Irish American funnyman Des Bishop challenges attitude to drink in new series

Irish-American funnyman Des Bishop has begun a four part investigative series, "Under the Influence", probing Ireland's relationship with alcohol.

Bishop, originally from New York, was sent to a boarding school in Wexford as a result of his own alcoholism and has stayed in Ireland ever since.

He is one of Ireland's best-known stand-up comics, and has released a number of popular DVD recordings of his shows.

However, Bishop's latest journalistic venture - a far cry from previous televised shows exploring Gaelic-speaking areas of Ireland - has drawn a surprising amount of abuse  for the otherwise popular comic, according to an article in the Irish Examiner.

The series' film-maker Pat Comer stung back at those criticizing the American-born comedian, saying that it was offering a frank and unapologetic look at binge drinking, a rising trend in Irish society thought to be fueled by cheap liquor and strained incomes.

The problem came to the fore last year after Swedish electro-group Swedish House Mafia's performance in Dublin was marred by scenes of mass drunkenness and chaos among the gig's young revelers.

Bishop - now proudly sober - says he set out to offer an honest portrayal of the drink problem facing Ireland without denigrating or denying the fact that many in the county continue to enjoy alcohol responsibly.

The young comedian has said that he had his last drink in 1995 and dedicated much of a memoir about his troubled, alcoholic, father to his relationship with alcoholic.

Bishop's four part series follows 'Merlot and Me', a documentary following Irish housewives in their bid to find out - and cut down -  on the amount that they drink.

Six out of ten Irish women regularly drink too much, according to the show's producers, while half a bottle of wine a day can lead to liver cirrhosis within ten years.