Beanz breaks down the barriers

Martin Beanz Ward.

Did you hear the one about the gay Traveller from Tuam who walked into a bar in Galway city? He’s the stand-up comedian. No, seriously, it’s no joke, he is.

Martin ‘Beanz’ Warde is a 31-years-old Traveller from Parkmore on the Dublin Road in the North Galway town. He’s gay. And he tells jokes for a living. A rare breed.

He’s one of 40,000 Travellers who live in Ireland; and his sexuality marks him out as a tiny minority within that minority. He is the only Traveller – regardless of sexuality – in this country who is a comedian.

Being a Traveller, and particularly a gay Traveller, means he’s inevitably encountered discrimination.

Not that he wallows in self-pity; far from it. Instead, Martin Beanz uses it in his self-deprecating stand-up routines.

He’s also terribly un-PC. Deliberately, and provocatively so. It’s his way of “breaking down barriers” between the Traveller and settled communities.

“I tell one about there being no discrimination in Tuam. As a matter of fact, as a mark of respect whenever there’s a wedding or funeral or a birthday party they close all the pubs down! Or, what do Travellers and cigarettes have in common? They come in packs of 20, the Government warns you against them and they’re banned out of every pub in Ireland,” he jokes.

“There’s an element of truth in them. It’s okay to laugh at them.”

Not everyone agrees.

“Some of my jokes wouldn’t be politically correct. But I don’t think comedy needs to be politically correct, I think comedy needs to be politically incorrect if you want to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions . . .  I’ve actually been accused by non-Travellers of not being a Traveller, and people saying ‘how dare you propagate discrimination’.

“These are usually the social justice warriors, jumping up and down about everything. I’ve also had a lot of backlash from Traveller organisations. I’ve been told by, I suppose they’d call themselves social justice activists, people acting on behalf of the Traveller community, that all I’m doing is promoting more discrimination. I’m basically allowing discrimination to happen. My response to that is ‘have you ever gone to any of my gigs?’ The answer is usually no.

See full feature in this week’s Connacht Tribune.