How local comics keep Neil Delamere right on his gags
Comedian Neil Delamere began stand-up just for laughs... now he’s a global star and looking forward to taking to the stage at the Belfast Telegraph’s Property Awards next week
With a new tour, a DVD launch and two TV series in the pipeline, Neil Delamere is one busy and much in-demand comedian, who later this month will be fitting a rather special date into his hectic schedule — the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2015.
And local property professionals beware — the quick-witted Dublin-based comic famous for his banter with the audience and sharp observations already has a few surprises up his sleeve for those attending our gala event.
He is not giving too much away though when he reveals: “I’m really looking forward to the Property Awards. I think because I have worked in Belfast so much and have the contacts and do some corporate work in Northern Ireland, I am comfortable with that style of performance so there will be a few little tidbits about the property industry in there.
“I will be reading up on it and preparing myself. And I am pretty sure the word Nama will crop up at some point.”
The award-winning comedian is one of the top acts working in the Irish comedy scene today and is well known for his regular TV appearances on RTE and the BBC where he is a panel member on the locally produced The Blame Game.
The show, hosted by Tim McGarry, features a panel of some of the country’s most outspoken comics — Colin Murphy, Jake O’Kane and Neil — taking on taboo subjects making the headlines.
The eleventh series of the popular quiz show is due to return to our screens in the New Year when Neil will also be embarking on a new tour with a number of Northern Ireland dates.
Ctrl+Alt+Delamere? follows on from last year’s hugely successful sell-out tour, The Fresh Prince of Delamere, which will be released on DVD by Universal this Friday.
The show was recorded in front of a live audience at Cork’s Everyman Theatre in September and perfectly captures the energy and rapid-fire wit of a Neil Delamere stand-up performance. His previous DVDs, No Message and Crème Delamere, have gone platinum. He is also currently filming for a new 10-part science-based comedy show Eureka for RTE television.
Described by critics as “a master” (The Scotsman) and “a wryly brilliant live performer” (Sunday Times), Delamere, who grew up in a quiet village in Co Offaly, says he had never dreamt of a career as a comic and studied computer science at university. He was 18 when he saw his first stand-up comedy show and was so blown away by it that he wanted to have a go himself. He did finish his degree, although by then he was making a name for himself at festivals around the UK. From day one his career just seemed to take off and his star has continued to rise ever since.
The banter comes naturally during the interview and it is a pleasure to talk to Delamere who proves a tonic on a grey Monday morning.
He has me laughing throughout our chat and yet it feels very natural and not an effort on his part to play the funnyman.
He tells me how he got started in a career that was not on his radar at all when he was growing up: “I grew up in a small village where there was no theatre and even on TV at the time there was only one stand-up comedy show.
“I was about 18 when I saw my first stand-up show with Tommy Tiernan and I was blown away by the fact that he and some of the other comedians at the time were lads kind of like myself from small Irish towns, and yet they were able to stand up and perform and have everyone in stitches.
“It was on my mind for a while and I then went to see Dara O’Briain perform and I remember sitting mesmerised by him.
“I thought I have to give this a go — but just as something on my bucket list that I would tick off. I went to the International Bar where all the stand-up was happening in Dublin and gave it a go for a few minutes.
“I loved it and I just went back and did it again and again.”
He won a talent competition for new acts on RTE and with his prize money and savings decided to take a year out to tour as a stand-up comic with the intentions of getting “a proper job” when his money ran out. He was a natural and his career as a comic took off. Now an award-winning comedian he has been a regular for many years on TV featuring on panel shows and more recently he has turned his attention to comedy documentaries, writing and presenting.
He wrote and presented the IFTA and Celtic Media award-winning historical documentaries on the Vikings and St Patrick, The Only Viking in the Village and There’s Something About Patrick, as well as the acclaimed RTE comedy documentary series on Irish historical figures, Holding Out For A Hero.
This four-part series was recently broadcast as part of RTE 2’s autumn schedule.
He is also the star of RTE’s The Panel and has featured on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.
He is renowned for delivering powerhouse, sell-out performances, whether it’s at Dublin’s Vicar Street, or further afield at high-profile international festivals such as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival.
Earlier this year he also became host of his now hugely-popular two-hour weekend show on Today FM, Neil Delamere’s Sunday Best. He credits the locally produced The Blame Game for helping raise his profile and modestly puts his success down to luck.
He says: “When I started in comedy my parents always said ‘at least you have your degree to fall back on’ and I would think ‘yes mum and computer science hasn’t changed all that much in 15 years’, but at least I finished my degree.
“I do think I have been very lucky. When I started with The Blame Game, it all kicked off from that.
“I think that audiences are really intuitive and you need to be doing something that you are interested in and that you love because they do pick up on that.
“With the documentaries I was genuinely interested in them and I think that enthusiasm comes across on the screen.
“The Blame Game is one of the things I look forward to most on TV. We’ve just really settled into a groove and as a panel we work well together. It’s like a football team, when you play with someone long enough you realise their rhythm and you mould together and that’s what we are like, it’s great.”
Comedy has been described as the new rock and roll and on TV shows like Live at the Apollo stand-up comedians are now commanding audiences in the thousands.
It is not for everyone though as Neil explains: "I was talking about this recently and the numbers that some of the acts coming out of the UK are playing to are incredible.
"I didn't know the optimum size of a gig and Dara O'Briain chooses not to do the arenas as he doesn't believe it fits his style of comedy - and I would agree with him on that.
"I think the likes of the Ulster Hall which holds about 1,000 people is perfect - not too big that it has the rush and roar of a huge audience, but not too small that it feels like the intimacy of a smaller gig."
He will be playing the Ulster Hall among a number of other dates when his new tour kicks off at the end of December.
He has a penchant for tongue-in-cheek, eponymously-titled tours - Crème Delamere, Fresh Prince of Delamere, DelaMere Morta - and now Ctrl+Alt+Delamere?
He laughs as he explains: "Yes I'm running out of puns for my name at this point.
"I try and make a stupid name up for each tour. I always look forward to Northern Ireland because I have done the Empire, the Comedy Club and The Blame Game, and I feel as if I get the best of both worlds.
"I do have a look at what is making the news and what is going on at Stormont to bring it into the show for the local audience. I'm not from here so I can bring an outsider's view as well."
His comrades in comedy from the province are always on hand to keep him right about his more risqué political jokes and in particular Tim McGarry has been a solid sounding board - so far anyway. Neil recalls: "I would text Tim to say I have this joke - would it be appropriate to reference it regarding a certain politician in Belfast. Most of the time he is nice enough and will tell me the truth.
"But I'm waiting for the day when he screws me over and I can just picture him standing at the back of one of my gigs p****** himself laughing when I make a complete fool of myself.
"There is a real sense of devilment between the four of us on The Blame Game."
Home for Neil is Dublin which he shares with his wife Jane, who works in the events industry, and his beloved rescue pet Lurcher Charlie who he adds "I wouldn't be without".
Neil has recently been taking part in a series of madcap experiments for his new science-based series Eureka which will feature inventions by a number of Northern Ireland as well as southern scientists from the past.
He has driven a monster truck, travelled to Puerto Rico to see the world's largest radio telescope, and set off gun powder in a quarry in the Midlands as part of the series.
He says: "Before I became a comedian, I studied computer science in university and I love science, facts and history.
"It's been a huge thrill for me to delve into the world of science for Eureka and to highlight the wonderful input of Irish scientists in world science and discovery."
The show is due to be aired on RTE next March.
Neil will be appearing at the glittering Belfast Telegraph Property Awards gala evening at the Culloden Hotel, Cultra on November 20. There will be awards in 11 categories, giving entrants from right across the industry the opportunity to showcase their talents. To book a seat at the gala, email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to book your tour tickets
■ Neil's new tour Ctrl+Alt+Delamere will be in Northern Ireland on the following dates: Mill Theatre, Newtownabbey, January 8; The Marketplace, Armagh, January 9 and 10; Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown, February 4; Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, February 6; Ulster Hall, Belfast, February 13 and March 5; Down Arts Centre, March 6; The Millennium Fortress, Derry, March 19; and Island Arts Centre, Lisburn on April 8 and 9
■ For tickets for Ctrl+Alt+Delamere, visit www.neildelamere.com/gigs. Neil Delamere's The Fresh Prince of Delamere Live is available now on digital download and on DVD
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