Comedians on Comedians
With Red Nose Day returning on March 13, some of Northern Ireland's finest stand-ups write about their favourites comics, from Kevin McAleer to Vic and Bob
Colin Geddis on Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks is my favourite comedian of all time. I remember, when I was in my mid-teens, flicking channels on TV and I came across the [British drug] movie Human Traffic. In one particular scene, the main character sits down on his bed before a night out and watches a routine with Hicks talking about drugs. It was so badass I remember being confused as to whether it was from a real stand-up routine or a re-enactment shot just for the film.
Hicks was the first comedian I had come across who wasn’t just an entertainer telling jokes – he was a rock star. And as much as I wonder about what sort of material he would be doing nowadays if he were still alive, I think, like Bill, I prefer my rock stars dead. Not to worry though, his spirit lives on in the army of open-mic comedians (including myself) trying to replicate his style.
Adam Laughlin on Pablo Francisco
Long before I wanted to become a stand-up comedian, I played guitar in a band in my native Derry and from the small confines of a run down extension built onto the side of our drummer's house, we rocked our socks off. One night, while trying to find something to watch, we came across a collection of Comedy Central stand-up specials and a 20-minute clip of a comedian named Pablo Francisco. If I had any aspirations of becoming a stand-up comedian, I was sure this was the kind of comic I wanted to be.
Francisco gained fame with his impressions of movie preview voiceover actors. In his routine, he portrays a fictional trailer for an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle called Little Tortilla Boy. Though far removed from the Latino background he described himself coming from, I became addicted to the characters he created, to the point where his stand-up has become part of my everyday lexicon. Pablo showed me that comedy could be a relentless stream of funny noises and distorted impressions. Starting out in stand-up, that approach suited me perfectly and helped me find a voice.
Shane Todd on Kevin McAleer
It's hard to pick a definitive favourite comedian, as I've been watching so many different acts since I was a child. I suppose the comedian I have the most admiration for is Kevin McAleer, from County Tyrone. I remember watching a VHS tape of him in the 1990s as a kid and having no idea what he was doing – due to his minimalist style and deadpan delivery – but still finding it totally entertaining.
I've since seen him live maybe four or five times and find him funnier each time. I once saw him in Omagh town centre just pottering around; I was also in Omagh town centre just pottering around. I was utterly fascinated witnessing what Kevin McAleer does with his day. Then I realised I'd been following the man for ten minutes and promptly stopped doing that.
Paddy McDonnell on Tom Stade
Who is my favourite comedian? It has changed over the years. It was always Billy Connelly, and I still hold him up there as a great, but since starting to perform stand-up comedy myself I've changed how I watch and enjoy comedy. I analyse every aspect of an act. My favourite comedian nowadays is Tom Stade. Out of all the acts I've either gigged with or observed, he stands out and ticks all of my comedy boxes.
Tom is a naturally funny, cool character. When you watch him, he pulls you into what he is saying and his stage presence is something all comedians would love to be able to buy in a bottle. it seems really easy to him. He can talk about any subject, like everyday relationships, and then get really outrageous and talk nonsense. That's what makes him hilarious. On top of everything else, he is actually a really nice, down to earth guy, a mad man to go out drinking with, but we won't go into that...
Marcus Keeley on Vic and Bob
Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have enjoyed a renaissance lately, what with their most recent project, House of Fools, currently airing its second series on BBC Two, and 25-year anniversary tour, The Poignant Moments, coming up. Vic and Bob are masters of the madcap and surreal, nonsense and non-sequiturs. There is an infectious playfulness between them, further polished by the loyal legion of onstage enablers they’ve had over the years, such as Matt Lucas, Mark Lamarr, Dan Skinner, Matt Berry and many more individually talented people.
Despite all this, there is the constantly circling feeling that the whole charade may fall apart in front of your eyes, mainly because you can see that everyone involved is actively enjoying themselves. More often than not, cracks begin to appear during any given episode of their Dadaist quiz show Shooting Stars, which was a masterclass in the panel format before the medium ate itself entirely. What I particularly love about them is that each project is essentially a joyful, near-aimless daft cabaret show spinning out of control; a celebration of the weird, wonderful and why nots, being performed full-whack by two men who are old enough to know better.
Even if you find their work too wacky or lacking in narrative, I implore you to check out their oft-overlooked 2004 sitcom Catterick. Dark, off-kilter as always and strangely touching in places, the world that they inhabit there is, tonally, a short train journey from The League of Gentlemen's Royston Vasey. Incidentally, it features the continually brilliant Reece Sheersmith as the main antagonist, and scenes are frequently stolen by altered incarnations of Reeves & Mortimer characters of yore, mainly Kinky John as Detective Inspector Fowler.
As a performer and a fan, the glee, unabashed silliness and dedication to their work is inspiring. As nonsensical and detached as their comedic universe is, there is always an anchor threaded into the real world, whether it’s seeing Bob corpsing at Vic rubbing his thighs at an unfortunate female guest on Shooting Stars, or them acting as Tom and Derek in search of fun, forever asking if it’s 'Giro day'. Much like that segment’s title, the pair are nothing but 'Fun Fun Fun'.
Red Nose Day is a television charity event organised by Comic Reilef and airs on BBC One on Friday, March 13. Visit the official Red Nose Day website to find out how you can take part or donate money now.