THE BIGGEST Vodafone Comedy Carnival Galway to date just might have been the most memorable, with routines, views, and actions that delighted audiences over the last weekend, and the memory of which will keep up giggling for some time yet.
A bundle of dynamic, frenzied, energy, Ross Noble at the Black Box delivered something quite unforgettable, and largely improvised. Spinning off on tangents, digressions, riffs, and audience interaction, we were taken on a meanderingly uproarious journey, starting with Ross' visit to McSwiggans before the show, and somehow moving onto invisible penguins, things people should not do with a donkey, and concluding with the epic tale of his father's ashes disappearing on a model raft, bound for Norway, and the unexpected intrusion of largely naked elderly lady during whale watching in Austraila. An unforgettable show.
Paul Currie's Truffle Musk at the Mick Lally Theatre was the Belfast comic's most personal show to date. A revealing, often moving exploration of mental health, vulnerability, memory, and sexuality, it managed to be both bittersweet and upliftingly funny. While carrying Currie's usual trademarks of puppetry, mime, absurdism, and movement, there were also stories and talk - unusual in his work - a major step forward from a wonderful talent.
The highlight of VCCG19 was Bill Bailey, the self described "pound shop Gandalf", whose shows at Leisureland mixed music gig, university seminar, and anecdotal chat, interspersed with moments of delightful oddity - the 'bin of wonder', an ordinary pedal bin upon which Bill shone a light from a Dr Who sonic screwdriver, was both ridiculous and inspired.
Affable, self-deprecating, bewildered, and mischievous, Bill's show was an education in Aristophanes and his role in the origin of middle finger insult; birdsong, and how it can be incorporated into dance music; the importance of the tongue when playing the blues; and how heavy metal riffs can be successfully translated into your daily activities. Also unforgettable was a rendition of 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm' in the style of Tom Waits.
Brexit, not surprisingly was a constant motif throughout the weekend. Irish comics enjoyed the schadenfreude of the havoc English romantic nationalism has wrought upon the UK, and how Brexit has split the British ruling class, but the comedy was serious, no more so than in sets by Andrew Maxwell, where audiences both laughed and gasped at his blackly humourus encounters with attitudes towards Ireland and the Irish in the English home counties.
British comics meanwhile, were a mixture of despair and apology. Shappi Khorsandi asked audiences on Thursday if she could move to Ireland, before moving onto a discussion on pregnancy and parenting that was as hilarious as it was frank and honest; while the aforementioned Bill Bailey described the attitudes underlying Brexit as "not so much cutting off your nose to spite your face, as cutting off your ears to spite cheese".
The Vodafone Comedy Carnival Galway has established itself as one of the most essential dates in the Galway festival calendar. In scale, impact (culturally and economically ), and quality, there are few who can touch it. Indeed, it really is second only to the Galway International Arts Festival. In short, it matters. Long may it continue.