One of Ireland’s most popular and high-profile comedians Neil Delamere balances a career as a regular radio contributor for BBC Radio 4 on The News Quiz, The Now Show and The Unbelievable Truth as well as Fighting Talk on BBC Radio 5 Live; appearing on television shows such as BBC’s The Blame Game on which he has been a permanent panellist since the show’s inception, as well as featuring on Richard Osman’s House of Games and The Michael McIntyre Show on BBC as well as The World Stands Up and Live At The Comedy Store on Comedy Central.
Alongside all this is stand-up comedy, an art form of which The Scotsman said: “You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more gifted comic”, and where he first made his name. During the last two years of lockdowns and gigging/not gigging on both sides of the border, while Neil did use online tools for some work, he felt it didn’t translate well to stand-up.
“I made a decision early on with Zoom gigs that they were OK for things like panel shows and radio, but I only did three or four standard stand-up gigs, it just isn’t the same as standing up in front of people.”
Ahead of his return to Cork Opera House, Neil explained that each of his tours have their own purpose.
“I tour Ireland all the time, I deliberately create a new show for each tour, all new material, new ideas, even new artwork, I want everybody to know that this is a different show than the last show because it’s a small island, somebody might go and see you again, you want to give them a fresh show.
“Last year’s show was about one particular thing, it was all set in one day and about me trying to buy a watch for my dad. The audience knew as soon as I started the opening line that I wanted to buy a fancy watch for a couple of reasons. 1, I loved him the bits, and 2, he’s 86 now so that it was more of a loan than a gift — and as soon as that joke hit, you’re in that mode and people are getting it.
“The show I will be performing in the Opera House at the end of the month is called Liminal, which is that space in between two things, and those things can be a doorway, it can be Halloween night, it can be many things.”
Audiences are certainly coming between two places now, both literally into venues and their walls, but also as we come out of the lockdown mindset of Covid, does Neil refer to the pandemic at all in his latest show?
“That is one of the big things that a lot of comedians are discussing when we meet — ‘How much do you talk about Covid?’. It’s so big that you feel that you can’t not talk about it because it affected everybody in such a profound way.
“But there’s so much already going on. Life comes at you pretty fast, as Ferris Bueller said. Like, we’ve already got a war in Ukraine; the prospect of Donald Trump coming back over the horizon; we’ve got Brexit still ongoing; we’ve got Northern Irish elections, and … Dancing With The Stars (Neil was a contestant on it last year).
“Normally I would write a show every year, and you’re talking about what you’ve done. So I did Ireland’s Fittest Family for example, to push myself into doing new things that I could talk about, you know?”
The stop/start nature of Neil’s industry since 2020 has meant he has been performing rescheduled dates of his previous tour often in the same venue as his new tour.
“I’ve had this weird situation of still having to finish off the last tour. So there’s a couple of weekends where I was on a Friday night doing the old tour show from 18 months ago, and then Saturday night, the new one, which is a bit of a mindmelt.”
Getting back to larger venues again is positive for Neil.
“I’ve spoken to people like Dara O’Brian about this, doing venues like Vicar Street and Cork Opera House. Some people ask us: ‘Why don’t you do just one gig in one night for 10,000 or 20,000 people, it’d much less work etc’, but we’re saying that if you do what we do where we talk to the audience and try to make it inclusive, that probably around 1,000 is actually the perfect size, where it feels like a gig.
“It’s not impersonal and there’s no screens because the sightlines in those rooms are so good. And I suppose in terms of stand-up, there’s an element of, it’s easier to control. Like if someone starts to talk in a 1,000 capacity room and they are disturbing people around them, you can address it.
“So it’s intimate enough to have the craic, but it’s loud enough to get the roar!”
- Neil Delamere performs his Liminal show at Cork Opera House on Thursday, April 28. Tickets are available now at www.corkoperahouse.ie