“THERE are days that I’m up to my eyes in Play-Doh and longing to be on set, and there are days that I’m on set that I’d love to be home doing a little bit of Play-Doh.”
Balancing a busy career with two preschool children is no laughing matter for most. For Cork comedian Laura O’Mahony, however, life is just all one big joke.
Laura, of Cork Comedy troupe Cccahoots fame, is well known on the local stand-up comedy scene and for a host of regular television and radio appearances. Following the success of Cccahoots’ sell-out Cork Opera House show earlier this year, the Cork trio kick off their autumn tour at Spike Island, on Friday, September 27.
Laura, originally from Whites Cross, has fond childhood memories. Her dad is the former Principal of Scoil Oilibhéar Primary school, in Ballyvolane, which Laura herself attended, and her mother was the Vice Principal of Scoil Aiseiri Chriost, in Farranree.
“Our house was always filled with love and craic. I was the youngest and constantly lurking in corners with my tape recorder, listening out for any interesting goings on.” Speaking about her parents, Laura reveals some clues as to where her love of entertaining may come from.
“My parents are both so amazing. My dad, Jimmy Daly, is renowned for his storytelling ability and his unbelievable kindness. My mam, Cora Daly, is utterly gas. She is my best friend and we always say we would need two mouths each to do all the talking that we do with each other.”
It was in second class of primary school that Laura decided she was going to become an actress. She credits her teacher, Ann Horgan, with igniting the passion for drama and performing in her.
The comedy actress attended the Declan Wolfe Stage School, now Studio Wolfe, from childhood. Laura went on to do Drama and Theatre Studies in UCC, while continuing at the Wolfe Stage School. It was here that she feels she truly learned her craft.
“While I enjoyed the academic side of things in UCC, Declan Wolfe taught me how to be a star and how to shine.”
And shine she did, playing such roles as Nancy in Oliver Twist and Ms Hannigan in Annie. With her studies completed, Laura entered the fiercely competitive world of acting . She recalls the cold reality of auditioning for parts, and getting nowhere, until one day a realisation dawned on her.
“Like a bolt from the blue, I realised that there were thousands of female actors better at doing serious theatre than me. There were hundreds of girls who would do a better Sive or Pegeen Mike, but I was funny. I knew I was funny. I’ve always been funny and I could give most young female comedy actresses a run for their money.”
It was at this point that Laura took her first tentative steps onto the stand-up comedy circuit in Cork.
Her first comedy set was viewed by just two people, her dad and familiar Cork actor, Ciaran Birmingham.
“Both, in their own way, told me it was muck,” she laughs.
But undeterred, she re-worked the set, writing about what she knew best — her own life. Well-known Cork comedian, Cornelius O’Sullivan, took a chance on her and gave her a slot in the Coco Club, and Laura has never looked back.
“I performed in front of an audience that was made up of my closest friends and off I went. I was suddenly a stand-up. People were laughing and I couldn’t get enough of it.”
As her stand-up career was taking off, Laura crossed paths with Cork actor and comedian, Tadhg Hickey, which would prove to be a fateful encounter. She had first met Tadhg when he was playing the lead in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in the Honan Chapel in UCC.
“Little did I know, that this long-haired Jesus was going to become my best friend and my biggest source of career joy in years to come.”
The pair crossed paths a number of times again before they found themselves working, together with Dominic MacHale, on RTÉ’s comedy show, The Fear.
“The chemistry between us was insane. I had known Dom for years and the three of us just clicked.”
In this moment, CCCahoots was formed. Laura thinks the secret to their success, and what sets them apart from other comedy troupes, is their genuine friendship.
“We love each other. Getting to work on stage with those two boys, feeling the mischief that occurs between us. Knowing that you can trust two people so completely is just the best feeling ever.”
While Laura, Tadgh and Dominic work magically together as a team, each also has their own separate projects. Tadhg has just completed a successful run at the Dublin Fringe Festival, with his first solo comedy show, In One Eye, Out The Other. Dominic continues his role of Sergeant Healy in the hugely successful, The Young Offenders. Laura is a busy lady with a number of exciting projects in the pipeline. While continuing to work the stand-up circuit, she has not one, but two, children’s programmes coming out this autumn with RTÉ. She stars as an off the wall scientist, Auntie B, in Body Brothers, and also plays the voice of an animated owl in the show Critters, both new to RTÉjr.
“I am so excited because my children can watch those shows and say “that’s my mammy”.
Laura’s first love is improvisations though and she is thrilled to be back in the Halloween Murder Mystery at The Cork Arts Theatre and is looking forward to returning to Cork Opera House for another Christmas run of the very popular Improvised Panto.
Speaking of first loves, Laura married her childhood sweetheart, Shane, seven years ago and she says there is no sign of the seven year itch.
“Shane O’Mahony is the love of my life.”
The pair met through Cnoc an Duin Irish College in East Cork. They share their home with, Polly, 4, and Alfie, who is almost 2. They currently live in Ballycotton but are soon to move closer to the city. Working as a stand-up naturally means gigging at night.
“I put my babies to bed and I go to work. Shane is a massive support, he spurs me on when the guilts are getting the better of me. He facilitates my dreams.”
In terms of daycare, Laura says there is just one answer — ‘Granny’: “My mam is my lifesaver. She steps in whenever I need her.”
Laura has treasured memories of being minded by her own wonderful gran, Rita Daly.
“I pray to her any time I have a show or gig, she still minds me.”
The young Cork mother feels it is important for her children to see her reach her potential.
“I want my babies to see that I followed my dreams. I am their mother but I am also a comedian, an actor, a daughter, a wife, a friend and lots of other things. When you ask my daughter Polly what my job is she says... ‘Doing her ha-has’.”
While Laura acknowledges that the world of comedy can be perceived as a male-dominated field, she herself prefers to make no distinction. She never feels less than her male counterparts.
“I don’t care if there’s men or women on the bill with me. I am just funny and it doesn’t matter if funny is channeled through a man or a woman... it’s all just funny.”
In terms of career highlights, Laura has many.
“Staring in CCCahoot’s RTÉ series, The School, written and directed by Tadhg, was a huge highlight for me. Supporting Deirdre O’Kane and Des Bishop recently are also classed as magic moments.”
The enterprising young comedian feels the best is yet to come though and there is one burning ambition which she makes no secret of: “I want to be on Dancing With The Stars so badly ... that’d be some highlight, wouldn’t it?”
CCCahoots perform at Spike Island on Friday, September 27, DeBarra’s in Clonakilty on October 18 and The Parkway, Dunmanway on October 20. For more, find them on Facebook @CCCahoots or check out www.cccahoots.com
Laura will also perform her show, Laura O’Mahony, The People’s Princess at The Everyman on Saturday, March 14. Tickets at everymancork.com