,’ and telling Ross ‘I hope you flog Mike’.
“When we were doing it, I think everyone really enjoyed it, even ourselves, we actually couldn’t stop, we are hoping to do a night of just roast battles soon.”
Other plans in the pipeline include a Take Me Out themed competition where the audience can turn off a light on their table when they have had enough of the comedian and when there is a blackout the comedian has to go. The idea is to see who is the last one standing.
Another concept is gong nights, where three random people in the crowd have an X and if all three hold up their X the comedian is off.
“It is very Americanised comedy, but that is what we are going for, Ross said.
Discussing their other ventures, it is clear the pair of comedians are hardworking characters hellbent on success.
When not on the radio or in the comedy club, Ross can be found writing on The Young Offenders with Peter Foott.
The effervescent funny man revealed he is also just back from Los Angeles where he was shooting a pilot for his own hidden camera show.
“I created a character called Gabriel who is trying to set up his own religion, he is bit of an entrepreneur and he goes to LA to set up his own spirituality app.” Ross said there were a few hairy moments while filming.
“I was at the Scientology celebrity centre, trying to get David Miscavige out to me and they called the cops, so big squirrelly adventures.”
Ross said he is constantly working. “I can’t sit still, A day off turns into me writing or something so I just can’t stop.”
Regarding inspiration or role models, Ross said he doesn’t look at what others are doing, he focuses on himself.
I don’t really focus on anyone else. I think it was Matthew McConaughy who said it best: it is me in ten years who I am always chasing because you always want to catch up.
“That’s what I do. It is never anyone else. They are doing their thing and I am doing my thing and if you are following someone else you are always going to be five steps behind that guy, so why not let it be me that I am behind.”
For Mike, comedy is his A game. “I’ve been doing comedy for about three years and I’m just working on progression, I just want to be the best I can be.
“I’m hoping by the time I am 30 I am one of the best in Ireland.”
Mike, who quit his day job to focus on his comedy career said there is nothing else he wants to be doing.
“I love it, I never want to do anything else for the rest of my life, I love it.”
For more information on The Wonky Donkey Comedy Club follow them on Facebook @wonkydonkeycork or log onto www.mardyke.com