Review – Ardal O’Hanlon, The Showing Off Must Go On, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 20th November 2019

Ardal O'Hanlon The Showing Off Must Go OnArdal O’Hanlon is a name that isn’t necessarily always on everyone’s lips – but his face is, and his character of Father Dougal in Father Ted will live on until humanity is no more. Mr O’Hanlon’s problem is that he was just so good as Father Dougal that no one wants to believe that he isn’t Father Dougal. And that’s his opening bid in his new show The Showing Off Must Go On, currently touring. He gets irritated at being mistaken for Dougal – yet his first (extremely funny) anecdote illustrates just how like Dougal he really is. You’re gonna have to face the fact, Mr O’H; in the same way that My Lovely Horse will always be a possibility for next year’s Irish Eurovision entry, Father Dougal is the gift that keeps on giving.

Brodi SnookBut I’m running away with myself. First on, we had a support act in the shape of Brodi Snook, an Australian comic whose name sounds more like one of those healthy 1970s Scandinavian crispbreads. Ms Snook is a smart little powerhouse of strong contemporary material, but with a calm, gentle delivery that belies the savagery of her observations. The Derngate auditorium is a vast and lofty place and I think Ms Snook’s style would probably be more suited to an intimate venue. But she gave us a good show and it was an enjoyable hors d’oeuvres before the main course.

AOHWe last saw Mr O’Hanlon six years ago, where his soft, relaxed style oozed over you like a comfy duvet. Today, I felt his stand-up had more attack, and more bite, and was probably the better for it. Nevertheless, I still feel he’s exactly what the late Sir Terry Wogan would have been like if he’d gone for a stand-up comedy career. Jocular, knowing, confiding; relating many of his comic observations to his family life and noting how, once you reach 50, you really don’t care about what anyone else things. For example, I loved his sequence of how most people have a Bucket List of things they want to do whereas he has a F**kit List of things he has no intention of doing.

A O HOne fairly unusual aspect of his comedy is that, unlike most comics, his material hardly ever strays into the bedroom – apart from one teenage reminiscence of passing round the only dirty magazine in Ireland, with an unexpectedly whambam punchline. With an air of part-innocence and part-resignation, Mr O’H confesses his perfect night would be to stay up late watching TV and eating crisps, and I completely get where he’s coming from. He pushes tentatively at the door of Brexit, to see how we react; wisely he decides not to enter in too far.

Ardal O'Hanlon tourWith a stage backdrop of posters advertising his previous gigs, there’s a charming disconnect between the pizzazzy showbiz world of comedy and sitcom, and this mild, unremarkable middle-aged man talking about a range of domestic observations that we can all recognise. Technically, it’s a pretty fantastic performance, with a very rewarding number of callbacks coming home to roost at the end, a confident clear delivery and a very amiable persona doing the talking. There are a few terrific belly-laughs, but for the most part it’s simply an enjoyable meander through life’s idiocies. His UK tour continues through to next March and, honestly, why wouldn’t you want to see yer man do his stuff?

Review – Ardal O’Hanlon, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 13th November 2013

Ardal O'Hanlon tourIt’s a very different atmosphere watching a comedy act in Northampton’s beautiful Royal Theatre than when you see the Screaming Blue Murder acts in the Underground or the big-hitters in the Derngate. It’s a little more formal and slightly more reserved. Nevertheless, you still feel nice and close to the stage, so it doesn’t preclude a little audience participation; and if you’ve been lubricated with the old Chenin Blanc, you can still let your comedy hair down.

Who doesn’t love Father Ted? When we saw that Ardal O’Hanlon was touring we thought we definitely had to see what his stand-up routine was like. I don’t think I’ve seen him do it before, even on television. So I really didn’t know what to expect.

Pat CahillI certainly didn’t expect to see a warm-up comedian before the interval. No problem; Mrs Chrisparkle and I always like to see new comics. On for the first 25 minutes came Pat Cahill. He was all wide eyed and enthusiastic, with an engaging persona and a nice sense of the ridiculous. In many respects, I found his act extremely old-fashioned; I don’t mean this in a pejorative sense, but it was a bit like watching a star comedy TV show from the 60s or 70s – introductory patter, a few comedy songs, a smattering of physical mime; a bit of everything really; and, for the most part, pretty clean. With adverts in the middle, this would have been perfect for the half hour show on London Weekend TV at 7pm on a Friday night. His material was somewhat hit and miss; a little like the Parable of the Sower, quite a lot of it fell on stony ground, but that which fell on good ground was very nourishing and entertaining. However, I wouldn’t be truthful if I said that we went into the interval feeling thoroughly warmed up. I’m sure in the environment of a comedy club he would come across much funnier.

Ardal O’HanlonSo what of Ardal O’Hanlon? I guess Father Ted is history now (gosh yes, it finished in 1998 would you believe) because he looked much older than I was expecting. His style is very relaxed and informal, very inclusive and private – you feel like you are having a one-on-one chat with him in the pub. Superbly self-deprecating, he is easy to identify with – for example he asks the women in the audience why they always prefer the slick guys to the awkward ones (rather sweetly, one lady shouted out, “we don’t!” – but I know she was lying).

A O HHe gives you a nice insight into life in rural Ireland, including a really funny routine about why people might leave their little town or village. His excellent material includes an examination of Catholicism, anecdotes about his wife and family, and even the fact that he came 3rd in a Father Dougal lookalike contest. His funny observations lasted almost 90 minutes, which is pretty good value, and the whole thing was very charming and relaxing. But when you think back on his set, it’s hard to identify any particular themes or structure to the show. He wasn’t quite as laid back as Shappi Khorsandi, but not far off. A very neat, precise performer; at the end he bowed to the audience very formally and gracefully, almost like a ballet dancer would. A class act, for sure. His tour continues to December – if you think he’s the kind of act you’d enjoy, then you’d be right!