Patrick Kielty

Near-the-knuckle humour, celebrity girlfriends and the Titanic are what the comedian brings Home

In the run-up to tonight’s Odyssey Arena comeback show, Patrick Kielty has been warming up with a series of sold-out club gigs around Northern Ireland. Word of mouth has been positive, but tonight Kielty takes the stage in front of several thousand people without the safety net of an audience who know they’re just lucky to have got tickets. This crowd have paid upwards of £31.50 a head, it’s Saturday night and the pressure is on.

The show is called Home, and Kielty is laying it on thick. Tom Jones’s ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ cues his entrance, then a curtain parts to reveal a backdrop depicting the Giant’s Causeway and the Harland and Wolff cranes. ‘This is how it feels to be Justin Bieber,’ Kielty begins, tentatively. ‘If he’d been booked for the Vatican Christmas party.’

He needn’t be nervous. It’s a masterful performance, regardless of what you think of the Dundrum native’s TV presenting skills. Kielty’s good looks and charming persona belie the kind of near-the-knuckle comedy that regularly lands the likes of Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle in hot water.

As Kielty notes with pride, Northern Ireland has moved on, but has his comedy? The short answer has to be no. He doesn’t quite don a balaclava and make spoof paramilitary announcements, but give or take an off-colour reference to Amy Winehouse here or a pun on Rihanna lyrics there, the subject matter remains heavily slanted towards all things 'Norn Iron'. Still, the clue is in the show’s name.

The ongoing Titanic 'celebrations' gift Kielty a wealth of material. He likens Belfast’s new Titanic visitor centre to Mercedes-Benz hosting a Princess Diana exhibit in its Stuttgart museum, and takes pleasure in questioning the wisdom of, in turn, The Belfast Telegraph’s serialised poster supplements (‘Collect the Titanic – in sections?’), Titanic Whiskey (‘A drink that goes well with ice?’) and Tayto’s Titanic crisps (‘Sea salt flavour?’).

Elsewhere, Kielty’s pointed pastiche of Van Morrison, whom the comedian describes as looking like ‘a pregnant Zorro’ and behaving like ‘a cross between Bob Dylan and Father Jack’, is spot-on and goes down a storm.

Sure, at times, the 41-year-old funnyman can come across as smug or cheesy, but that’s just his schtick. If you can get past the name-dropping of glamorous girlfriends and talk of celebrity parties, Kielty is an entertaining and often illuminating stand-up. And he certainly puts in the effort. Tonight’s show runs for more than 90 minutes, not including the two support acts (Fred MacAulay and Micky Bartlett – both excellent).

Before Kielty leaves there’s time for an impassioned deconstruction of the supposed differences between Protestants and Catholics and an invitation for the whole audience to stand up and put their arms round one another to the strains of the Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’.

This show’s only downfall is that it’s hard to see how it could travel, but then perhaps that’s not the point. Perhaps Home is designed simply as an occasional indulgence, a nostalgic – and lucrative – return to Kielty’s roots. Indeed, the canny comic has already announced a repeat Belfast visit. Second Home, anyone?

Patrick Kielty's Home will be at the Belfast Waterfront on June 23.