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Patrick Kielty: 'The Northern Irish accent wasn't what the English wanted to hear'


Comedian Patrick Kielty and his wife Cat Deeley

Comedian Patrick Kielty and his wife Cat Deeley

Getty Images for TNT LA

Comedian Patrick Kielty and his wife Cat Deeley

The 44-year-old comedian from Co Down on LA in the rain, offensiveness in stand-up, and how his Northern Irish accent is now acceptable.

Q: Hello Patrick, how are you?

A: I've just survived the Apocalypse. I'm in Los Angeles and we had a day of rain and everybody seemed to completely lose themselves. It's quite hilarious to see Los Angeles people discuss the rain. You have that LA drama that they add to everything. They say, "Oh my god. It's raining." And you go, "Yes ... it's just rain".

Q: Stereotypically, people in LA have very particular attitudes towards the self. How do you find that you fit in there?

A: One of the weird things about back home compared to LA is if you say to people in Northern Ireland, "How are you doing?" they have the stock phrase, "Oh, I'm not too bad". Their face doesn't light up with a smile. Yet everything in their life is solvable. People have problems and we go to the pub, sit down with our mates and we chat. Over here, they've got that veneer where everybody appears to be happy. But the worst thing you can possibly do in LA is ask, "How are you doing?" because they will tell you how they're doing. People over here have "issues" you pay a therapist to discuss.

Q: It's the psychotherapy-industrial complex.

A: From the outside in, it's very entertaining. What's quite nice over here, when I go out with my missus, is that all eyes are on her (Cat Deeley presents US TV show So You Think You Can Dance), so I can be a social spy and sit back and observe.

Q: How do you find the accent goes down?

A: In England, the Northern Irish accent used to be something that people very much didn't want to hear. When you see how the world has then changed, that accent is the least of people's worries.

Q: How about in the States?

A: There are two things that are funny about being Irish in America. One, because we are a feeder nation in terms of people who actually came here - the Germans, the Irish, the Italians and Jewish people - I do get treated differently from my wife, who's English. They have that deference towards England - the Royal Family and all that. There's also something quite interesting in being understood. Northern Irish people tend to talk through their nose and so do LA people. New York people tend to talk in the back of their throat - like Dublin people.

Q: Some of the early stand-up you did back in Belfast was quite close to the bone. Were you ever told not to tell certain jokes?

A: I didn't think that any of that stuff was particularly daring, because we were living through it. I think most of the people who were actually at the gigs thought it was quite entertaining. I always laugh when I read something that says, "He used to be this fearless comedian". I think, "No, no, I just used to be a comedian" - a comedian who told jokes and the place he told them in was Belfast.

Q: Where do you think the line should be drawn with the right to offend in comedy?

A: There's one very interesting thing that's happened in the past 10 years. Comedy is a visual and a verbal medium. Whenever you go to see it, you see the eyebrow arched, you hear the delivery, you hear certain words that are said with a certain tone. The meaning is very ambiguous.

But now you have these articles that say, "You will be shocked to hear this morning, as you have your muffin and cup of tea, that so-and-so said this".

But who offended more? Was it the person who actually said the thing in context, at a gig, that people were happy to come and see, or was it the writer of the article for taking the irony from the statement, putting it in print and delivering it to someone's breakfast table?

The plug

Patrick Kielty is a comedian and TV presenter from Dundrum, Co Down. He and his wife, the TV presenter Cat Deeley, split their time between London, Northern Ireland and Los Angeles and are expecting their first child. He is currently touring the UK with his Help show.

Belfast Telegraph