Christmas capers with Ireland's top comedians

Just how seriously do Ireland’s funniest folk take the festive period? Arlene Harris talks to four of our top comedians.

Christmas has always been a time of festive good cheer and who better to keep the levels of merriment topped up than a comedian?

Irish people aren’t short on humour but at this time of year, despite the tinsel and party poppers, many will be in need of a good laugh to get them through the endless shopping, present wrapping and the stress of cooking an extraordinarily large bird while trying to ensure it stays moist on the inside and crisp on the outside.

So instead of downing the whole sherry bottle in one go at the very thought of rustling up Christmas dinner, we asked four of Ireland’s funniest guys to give us their thoughts on the festive season.

Neil Delamere

The comedian and broadcaster, plans to watch TV, peel a few potatoes, and eat as much as he can.

Christmas capers with Ireland's top comedians

“Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials always make me laugh at Christmas, they, unlike the rest of us, age very well. That and my Da losing his mind when I ask him trivia questions from a quiz book and deliberately change the answers. Riyadh is not the county town of Longford, apparently.

“This year I’ll be shuttling between in-laws and my own family. We’ve worked out a routine that seems to suit everyone — but it doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’m driving home trying not to hear Chris Rea playing in my head.

“I don’t plan to stay healthy over the festive season — I’m not even going to pretend. I may turn down the third plate of dinner but that’s just to leave room for a selection box. Because I believe if we can’t celebrate the humble beginnings of Christmas by slipping into a diabetic coma, we are not doing it right.

“I will help with the cooking but my brother does most of it these days. I’m assigned to the simplest of tasks, peeling spuds and the like, to ensure dinner is not entirely ruined for everyone. To entrust me with the turkey or stuffing would be the most foolhardy of enterprises.

“Someone who shall remain nameless got me a lamp one year — a bedside lamp. I mean, I value not having to get out of bed to turn off the main light as much as the next man, but I expected a little bit more than that. It wasn’t even the jokey ancillary present to the main Yuletide gift. That was it. It was wrapped though. We’re not barbarians.”

Christmas cracker: “How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizza? Deep pan, crisp, and even.”

  • Neil Delamere’s new tour, Handstand, kicks off December 27 and runs until April. For dates and bookings, visit neildelamere.com

Oliver Callan

Comedian, satirist, and impressionist, Oliver enjoys cheesy Christmas TV but still feels bitter over a gift he received as a child.

Christmas capers with Ireland's top comedians

“I love commentating on bad blockbusters that populate TV schedules. There’s always a complicated father-son theme at the heart of big action films. Either a blockhead father wants to succeed as a parent or a sexually frustrated son who wants to win the affection or approval of the patriarch. Women are there to smoulder at the edges, occasionally take their clothes off, or to be rescued from some silly calamity.

“I also love the predictability of Christmas. My father barges into the sitting room to find someone eating Roses. ‘Who ate all the effing sweets? I only got one’. Or my mother falling asleep during a show on RTÉ — she fell asleep during my first TV review of the year in 2013 and the repeat which was on during the day. Eventually my sister put it on the Player for her. She was unconscious after 10 minutes but concluded it was very good.

“I will be spending Christmas with the family in Monaghan and, being a farming lot, there are always a lot of chores to be done. The hand-numbing foray into the cold stoney fields of Farney brings you right out of your overfed reverie. It also helps justify more over-indulgence all the way to New Year’s Day.

“I engaged in a full Advent — no drink for November, tiny breakfasts and a lot of walking, so I’m positively feverish at the thought of eating my way through the back end of December.

“Christmas is a glorious time of year and it’s pure tacky. I revel in its lack of class. It’s meant to be a celebration before the cold sturdy embrace of January.

“ I still haven’t recovered from the Christmas of 1986 when I got a Britain’s model Ford tractor and my brother got the much cooler Renault one. It was like someone today watching a sibling unwrap an Xbox and you’re handed a bag of mála (plasticine). The Renault was orange and had mudguards plus a single-chop silage harvester. My Ford had a two-blade plough. In the ’80s, the silage men were cool while the ploughman was lame. It’s practically Top Gear’s Stig versus Francis Brennan — so I will never recover from Santa Claus’s horrible mistake.

Christmas cracker: “With regard to jokes — the simpler the better, so my favourite one is: Two snowmen are in a garden. One says to the other, ‘Can you smell carrots?’”

Colm O’Regan

The comedian, writer, and broadcaster, finds humour in the chaos of the season.

Christmas capers with Ireland's top comedians

“Apart from my Irish Mammies books and my latest book Bolloxology, what makes me laugh has to be watching the last-minute shopping on December 23, even if I’m part of it myself. Looking at people pick up a product, turn it over a few times, and then their face takes on a ‘Feck it’ll do them grand’ expression and they just buy it.

“Other things would be the panicked men buying perfume and being guided gently by the staff who are asking questions like, ‘What does she like?’ and they reply with ‘I don’t know, Fruity stuff maybe?’

“I will be spending the festivities with my wife and baby daughter and dividing it between various branches of family. There will definitely be walks or we will all go mad. Last year, the weather was pure cat and no one stirred on Christmas Day so by St Stephen’s Day, I was injecting myself with the baby’s vitamin D.

“With regard to helping out, I prefer to work in supply chain rather than production — plates, cutlery, serviettes, crackers, general hovering, and hoovering before hopefully being dismissed to watch cartoons.

“The worst present I ever got at Christmas was the storm of ’95. It took slates off the roof so I was in the attic stuffing old jumpers into it to keep the rain out as I was the only one small enough to creep into the space.

Christmas cracker: “My favourite seasonal joke has to be this one: How did Scrooge score a goal? The ghost of Christmas passed.”

Jason Byrne

The radio host and comedian has a tongue-in-cheek take on the festivities but is serious when it comes to exercise.

Christmas capers with Ireland's top comedians

“Every year when I have to take the tangled Christmas lights out of the box, my wife and I have such a laugh as I try to unravel them, finally laying them out down the hall. Then we cry and howl laughing as we try to find the loose bulb that is causing all the trouble.

“I travel all year so I won’t be moving for the whole of Christmas — staying put with my family in my home. I will read lots of books, watch a lot of TV, and prepare the garden for the next season. I will also cook a lot with the family — we love to bake together.

“I run a lot and do sports, as do all the family. We have an assault course that I put together in the garden and over the Christmas period, each morning at 6am, we will be there rain, sun, or frost, running that assault course until we get our times down, then into the house for an hour of meditation and porridge. Last year’s times were just not good enough so I’ll be pushing the family harder this year.

“I’m the main cook in the house, I don’t mind my wife joining in, but I just don’t agree with a lot of her sauces — mind you there was a big disaster recently when I served cabbage with a fish bake — a big no, no in the cooking world.

“The worst Christmas present I ever received was a cuckoo clock with no cuckoo — when it hit the hour the doors opened and no cuckoo came out. Luckily enough over the holidays, I found a dead bird in the garden, wrapped it in Sellotape, and glued it to the spring in the cuckoo clock, hey presto, one fixed cuckoo clock — or more precisely a dead-sparrow-wrapped-in-tape clock.

Christmas cracker: “How much did Santa pay for his sleigh? Nothing, it was on the house!”

  • Jason Byrne’s tours Ireland with his new show Propped Up in January. He plays Everyman Theatre, Cork, on February 24 and 25. Full tour details on jasonbyrne.ie

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