The cream of comedy from Neil Delamere

THROUGHOUT THE past decade Offaly’s Neil Delamere has been one of the top comics on the Irish comedy circuit. After graduating from DCU in the late 1990s he decided programming computers wasn’t for him and instead he began to do open mic slots in Dublin circuit.

Over time he found himself higher and higher on the billing and in 2003 things really started to take off when he was drafted onto RTÉ’s The Panel. With his cheeky chap wit and well-researched observations on rural Ireland he has become a favourite with audiences.

This month the comic brings his Crème Delamere show to the Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday February 18 at 8pm.

When I last spoke to Delamere we discussed the possible election of Barack Obama as president of the US and the impact this would have on the Illinois senator’s ancestral home in Moneygall. Since then Obama has made it to the White House and the transformation of the little Offaly village has been remarkable.

“Obama’s election has really put Moneygall on the map and I think any small town like that in Ireland would be foolish not to exploit the commercial potential,” says Delamere. “The place only has about 600 or 700 people living in it at present but they’re going ahead with a big hotel and an Obama heritage centre and everything. I think it’s going to develop in the same way as New Ross in Wexford did when John F Kennedy was American president.”

As part of his new international team Obama appointed special envoys George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke to the Middle East and Afghanistan/Pakistan. However, should he also have appointed a special envoy to Ireland, to sort out the war-like crisis in Cork hurling?

“Obama’s good but he’s not a miracle worker!” says Delamere. “I’d say he’d sort out Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan long before he’d sort out the Cork hurling panel. All those problems would just be a training ground before you tackle the crisis that is Cork.

“But I suppose if any man could sort it then Obama would be the man and maybe he could change his slogan to ‘Yes, we can, like!’ Cork is an absolute powerhouse of hurling and without them the championship just isn’t the same.”

Delamere grew up in Edenderry and is a fanatical supporter of Gaelic games. In recent years The Faithful County has been starved of success but there are many, many more sporting milestones and memories Delamere can cling to.

“The great thing about the GAA is that you can’t change your allegiance so wherever you’re born is the team you’ll support all your life,” he says. “The thing about being from a county that doesn’t win the All-Ireland all that often is that when you do win it gives you a licence to go wild and stage some kind of Roman orgy!

“I remember in 1997 when Offaly had just won the Leinster football title it was like some kind of bacchanalian feast in Edenderry. Actually Edenderry is a very sporting town and has some very strange sporting connections. For example, when Mohammed Ali fought in Ireland in 1972 the boxing ring that he fought on was from Edenderry. There have been a couple of lads from the town who have fought in the Olympics in recent years so the tradition is quite strong.”

With his rather slight frame Delamere will never be cut out for the life of a slugger but he is quite adept at verbal sparring on The Panel. On the show, panellists tackle the big subjects of the day and don’t hold any verbal punches.

“There’s lots of brilliant comics out there that wouldn’t like to do The Panel or would think it wouldn’t suit them,” says Delamere. “It’s nice then when you do find someone that is on the same wavelength. Of the new faces that have flourished on the show I think Dermot Whelan would be the obvious example. I think the comedy output by RTÉ the last three or four years has been impressive. They’re continually trying and they are be commended on their endeavours to bring through new faces.”

Not so long ago Delamere was one of those new faces. It has been a whirlwind decade in his progression and is set to continue on.

“I’ll sometimes ask ‘What happened there?’ or ‘When am I going to get found out?’ and I thank my lucky stars every day,” he says. “It has been a great journey up until this point and I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity. I think you just have to make the best of it and keep pushing yourself.”

His current show Crème Delamere is a play on the name of a moisturising product Crème de le Mer.

“It was actually Grainne Seoige on The Panel that first started calling me Crème de le Mer,” says Delamere. “I thought it was a great idea for a show title and it’s also kind of a half-seedy name. I was hoping that the makers of the product would sue me and I’d get some good publicity out of it.”

For tickets contact the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.

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