A common fixture among Irish panel shows, another nationwide tour and a Viking documentary to top it off; Neil Delamere shows Ryan Cullen how his quick wit and flowing banter endeared him to audiences nationwide.
In recent times, Delamere has been working on ‘The Only Viking In The Village’, a show about Ireland’s Viking past that aired on RTE this year, but he explains to the College Tribune that stand up comedy is where his heart lies. Having graduated from DCU with a degree in Computer Applications, he started doing comedy sets in pubs and clubs and this led to him first performing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2004.
Neil tells me about starting off in the International Bar on Wicklow street before stating that his story was too boring and that he would make up a couple of lies for the interview: “Myself, Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran were all in a crack den in New York, and we all decided that we would take up stand up comedy because we were boyhood friends together and had killed somebody. That forged our bonds for the rest of our lives”.
The truth being that he started off like many others of the profession, by grinding out many sets over time. “I started slowly, doing five minute sets in the International Bar; and I started doing more and more, the first one must have went alright because I was asked to do it again, and that basically built up over the years”.
Drawing influences from Tommy Tiernan and Ardal O’Hanlon in the nineties, Neil has went from strength to strength in comedy: performing at many festivals such as Montreal and Edinburgh. “I suppose at the time, it was a golden era for Irish stand up because people like Ardal O’Hanlon and Tommy Tiernan were presenting the BBC stand up show, they influenced me and I suppose these lad were in a way from your background so you know them very well. They were the kind of guys I looked up to very much”.
His work on RTE’s ‘The Panel’ made him a fixture on the show from its start till its cancellation only last year. Spending most of his time laughing on the phone, you can tell that comedy runs through his veins.
He tells me about life on the Panel set and how it doesn’t stray too far from performing stand up on the regular circuits. “Stand up is my first love but [panel shows are] the closest thing on television to stand up really, there is an audience and you get that automatic reaction, and also you are hanging around with your mates to a certain extent. I’m not a great actor so when I laugh on the show it is a genuine response to something that Andrew Maxwell or Colin Murphy says. Audiences are very intuitive like that. They can pick up on stuff like that”.
The Panel wasn’t his only television project undertaken. Neil also had been working on ‘The Only Viking In The Village’ which turned out to be a great success.
The show itself brought viewers on a journey through Ireland’s Viking past that spawned from his deep fascination of history. During our conversation I asked Neil Delamere about what made him want to do a show on Vikings. “I did a show in Edinburgh a few years ago about the Vikings and I rather mistakenly thought that because there were so many shows going on for the same prizes and small group of audiences that I would do a show with an angle, it turned out that not many people were interested in the Vikings. It’s a show about history, I’ve always liked history and I thought it would be an interesting documentary. It is a lighter comic documentary but it is very accurate.”
He tells me that his passion for history eventually led him to presenting the idea to RTE and recently the show also won the IFTA last Saturday for best factual programme telling the College Tribune that he had gotten help from lecturers and professors in UCD.
Like many comedians of his stature, Neil has travelled around the globe performing at many of the biggest comedy festivals, with some of the world’s biggest comedians.
Although performing in countries such as Canada and the United States, he speaks about his love for the Edinburgh show, and the experience that comes with it. “Bulletproof” was how he described himself after first coming back from the Edinburgh festival, but that was for a very peculiar reason.”
I love Edinburgh because it is an hour show every night. Especially the first time, it’s like you are paying for the experience because it really is such an intense experience and you come back bulletproof. The audiences are so small that if you play for an hour in front of five people, then you come back and do a gig in UCD, you are bulletproof. Nothing will ever put you off”.
In relation to live performances, it wasn’t always plain sailing. As a stand up comedian on the circuit for many years now, there is always an infamous gig where it all goes horribly wrong. “I had said to the audience to get your balls out, and someone shouted back that I would get my balls out, if you got your balls out. I mistakenly thought that a sweaty drunken Scotsman that was already looking for attention would un-flourish his lethal testicles. He got his balls out and I was left with a rather awkward dilemma. I decided not to get them out and at which case the Edinburgh audience turned nasty. They dislike a broken promise”
After years of performing stand-up for a living, Delamere says that it is different crowds that make shows unique and keeps his job interesting.
He gives a small mention to an awkward moment with a one armed man, who he had mistaken for someone who had his arm tucked under a sling. “He had one arm under his jacket, and I asked him what had happened to his arm, at this point he pulled down his arm and at that point I realised he had only one arm”.
Embarking on his new tour, Neil explains why he chose the title ‘Restructuring’. The show sees the star of RTE’s The Panel, BBC’s The Blame Game, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Channel 4’s Stand Up for the Week come to terms with the changes in the country, the world and more importantly his own living arrangements: “Well it was because we are all going to restructure our mortgages, our national debt, our public sector and I decided to think about it, as I come to terms with these changes. It’s a general theme in which I can mess around with the audience and use the topics too. The title ‘Restructuring’ was kind of a ‘catch all titles’ name, so I was very happy with it.”
The Offaly born man, whose interview was more like banter after a couple of pints, turned golden as Neil gave the College Tribune an exclusive about a possible new show.
Neil hints that he may be returning to our screens with a new documentary, possibly about the life of St. Patrick: “With the success of the Viking show, we are trying to start up a new documentary, so if it all goes to plan then we will be talking to all the UCD academics there about Saint Patrick and the legend that is Saint Patrick. Watch this space”.
He is set to tickle the funny bones of many in Vicar Street, as he graces the stage on the 9th of March. “Vicar Street is brilliant; I have to say, because although I can hold hundreds of people, the furthest person away, is not that far away”. One of the sharpest comedy minds in the Irish comedy scene today, this born story-teller takes to the stage with his original brand of razor sharp wit and hilarious anecdotes making restructuring a must-see for any discerning comedy fan.
Neil finished up by stating that “hopefully I’ll be down in the Astra hall in UCD sometime soon”.
UCD Comedy Society, get busy!