Mal Rogers talks to comedian Colm O’Regan
A proper Irish meal, it’s often said, should have your mammy hovering beside you the whole time, nagging away. Yes, the Irish mammy — fearsome, ever-loving, a fount of very diverse words of wisdom, and a veritable icon of Ireland. The subject is a rich source of humour, one that comedian Colm O’Regan has tapped into. Colm is currently in the middle of touring his show Ireland’s Got Mammies, an autumn biteen of a tour and recently performed at the London Irish Comedy Festival in Camden.
The idea for his show started with Colm tweeting about mammyisms on Twitter. Offerings such as: “It should be there at the back of the press near the yoke for the… Hang on I’ll get it for you. You won’t find it at all,” or “Which one of ye was it that used to hate turnips?” or “Had you a good sleep? Were you warm enough? You didn’t need all the extra blankets at all I suppose,” and, “Haven’t the seasons gone very quare?” and many more all draw a tremendous response.
The Twitter comeback was enormous. “I’ve ended up with 53,000 followers,” the comedian says, “so I realised that I’d certainly struck a chord.” Colm has now complied his various tweets, observations and tales of the Irish Mammy into a book, Isn’t It Well For Ye: The Book of Irish Mammies, published by Random House this month.
Meanwhile, Colm’s stand-up career carries on apace. From Cape Town to Tokyo, Montreal to Mountrath, Colm has stood up and made audiences laugh. He has performed at all the major comedy festivals, and his TV appearances include Just For Laughs, The World Stands Up and The Late Late Show. He is also a regular columnist for RTÉ and the BBC. Last year he toured his show Dislike! to critical acclaim. This year he just wants his mammy.
His own parents, including mother Eileen — originally from Kilkenny — still live in Cork. “I think at this stage my mammy is a little bemused,” he says. “But she’s also delighted that my career is going OK, and it makes a change from her saying things like, “Are you STILL watching that oul Ryder Cup? I’ve never seen you take such an interest in golf before. I thought you used to say it was boring.”
Colm believes Irish humour and British humour are much closer than they are to any other kind of comedy such as American. “Well, we both live on islands that have a lot of rain; everybody speaks English and not much else, we have various degrees of sexual repression, we have discomfort talking about mature relationships — things, really, that are ripe for humour, ripe for comedy,” he says.
But of course Colm accepts there are differences too. “We do speak a distinct type of English, Hiberno-English, and in some ways we have a lot in common with Scotland and Scottish comedy insomuch as we’re a small nation living in the shadow of a very big one,” he says. “But I think even that situation which was once very important to us is beginning to change and is not as important as it once was. “
Colm’s comedic influences are wide and ever-changing. “At any given time any number of performers could impress me,” he says. “Dara O’Briain always impresses me with his ability to craft comedy from any subject or situation. Tommy Tiernan for his sheer showmanship and ability to cast a controlled lunacy spell on stage. I also like the Glasgow comedian Kevin Bridges, a 25-year-old who’s managed to persuade the public he’s 45.” But despite his ever-burgeoning success, Colm is cautious. “I guess I have the angst that all comedians have, of not writing enough material. So I’m always turning over ideas from all sorts of sources. It’s good to get a book out though, it’s something tangible.”
Colm is originally from Dripsey. “It sounds like a disease you’d get from a Victorian prostitute,” he jokes. He’s now 34, married and lives in Dublin. “I gave up a career in IT. I’d done it for 10 years, but comedy was always on the back burner,” he says. “So I decided to give the comedy a go full-time two years ago. And I haven’t looked back since. Well, actually, no. That’s not true. I have looked back — but never in anger.”
Colm O’Regan’s Isn’t It Well For Ye: The Book of Irish Mammies is out this week published by Random House.