Des Bishop returns to the New York stage at Caroline’s as part of the New York Comedy Festival beginning this Thursday at 9:45 p.m., and Grey Matters is the title of his brand new show.
“It’s straight standup,” Bishop tells the Irish Voice. “My previous show was about living in China, learning the language, finding a girlfriend and so on and it was, I’ll be honest, kind of a Ted talk,” he laughs, “but this new one is about getting older (he’s just turned 40) going grey, not having kids, other people’s kids, being my age versus the 20 year olds that are at my show.”
Growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s versus now is also a big part of the show, and it plays into the Millennials versus Generation X’ers thing that’s going on everywhere these days, he says. “I’m covering stuff that’s not well traveled, but I’m not trying to be shocking,” Bishop adds.
All the New York comics still see him as a foreigner, he says. “They make fun of my accent because to them I still sound Queens but also foreign. I guess I’ll always be a bit of an outsider, but when you’re a comedian you’re an outsider anyway.”
Although he’s been gigging in the city a lot recently, it’s taken Bishop about two years to find his New York voice again he reveals.
“I’ve always done well on stage here but I didn’t feel like the Queens childhood part of me was finding humor. The part that went to Ireland did. It’s only just now that I’m connecting again.”
One of his observations that’s consistently gotten a big response both in the U.S. and Ireland over the years is Irish women’s reluctance to talk openly about their desires when it comes to sex.
“I still think American women are more open about sex, however if I look at the beginning of my comedy career till now there’s been a big change in people’s openness in Ireland too. So much so that I wouldn’t even consider it much of an issue nowadays.”
It’s not all positive change he hastens to add. The drinking and the promiscuity and the dangers of that are a more of an issue now, but they’re a much smaller problem compared to the positives that come from less shame in the wider culture generally.
The shocks that Generation X experiences as they navigate maturity are something Bishop really enjoys (and shares).
“You know how people used to say I’m not racist but… and then they’d say something racist? Well for people in their forties there’s a new version of that where they say I love my kids but…” he laughs.
Parenting is a real struggle for Generation X’ers who have had selfish lives and who now find themselves struggling with the selflessness of parenting, Bishop says.
In the way that many Irish people didn’t know they were racist until immigrants began to arrive in larger numbers 20 years ago, having kids has unmasked a new generation.
“I started doing comedy in Ireland in 1997, when the Bishop Casey case was still current enough. Then the scandals in the church happened,” Bishop says.
“The place has really changed in my lifetime. I mean, I appeared just as the term Celtic Tiger was starting to be used. All that cultural change with the boom and the recession has happened alongside my career.”
At the time of Ireland’s near revolutionary marriage equality referendum in 2015, Bishop wasn’t registered to vote because he was still living in China, but he found himself in Dublin on vote day and wanted to participate.
“I was just sitting there powerless and so I just put out this tweet: if you need a lift to the polling station I will drive you,” he recalls.
What he didn’t expect was hundreds of replies. Then the story made the news and was even reported on NPR in the U.S.
“The whole thing just sort of spiraled. I didn’t do much but it reminded people for those last few hours that they had to get out and vote,” Bishop says.
Now Bishop is contending with the political death match to end them all, Clinton versus Trump, and like all inspired comedians he has his own take which he may or may not share onstage. One thing he does see is a sexist double standard at work. It’s the challenge Clinton represents to male dominance for a start.
“There’s a lot of who the f*** does she think she is? I wish there could be as much good feeling for the advancement of women’s rights as there was for the marriage referendum,” he offers.
That’s no laughing matter at the moment, but Bishop knows the best material often comes from the hardest knocks. Go and check him out and get up to speed on this incendiary Irish and American talent.
Grey Matters plays November 3 and 4 at Caroline’s on Broadway. For tickets visit Ticketweb.com.