Throughout the world, the Irish are regarded as a warm and uplifting race with a lilt to their use of language, and a quick wit that is second to none. It is no wonder then that our small island has produced so many genuinely funny people down the years. Here, Des Somers remembers six of the best comics that grew up on these shores and are sadly no longer with us, along with some of their greatest jokes and funny lines.
The old expression “they could light up any room” is a term of praise any of us would like showered upon us, and Brendan Grace, son of Dublin’s Liberties, continues to put smiles on our faces long after he has left the stage.
His array of comical characters and hilarious gags is far too plentiful to remember in its entirety here, but the following is a snapshot of some of his golden moments.
One of the first images of him that spring to my mind is his “Father of the Bride” speech. With a bottle of stout in one hand, and a glass to pour it into in the other, his slurring belching Dutch courage-driven father (“know-wha-I-mean”) makes us belly-laugh all the harder because it cuts so close to the bone. Why? Because it reminds us of someone we all know! And therein lay the magic behind Brendan’s work, to create his characters, he simply dipped into mannerisms of Irish people that he encountered in everyday life.
“He came round to my house and said he wanted to marry my daughter. I said to him, ‘Have you seen her mother?’
“He said, ‘I have and I’d sooner marry your daughter.’”
“She could have married someone with money; she could have married someone who was working; she could have married someone who wasn’t working … but was willing to work.”
And then there was Bottler, the little boy in the cub scout uniform who couldn’t avoid getting into trouble. Brendan left school at the age of thirteen, and one of his first jobs was being a messenger boy. Many of his Bottler & Friends sketches were inspired by adventures from his own happy childhood growing up in the Liberties, and from holidaying on his cousins’ farm in Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow.
Teacher: “Bottler, what are you doing?”
Bottler: “I’m writing a letter to myself.”
Teacher: “Very good, what’s in the letter?”
Bottler: “I don’t know, I won’t get it till Friday.”
Teacher: “Razor Flanagan, give me two days of the week beginning with the letter, T.”
Razor: “Today and Tomorrow.”
Teacher: “Rogers, what can you tell me about Kipling?”
Rogers: “He makes exceedingly good cakes.”
Brendan also gave us some golden musical moments and two that stand out in the mind were The Combine Harvester (released in 1976 with lyrics by Brendan O’Shaughnessy and subsequently a hit for UK novelty act, The Wurzels) and When Benjy Wrapped the Tractor Round the Old Oak Tree – Brendan’s satirical take on an episode of RTÉ’s popular soap, The Riordans. (See Combine Harvester lyrics on page 32).
Continue reading in this week’s Humour Annual