Patrick Kielty

Cat Deeley, red wine and the Pavarotti Provo – Northern Ireland's finest returns to the Empire Comedy Club 20 years later

Patrick Kielty’s famous balaclava and glamorous new wife Cat Deeley made a surprise appearance as Northern Ireland’s top comic made a triumphant return to Belfast’s Empire Comedy Club.

The Dundrum lad received a rapturous reception from a capacity crowd, who paid 1992 prices – just £3.50 - to witness his return to the stage where he made his name as a fresh-faced Queen’s University student 20 years ago.

Kielty’s current show is entitled Home, and County Down's finest told an ecstatic audience that the Empire Laughs Back Comedy Club, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, would always be close to his heart. Pouring his wife a glass of red wine at the end of his act, he declared: 'This, for sure, is my comedy home.'

Jackie Hamilton from Moondog Productions, who manages the weekly comedy club, was ecstatic to have Kielty back on stage. 'This was a vintage show,' he beamed. 'Paddy is still as sharp as he was 20 years ago.'

A lot has happened since Kielty last tread the boards at the Botanic Avenue venue, and his routine touched on his remarkable career since. Subjects included the Titanic celebrations, the ni2012 campaign, being slagged off by chuckle brother Martin McGuinness, clerical sex abuse, Rory McIlroy, his plan for renaming Northern Ireland ‘The People’s Republic of Britain’ and Rihanna taking her clothes off in that field.

Some of the audience weren’t even born when Kielty hosted The Empire Laughs Back Comedy Club in the dark days of the early 90s, and he joked that, at the time, he didn’t much care how the act was received as they didn't pay much.

Kielty now divides his time between the US and Britain, and he contrasted attitudes in California – where everything is ‘good, very good or awesome' – to Northern Ireland, where things are always ‘not too bad’.

He poked fun at the Titanic memorabilia and said that only Northern Ireland could have a tourist product such as Titanic Whiskey that goes down well with ice and water, and Titanic crisps flavoured with sea salt.

Kielty may be close friends with Rory McIlroy, but the boy from Holywood didn’t escape his sharp wit when 41-year-old admitted that he hoped the young golfer never wins the US Masters. 'With his five foot eight inch height and his curly brown hair, wee Rory would look like a leprechaun in that green blazer.'

As Kielty left the stage to a standing ovation, compere Colin Murphy called him back for an encore. He returned with an old friend, his trademark black woollen balaclava, finishing the act as a Pavarotti Provo with a song from the old days about blowing up the Grand Opera House to the stirring strains of 'Nessun Dorma'.

He also asked the crowd to be upstanding for the new ‘People’s Republic of Britain’s’ national anthem, ‘All You Need is Love’. The Beatles had the Cavern Club; Van the Man had the Maritime Hotel. After this never to be forgotten performance, Paddy Kielty will always have the Empire Comedy Club.