Famous for a deadpan appearance Father Ted, the Dublin comic battles with an unresponsive Belfast audience
Best known for playing the unresponsive Father Stone in an episode of Father Ted (see below), Dublin comedian Michael Redmond finds the tables turned on him tonight in Belfast. The audience at this Black Box show – the first date on a short Irish tour – greet Redmond’s support acts with stony silence, and they’re not much livelier for the main attraction.
‘Is this microphone working?’ the veteran comic asks, a few minutes into his routine. ‘Can you all hear me?’ It’s as if the crowd are waiting for something other than a pot-bellied, middle-aged man with a grey handlebar moustache and a shock of white hair delivering deadpan material about dogs, cats and vegetables.
Maybe they’re hoping Redmond will reprise his famous sitcom character and, er, sit and stare blankly at them for an hour. It’s a shame, as given the right atmosphere the 61-year-old’s wilfully silly schtick could be uproarious. But faced with tonight’s frosty mob, Redmond seems less than enthused. It’s the archetypal 'tough room'.
Undeterred, the hangdog-featured funnyman talks about breaking up a street fight between two gangs single-handedly – by driving into them. He riffs on fantasy alternatives to the Potato Famine – ‘the Asparagus Famine’, ‘the Mangetout Famine’ and so on. He even resorts to a series of funny walks when one gets a laugh from someone in the front row.
Redmond is a likeable presence, shuffling about the stage, casually supping a pint and chuckling at his own punchlines. He takes his time with his delivery, though after 45 minutes or so he’s glancing at his watch. ‘I wish I had more material,’ he bluffs. At times, it feels more like an extended compering set than a headlining performance.
At some point, Redmond decides to ditch the written jokes and just talk to the audience. There are freeform discussions on everything from hen nights in Glasgow to Belfast’s Titanic commemorations. None of it is especially memorable, but it creates a relaxed vibe you wouldn’t get at, say, a Jimmy Carr gig. As harsh as it gets is when Redmond tells a female punter that he’s ‘old enough to be… your very old boyfriend’.
Back to the script, and there are some nice bits about people with artificial legs ‘fooling nobody’ and moving the 'Welcome to Scotland' sign further south a few inches at a time as a form of passive invasion. (Redmond has lived in Glasgow for several years, and is a fixture on Scotland’s stand-up circuit.)
This is Redmond’s stock-in-trade – screwy wordplay, throwaway nonsense, with no overriding agenda. Even as the world goes down the tubes, there is a place for it. Perhaps tonight’s only pointed gag is Redmond’s one-line take on the daftness of religion: ‘I was born a Catholic… which came as a surprise to my parents, who were both Protestants.’
I overhear a fellow spectator remark that Redmond is like ‘a more sophisticated, more literate Kevin McAleer’. Throw in ‘hairier, even slower-moving and quite a bit funnier’ and that’s about right. Let’s hope he has a better night in Portrush, Newry and Dublin.