The second annual Craic Comedy Festival, the younger livelier sibling of the premiere Irish film and music that is the Craic Fest, is upon us. With headliner Aidan Bishop as the big draw this year (he’s the equally talented brother of festival frequenter Des Bishop) the show will step out on Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m.
Born and raised in New York, Bishop, like his brother, now makes his home in Ireland where his keenly observed dual citizenship stand-up delights Irish audiences from coast to coast.
Bishop already knows what the Irish secretly think of Irish Americans, but he’s done something few ever do. He’s repaid them the doubtful compliment by letting the Irish know they’re just as likely to be sent up behind their backs here too.
So bring over an Irish American who lives in Ireland for an Irish American downtown show that also packs in the Irish ex-pats who live here -- where else but New York City is that idea even feasible?
Bishop’s had ideal training for a comedian. Just getting a word in at the dinner table growing up in the Bishop’s household meant that you had to be funny and you had to be quick.
“He’s from Queens, he’s been living in Dublin for years and there’s a real international feel to his act,” Terence Mulligan, the festival director tells the Irish Voice.
“He brings a little bit of that New York Irish sensibility, but he also knows the Dublin sensibility. It’s a unique perspective and the best of both worlds. I think he’ll appeal to New York audiences and Irish audiences living here.”
Bishop has a residency at the well-known comedy venue the International Bar in Dublin (he actually runs the comedy room there). And the experience of being in Ireland has changed him, he confesses.
“I thought I knew about Irish culture, but when I actually moved to Dublin I had my eyes opened,” Bishop tells the Irish Voice.
“The Irish people would not be as positive in their outlook. That was something I had to make an adjustment to when I moved over here. Queens was so multicultural, so it was harder for me to identify how I was different from them, at least at first.”
One of the first things he learned was that if you wanted to be heard, you had to make what you say interesting.
“Comedy is really at the heart of Irish culture and at the moment it’s massive here. Most people go to comedy shows here, way more than most New Yorkers do,” Bishop feels.
“People go out more here and they love to laugh. I think comedy just flows from that.”
Born in Flushing, Queens, Bishop grew up steeped in Irish American culture. He played Gaelic football and his family maintained a strong connection to Ireland.
“My father’s friends were all Irish. I don’t think he had any American friends actually. My mother worked for (New York Irish lawyers) O’Dwyer and Bernstien,” he says.
“If you wanted to be connected to the homeland you lived like us.”
Getting attention at the dinner table meant being able to tell a good yarn.
“My family was always constantly making jokes, that’s how we dealt with things, and we never took anything too seriously. That’s the one thing that unites us with the Irish,” Bishop says.
“People in Ireland don’t like to talk about anything serious so they hide behind their jokes. It’s why the Irish are the best comedians. It’s how they deal with things.”
Bishop’s own show tackles subjects as laugh rich as growing up as an undiagnosed dyslexic, or the mystery of why most women prefer romance to porn, and how women usually prefer a bad boy to one who cares about their feelings. One classic sequence involves the subject of things never to say to a girl. Expect to see yourself.
Also due to perform is Liam McEneaney, another New Yorker with an Irish background and a keen eye for the absurd. Other guests who may well make walks-ins include New York luminaries Jimmy Fallon and the incomparable Colin Quinn.
Tullamore Dew and Stella Artois are sponsoring the reception (and that means free booze, folks) which starts at 7 p.m. and runs until 8:30 p.m., then the show starts right on the bell. So stop by early and enjoy a few pre-show drinks to get the craic going.
The venue for this year’s show is 116 MacDougal, which was once the Old Gaslight Tavern, steeped in New York city lore. It’s a cool venue that fits with the downtown, hip and progressive -- the perfect venue for this event.
Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Frank O’Hara used to read their poetry there. It’s an atmospheric venue for a fun night out. For tickets call 646-549-1349.