BORED by the usual alcohol stories in theatre and film which are “universally gritty and depressing”, Cork comedian Tadhg Hickey was inspired to write a surreal show about an alcoholic called Feargal using the Catholic calendar as a roadmap.
Hickey will premiere his new one-man show, In One Eye, Out the Other, at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and he expects to tour it to Cork and other centres. Hickey, best known as a member of the comedy troupe, CCCahoots, says he wanted to explore alcoholism in a way that acknowledges the inherent madness that goes with heavy drinking.
A problem drinker who hasn’t had a drop in four years, 37-year-old Hickey, say he is using about 10% of his own experiences in his show. He recalls being at a party in Cork and completely blacking out and then coming to at the beginning of a gig in Galway in a band of which he was a member. (A friend had driven him to the City of Tribes.)
What the show tries to do is to look beneath the facade that the drunk builds for himself. “I suppose I do identify with the thing of protecting what’s really going on inside the false self. For years, I didn’t think there was anything serious going on with me. I was just a party boy.
“I was probably insecure and maybe had low self-esteem. I thought I was either going to crumble or be super confident. So I created this performing clown with an ego. A lot of performers, including comics, do that. But I don’t want to pitch myself as a sad clown. It was the drinking that was making me sad.”
Hickey almost feels as if he has a secret, the secret being you’re better off not drinking. “People don’t realise you can have an active social life and be in great form without drink. I’m in better form these days. I couldn’t describe the hangovers I was having. They were like existential nightmares.”
At the start of his sobriety, Hickey wondered how he was going to manage himself. “When you build a false ego, the line between that and what’s really true becomes blurred. If I’m not a party boy, what am I? For me, it was a journey of discovery. I realised I was an awful lot more than this.”
Hickey feels the comic potential of alcoholics is untapped.
Interested in the darkness of the drinker as well as the comedy, Hickey says that while drinking, he’d learn things about his mind and what he was capable of.
“I’ve managed situations where I don’t know how I got through them. I did theatre and live TV on blackouts. Obviously, I had glimpses of what was going on. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s just something that happened.”
Hickey, a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais and d’Unbelievables in their early days, would love his show to be an example of something positive that happens after quitting drink. He talks about perceptions of people towards those who’ve given up alcohol. It’s somehow seen in a negative light.
“But I feel like my life kicked off when I stopped drinking. I’d say my creative life almost began then,” says Hickey, who is also working on turning one of his scripts into a feature film.
In One Eye, Out the Other, is at the Workman’s Club as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival on Sept 9-11 and 13-14