After a very busy 2012, this year is shaping up to be no different for the veteran comedian who has many strings to his bow, including an accomplished list of TV credits, panel shows, presenting documentaries, and working on radio.
As well as all this, Neil is also touring the length and breadth of the country for the next couple of months with his new show ‘Dela Mere Mortal’, and expects to play between 60 and 70 dates, between Ireland and the UK. He is also working on a new documentary all about St Patrick which should air in the next couple of months. This comes after his very successful show last year called ‘The only Viking in the village’.
Neil is also doing a radio series for BBC Northern Ireland which is a topical panel news show. Although Neil is busy with a lot of other projects, he said that doing live shows is his “one true love.” Neil said that he loves the wide variety of projects he gets to work on from one end of the year to the other, including of course the festival circuit which Neil is very familiar with.
“It is unusual to switch your brain from arriving on stage and going out talking to an audience to filming something which is collaborative. You go from being a lone wolf huting a deer to working in a pack of lions,” he mused.
“Sometimes it is difficult but there is lots of variety which is great. I’m very lucky - I get to do panel shows, live shows, presenting historical documentaries and radio as well. I don’t ever get bored.”
Neil is looking to the past for his current live show, after discovering from his brother that he has lived in Dublin for longer than he lived in Offaly.
“I don’t know how I feel about that, or which is the better version. At home I found a tape from 16 and a half years ago from when I was on Blackboard Jungle. My show has clips from the programme from 1995 and in the show we decide which is better - the first 16 and a half years or the second.”
He brought the show to Edinburgh last year where it was well received and where Neil said the material worked at an international level. Although he is now world renowned and does a lot of the major comedy festivals, he very much enjoys playing to midlands and Irish audiences.
“The midlands audience is similiar to all Irish audiences but because I’m from there it is great to be able to improvise and throw out things. You know references that the audience will get in your brain, for example everyone knows what footing turf is or whatever so the improv gets quicker.”
He said that audiences in Ireland are actually bigger than playing the major festivals.
“If you play two or three gigs in the Heritage that is a huge number of people in the room each night. If you play 30 nights at a festival, the venue is much smaller.”
Neil’s material doesn’t change too much between shows in Ireland and abroad but he said that he does “internationalise” material. “With a touring show you pick stuff that everybody understands. It gets you out of thinking too local and gets the two sides of your brain working.”
Although playing the same show 30 nights over may look a bit daunting and repeditive to an onlooker, Neil said that chatting to the audience makes it different every night.
“Like any job, you have to find an avenue to make it interesting for yourself. You also have a professional responsibility to make the best of every night. People are entrusting you with their night’s entertainment.”
“I think there is an optimum size for a comedy venue of between 1,500 and 3,000 people. The Appolo is brilliant to perform in. My rule is if you need big screens you have to write a different type of show. You cant have that banter with people. It is an amazing feeling hearing 10,000 people laugh though. It’s brilliant, I’d love to do more.”
Neil has been performing as a stand up comedian for the past ten or so years, and has seen many changes to the comedy circuit in that time.
“There are dips like every industry, but people are still coming. They want to get away from the doom and gloom. You have to work a bit more for your gigs, but the people are still there and the appetite is still there. I’m very lucky to be able to do it.”
Neil is looking forward to heading back to Laois. “I’ve played in Portlaoise a huge number of times over the years and it is like going home. It is a venue you know is run really well with a great promoter in PJ Kavanagh.”
He said he will be using some local material at the show, and may even mention Offaly’s “amazing hammering of Laois by three points” recently in the O’ Byrne Cup.
Those who don’t want to wait to see Neil can also check him out when he performs his home county in the Tullamore Court Hotel on January 25, and in Birr Theatre and Arts Centre on February 7. Tickets for the Portlaoise gig are available now. Visit www.kavanaghsportlaoise.com or contact the venue at 057 86 21744 for more details.
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