Belfast comedian says calling police on comedian was ‘a load of nonsense’
Tim McGarry — best known for his role as Da in Give My Head Peace — has said that stand-up comedy is “an art form that deserves to be protected”.
The stalwart of the Northern Ireland comedy scene was speaking after a joke at a recent gig by British comedian Joe Lycett in Belfast led to several people walking out of the show — and one member of the audience reporting it to the police.
Mr McGarry said the incident was “a load of nonsense” and joked that he felt “left out” that no one has ever called the cops on him.
“I haven’t received any trouble from a show I’ve done for a very long time and, honestly, now I feel a little left out no one has ever rung the police on me,” he laughed.
“If anyone wants to complain about me, tune in to our Perforated Ulster show on Radio Ulster on Saturdays at 12.30pm.”
He said he feels the whole situation is “utter nonsense” and “farcical”.
“It’s clearly someone who’s never been to a comedy gig before,” he said.
“If you go to any gig, you’re bound to hear much worse than what I believe the joke to have been.
“People need to get a life — if you go to a comedy show you expect these things.”
Mr McGarry, who has been performing on the local comedy circuit and TV for over 26 years, said that “Belfast audiences are wonderful”.
“The scene here is doing really great — you have the Empire Comedy Club which has been on the go for 30 years, Lavery’s Comedy Club by Colin Geddis, and loads of ones popping up all over Belfast. It’s great to see,” he said.
“It is obviously political comedy I do, and, as a divided society, you need to be careful how you do things, but the bottom line is, if you’re funny, and your jokes are good, you’ll get away with it.
“I think now thanks to Twitter and all sorts of things, people are becoming hyper-sensitive and every single word is analysed and examined when it doesn’t necessarily have to be,” he added.
“And not every joke is a stroke of genius. That’s what we do as comedians, we try them out and if you’re offended, sorry nothing happens, big deal. If other people in the room are laughing that’s good enough for me.”
Tim said that, as a comedian, it is “an impossible task” to “please every single person all of the time”.
“The great thing about comedy is that a lot of it is off the cuff. It’s a great art form and it deserves to be protected and supported rather than ringing the peelers,” he said, adding that comedy, like all art, is subjective.
“There are loads of famous comedians who I don’t like, but I genuinely admire and respect anybody that can go into a room full of strangers and make them laugh.
“I accept people not finding it funny or not going to the gig or walking out, but all this nonsense about phoning the police and being upset about one joke out of the entire show is just absolutely farcical.”
Lycett is not on his own it seems as other well-known comedians have got in a bit of hot water in recent years performing in Northern Ireland with potentially offensive jokes.
In 2017 Ricky Gervais defended his stand-up material after making a joke about dead babies at a gig in the Waterfront.
He said at the time: “Basically, offence is about feelings, and feelings are personal. People simply don’t like being reminded of bad things.” Two years prior, in 2015, there was uproar when Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle was set to play the West Belfast Festival Feile an Phobail after he made a joke about children who have Down’s Syndrome.
At the time, more than 1,300 signed an online petition calling for the show to be cancelled.
Back in 2009, Northern Ireland politicians hit out at British comedian Jimmy Carr after he cracked a joke about servicemen amputees. He told the joke to an audience gathered in the 2,500-seater Manchester Apollo.
“Say what you like about these servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re going to have a f***ing good Paralympic team in 2012.”
UUP leader and former Royal Irish Regiment soldier Doug Beattie — who was awarded the Military Cross while serving in Afghanistan — said at the time that while the joke was in “bad taste” he believes Carr meant no malice.
In 2007, audience members at a Dublin venue walked out when Co Down comic Paddy Kielty cracked a tasteless joke about missing Madeleine McCann.
And it hasn’t just been stand-up comedians in the firing line. In the late 1990s a university magazine hit national headlines when it printed a page of jokes about Diana, Princess of Wales, soon after her death.
The Queen’s University, Belfast magazine PTQ was forced to scrap thousands of copies which had gone on sale after readers were left outraged at the dozens of jokes made about the death of Diana and Dodi Fayed in a page of the publication.
The Students’ Union issued an apology to her family at the time and opened an investigation into how the jokes came to be printed.