Neil Delamere - tales of a restructured Viking

2012 IS just five days old and its remaining 361 stretch out before us. It is the time when we make New Year resolutions, plan ahead, and hope for the best. So what hopes and fears does comedian Neil Delamere have for this year?

“My fears are that the Euro implodes and society will break down as we know it, leading to riots and all kinds of instability,” Neil tells me during our Tuesday afternoon conversation. “I was involved in the Kilkenomics festival which combines economics and comedy, and I was talking to a former Argentinean finance minister. He was telling me about when his country’s economy collapsed, they had seven presidents in something like two weeks!

“Hopes? That everything that we have just been talking about will not happen. I hope to see Irish people come out of this and I think we will get out of it, or get away with it. Also my hope would be that Irish people don’t have to leave. It’s different for people who want to go to Australia for a year or so and get blasted on Bondi Beach, but my hope would be that less and less people will feel they have no choice but to emigrate.”

Despite speaking of such gloomy matters as the state of the economy and the European financial meltdown, Neil manages to sound irrepressibly chirpy and upbeat - a natural optimist. In England they have ‘cheeky chappy’ as one of their national characters. We don’t really have an equivalent in Ireland, but Neil Delamere just might be the closest we come.

Facing the recession and major personal upheavals with good humour and determined optimism is part and parcel of the Offaly man’s new show Restructuring which he will perform in the Town Hall Theatre this month.

“I kept on hearing the word ‘restructuring’ - of the bamks, of debt, etc - it’s a catch-all term,” he says. “I am also moving house so there is restructuring going on in my personal life. I am also moving jobs. I am concentrating on live work, The Panel is not on anymore, but we have The Blame Game on BBC Northern Ireland.

“There isn’t too much concentration on the economy in the show as people have too much of that already. I know it’s the elephant in the room but people need light relief from the financial Armageddon being shoved down our throats.”

Restructuring will also feature handy hints on how to handle British traffic police which are drawn from Neil’s personal experiences of said authorities.

“People will find out that if you are cycling a bike, somewhat worse for wear, around Edinburgh at 4am, you will draw the attention of the traffic police and that should be avoided as he has to break seven red lights in order to catch up with you,” laughs Neil, “and when he does, please do not do what I did. Even if you do know the answers don’t give answers to the big man in uniform that is quite angr,y and give him your real name, not Hector Ó hEochagáin!”

In November Neil presented a historical documentary, The Only Viking In The Village, in which he explored Ireland’s Viking heritage. His interest stemmed from his own background. His mother’s name is Doyle, which comes from Dubhghoill, a word the Irish used to describe the Danes, while Delamere is a Norman name, the Normans themselves being descendants of Vikings who originally settled in France.

“We wanted to turn the myths about the Vikings - the horned helmets, the bloodthirsty hoards - on their head and we wanted to bring a touch of humour to it. This kind of stuff is every boy’s dream. I got to go to Denmark and was taught how to use a sword and have somebody shoot an apple off my head using a bow and arrow, and if you’re a male between 14 and 40 you definitely want to do that.

“The feedback we got to the programme was amazing. Teachers, lecturers, academics all said the enjoyed it and asked for copies of the show to show to their students. It was a ht with the people we wanted it to be a hit with.”

Neil enjoyed the experience of presenting the documentary and is interested in making further historical programmes for television.

“If I can keep finding the stories and RTÉ is interested in commissioning them, I would love to make more,” he says. “We might do one on St Patrick - there’s a Galway exclusive! Somebody once said that ‘History is just one damn thing after another’ and that’s what’s great about it, there are always stories to choose from.”

Staying on the Nordic theme, Neil has performed his stand-up comedy in Finland and Denmark. Are such shows abroad to audiences of ex-pats from the English speaking world or to natives, and if the latter, what are the language barriers a comedian has to face?

“If you go to Thailand or Hong Kong you play to Irish and British ex-pats and you have to keep the show general for British ex-pats as they won’t understand about Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and the Oranmore/Renmore rivalry.

“In Northern Europe, such as in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, you get to talk to locals and the English there is at a very high level and a high mark of language is to be able to understand humour,” says Neil. “At the same time you have to keep it to the big ideas. You can’t do word play or puns. It forces you to think laterally and put yourself out of your comfort zone.

As Neil goes on to pointy out, people in the Nordic lands know how to heckle originally.

“I was once heckled in Finland,” he says. “There was a man who walked up to the front of the stage and announced ‘I am stoned!’ to everyone and sat back down. You know you’re in Finland then because despite being stoned he could still speak and think in a second language and know what he was doing - or maybe it was only because he was stoned that he could speak in a second language!”

So to finish off, how does Neil react to his old friend Colin Murphy referring to Neil as his ‘comedy wife’?

“I’d rather he call me ‘my comedy husband’ or ‘partner’ then ‘my comedy wife’,” he laughs. “I can call him ‘my comedy concubine’ though, so I don’t have to give him the respect to marry him, just use him willy-nilly!”

Neil Delamere plays the Town Hall Theatre on Thursday January 19 at 8pm. There are only a few tickets remaining (091 - 569777, www.tht.ie ) but Neil will be back in Galway to play the Róisín Dubh on Wednesday March 7 at 8.30pm. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and www.roisindubh.net

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