Organised chaos: From stand-up to improvising with the crowd. It’s full-on with comedian Bernard Casey

A long wait to headline the Cork Opera House finally comes to an end for Bernard Casey, who performs there on Friday, February 18, writes Ronan Leonard.
Organised chaos: From stand-up to improvising with the crowd. It’s full-on with comedian Bernard Casey

Yes, it's me: Comedian Bernard Casey ready to hit Cork Opera House stage.

Two of the most established routes for a comedian to build up their name in Ireland is to create plenty of online viral content or to constantly hone your craft in the live environment, Kerry-born and Cork-based Bernard Casey has taken both routes simultaneously and they’ve combined to bring him to Cork Opera House this Friday with his Local Gossip show.

With over 150,000 followers combined on social media and 10 million views on his YouTube channel alone, Bernard has developed several long running characters - such as ‘Nephew’ and ‘Uncle’ - that feature regularly as well as many other standalone sketches that give a funny and fresh look at living in Ireland today.

Bernard’s stand-up comedy has constantly received good reviews and praise from acts such as Tommy Tiernan and Foil, Arms & Hog, and he is champing at the bit to perform his Local Gossip show again.

“We were nearly at the end of the Irish tour before the lockdown, we only had Cork and Mayo to go, we were going to head to the UK then but that didn’t happen.

“It’s a mix of several types of comedy, I start with straightforward stand-up on the stage and from then on there’s stuff happening all the time; sometimes on stage, sometimes in the audience, it could be anywhere. I’m packing a lot into it, it runs smoothly but it is an organised chaos, there’s a reason for everything, it goes from stand-up to character to video to improvising with the crowd. It’s full on but it all makes sense.”

This will be the first time Bernard has headlined the Cork Opera House on his own, something he has always wanted to do, the additional two year delay due to the pandemic gave him time for further reflection.

“It’s the Carnegie Hall of Munster, if not Ireland. It’s quite an accolade to do my own show there, it’s a beautiful venue, especially the way it’s spaced out. I remember seeing Des Bishop in the Cork Opera House when I was 17 or 18, I never thought I’d be up there myself. I was alway interested in comedy, even at that stage I was wondering ‘How do you get into this?’ ‘What is the route?’”

As live comedy emerges from the last two years of lockdowns and reduced audiences, Bernard accepts that while styles and tastes might have changed for both audiences and creators, his Local Gossip show is already matchfit.

Bernard Casey’s stand-up comedy has constantly received good reviews.
Bernard Casey’s stand-up comedy has constantly received good reviews.

“We’ll all find out if comedy has changed much over the last two years, I know my videos evolved, I couldn’t keep making the same thing over and over. The pandemic was good in that way, it forced us to think more and do more and try more, but stand-up is a different ball game, we haven’t had the chance to practice new material, we haven’t had the pubs and small rooms to try out things, stand-up might be different for a while, but this show in the Opera House is the one I was supposed to be doing there two years ago, it’s all written and bedrocked in.”

One in-person environment that Bernard could continue working in over the last two years are his Drama Workshops, which are aimed towards secondary school students and helps develop self-confidence, decision-making, creativity and communication skills.

“Schools in Cork were very good to me by bringing me in to deliver my workshops. From Castletownbere to Mitchelstown, I’ve nearly been in them all! Working with the teenagers keeps me on my toes, you see what they find funny.

“I’m also constantly performing, we cover making comedy sketches in the workshop, so I’d have to do an example sketch with some of them at the start, I’d do a bit of improv with them, and you never know what’ll happen then, so I’ve been practicing and performing every day really.

“Sometimes I come home afterwards and with the energy from bouncing off in the workshop I have my own idea and make a video myself and put it up that evening.

“I always leave a worksop full of energy, when you are teaching you might be a bit wrecked from the correcting and things like that, but after just a workshop I could almost run a marathon after it.”

With years of performing experience in both drama and comedy, as well as having earned a Masters of Education with Hibernia College, Bernard can see the similarities between the classroom and the venue.

“The teaching experience has helped with formulating a comedy idea: What do I want it to be like? How long do I want it to be? How long do I have to do it?

“With teaching and with comedy the whole aim is keeping somebody’s attention by keeping them interested. Like when you are teaching you need a lesson plan, first of all I need an introduction to what you are talking about, and then you need an example and that might be something in your hand like a prop, and then everyone is looking at what’s in your hand, students and audiences are the same.

“We are all fascinated when we see something new. Then with the example you can then make your point. I use that idea on stage too, and use things. Like Bill Bailey is great for using so many things on stage to make people laugh, I do as well to an extent using lights and screens to make sure everyone is paying attention!”

Bernard Casey performs his Local Gossip show in Cork Opera House on Friday 18 February. Tickets available at www.corkoperahouse.ie.

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