AFTER SUCCESSFULLY battling Hodgkin’s disease more than eight years ago, Limerick-born comedian Jon Kenny has made a remarkable return to form and Galway audiences are in for a treat when Kenny brings his show to the Town Hall Theatre from Thursday July 31 to Saturday August 2.
The former D’unbelievable has made many appearances on stage and screen, recorded his first solo DVD, and toured with The Sharon Shannon Big Band.
His new show Back To Front - which he will perform at the Town Hall - features musical mayhem and a range of new characters including Paddy The Mayo Man and Buckley The Developer.
Kenny’s run in Galway coincides with another famous run during that period in the shape of the Galway Races. Will he be having a few flutters in between the performances?
“I used to hang around with a lad one time in Limerick and he was an awful man for the gee-gees!” Kenny tells me. “After watching his various ups and downs I swore I’d never take on the gambling in a big way!”
This year’s Galway Races will be the first without the infamous Fianna Fáil Tent but Kenny is sure the racing itself will provide just as interesting a spectacle.
“I’ve been to the Galway Races a few times before – never winning though, always losing!” he says. “It’s a great day out though, and for anyone who is just into a bit of fun and to watch the horses it’s great. I think though in my case doing the few shows is probably a safer bet!”
Earlier this year Kenny got to indulge one of his own passions when he became a GAA manager on the RTÉ series Celebrity Bainisteoir. He managed Limerick junior club Galtee Gaels but unfortunately the side didn’t make it to the latter stages of the competition.
However, the over-the-top GAA underage manager that Kenny played during his time with D’unbelievables (with Pat Shortt ) has gone down in Irish sporting folklore. During the 1990s no Irish household was complete without at least one copy of a D’unbelievable video. Catchphrases such as ‘A right funny man, Darcy’, ‘How Much Are Dem?’ or ‘Dat’s Riot!’ were part of everyday conversation and no rural social gathering was without someone uttering those words.
In recent years Kenny and Shortt have gone their separate ways and last year Kenny released his first solo DVD to much acclaim.
It was great considering I haven’t done anything like that in years,” he says. “It was kind of the first time I’d documented the stuff that I do on my own. Then though you kind of look at it and say ‘Jaysus if I’d waited another couple of months I’d have had a completely different show!’ However, I suppose you have to get yourself out there.”
For Back To Front, Kenny is returning to the roots of the comedy that first made him a household name.
“I’m kind of getting back to the kind of stuff I was doing when I first started out,” he says. “It’s maybe not as structured as previous shows and there’s not a lot of costume changes but there’s elements of music and storytelling that I haven’t used in a while.”
The inclusion of music in his new presentation is no accident as in recent years Jon has returned to his musical background. In the 1970s, he played in a glam rock band called Gimic and had some minor success as a touring band in Ireland, Britain, and Eastern Europe.
“I also did a reggae version of ‘Spancill Hill’ with The Saw Doctors many years ago, which was great,” says Kenny. “I suppose I’ve been hanging around musicians all my life but I’d never call myself a musician at all. I’ve a couple of new funny songs written and I’m including them in the new show.”
Aside from comedy and music Kenny is also an accomplished actor and has appeared in the films Angela’s Ashes and The Van. In the theatre realm he has appeared in the Druid Production The Lonesome West, Island Theatre’s production of John B Keane’s The Year Of The Hiker, and a memorable performance in Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, which saw him shortlisted for The Irish Times Theatre Best Actor Award. In Under Milk Wood he played the part of Mr Harvey who is described as ‘the nastiest man in Ireland’.
“He’s a bit of a b*****ks, all right!” says Kenny, with a laugh. “I’d hope though he’d have some redeeming qualities somewhere. It was a grand tight set up for a film, or as the Americans would call it ‘low budget’. It was nice for a change to be playing a character that’s a bit nasty and a bit dark. I was delighted that someone would take a chance on me for the role. You can get sort of pigeonholed as ‘the funny man’ so it was great to do something different.”
For his upcoming appearance in Galway it’s back to the role of the funny man. Kenny says: “Hopefully we’ll have a bit of craic and a good night out”
For tickets contact the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.