Lifestyle – Judy Murphy hears how Galway comedy festival has overcome obstacles to be major event in the calendar

The Vodafone Galway Comedy Carnival created plenty of laughs in the City last year, but behind the scenes, things weren’t always so funny. Firstly, the headline act, John Bishop, cancelled despite the fact that the Carnival had extended the event to 12 days to facilitate his busy schedule.

Then, the main venue, the Speigeltent, located by the Claddagh, had to be tied down to prevent it from blowing away as the tail-end of Hurricane Gonzalo hit Ireland’s West coast on its way from Bermuda. The roof nearly blew off and the toilets blew over, while a fence went into the sea.

Despite those logistical difficulties, the event was a major success.

This year, for the 10th Comedy Carnival, which will host some 65 acts between October 20-26, co-organisers Kevin Healy and Gerry Mallon are hoping for no such dramatics. And it should be a more stress-free affair, partly because Galway City Council has agreed to allow the Speigeltent to be located in Eyre Square. That brings the comedy festival into the heart of the city and away from the winds of the Bay.

The beautiful wood and canvas Speigeltent, decorated with mirrors and velvet, and dating from the 1930s will be situated between the Browne Doorway and Eyre Square’s Fountain, where it will host some of comedy’s top names, Irish and international.

“It’s great to see the city opening up public spaces, and the tent will be very picturesque and central,” says Kevin.

The Carnival, sponsored by Vodafone, will host new names, too, alongside more familiar comedians such as Dylan Moran, Nina Conti, Rich Hall and Stewart Lee.

An eye-catching offering is The Simpsons Backstage Tour with The Simpsons long-time writer and producer Mike Reiss, which includes secrets, rarely seen footage and gossip, on some of the 300 celebrities who appeared over the years. This will be an afternoon show in the Town Hall Theatre followed by a Q & A session. And in the way that the Simpsons is a family show, this will be a family event, says Kevin.

US comedian Eddie Brill, who booked the comedy on The Letterman Show, and was the warm-up act there for 20 years, will also be in town, while an upcoming act at this year’s Carnival is a well-known Galway figure.

He is Macnas co-founder and Manager of Galway Arts Centre, Páraic Breathnach who will be performing Stand-up Seanchaí in the Ruby Room of the King’s Head.

Páraic has form on the comedy front, according to Kevin Healy, explaining that the Connemara man participated at Galway’s first Irish language comedy gig in the Róisín Dubh a few months ago and has taken part in events since, including supporting the Rubberbandits, in English, for their May show at the Town Hall Theatre.

“He has plenty of stage presence and has great stories and jokes about growing up miserable in Connemara,” says Kevin with a grin.

A better-known name in Irish comedy who will be gracing the Carnival is Al Porter. Porter, who sold out the Róisín Dubh during the Arts Festival, and who recently signed to top UK agency Off the Kerb which represents comics including Michael McIntyre, Phill Jupitus, Jack Dee and Rich Hall, one of the Carnival’s headline acts.

The Carnival, which is being launched this week, will run from Tuesday, October 20, until Monday, October 26, taking in the October Bank Holiday weekend.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.