It has been six years since comedian Pat Shortt first introduced us to the character of showband singer Dixie Walsh with the song ‘Jumbo Breakfast Roll’. The song took the Irish charts by storm, staying at Number One for six weeks and went on to be the best-selling Irish single of 2006. It also instantly established Dixie Walsh as one of Shortt’s best-loved creations from his wide array of comic characters.
Now, after memorable turns in Shortt’s shows You Won´t Get Away With That Here and The Hall, Dixie rocks up in solo mode at the Galway Comedy Festival at the Radisson Live Lounge tomorrow night, Friday, October 26, where he tops a bill that also features Benny Boot, Barry Murphy and Boy With Tape on His Face.
Ahead of his Galway appearance, Pat Shortt shared his thoughts on the inimitable Dixie, beginning with his account of how Dixie and ‘Jumbo Roll’ became an unlikely pop sensation. “What happened was I had written the song for a show and the character who was singing it was someone who had been a builder and was a part time musician –you see those guys all over the country and gigging someplace every weekend. That’s where Dixie began, then I brought him on to The Late Late Show to promote the show and that’s when the song became enormous and it all grew out of that. Dixie was written for the show but the success of ‘Breakfast Roll’ came out of The Late Late and the whole Dixie phenomenon became a bigger thing altogether. I think everyone could identify with the song and the craic in it and it hit on something at the time. He was of the moment and the time.”
If Dixie was ‘of the moment’ in 2006, his audience appeal remains as strong as ever and he is the central figure in Shortt’s latest stage show, I Am The Band which is presented as a tribute night to Dixie where all his peers and friends (the audience ) come to celebrate his career. During the night Dixie reminisces about the path his career has taken and the struggles he has had to endure to get to the top of his game while other characters such as his teacher, mother and other locals also queue up to recall their bizarre memories of Dixie and his music.
Shortt explains what prompted him to build a whole show around Dixie; “I’m a musician myself originally and I always wanted to look at ways to bring more music into the show. By writing a show about Dixie that allowed me to bring more music into the performance. Then I wanted to have one character telling his story and Dixie was the one I went for. In some respects that’s why I’m coming to Galway to do the show at the comedy festival because it lends itself more to standup than what I normally do, where there are elaborate costume changes and everything else whereas here you have one guy telling his story through music and talking. That’s how it came about, the show with Dixie as the central figure.”
While I Am The Band sees Shortt present Dixie plus sundry other characters, his Comedy Festival appearance will just draw on the Dixie material. “The full show includes other characters around Dixie but the comedy festival is a different kind of environment,” he explains. “In the full show there’s characters like Dixie’s former teacher and his mother talking about him so it’s about his life and him growing up and he talks about them as well and how they affected him. In Galway it’s just the Dixie elements of the show so it’s more like stand-up. He also goes through a litany of songs he wrote when he was younger that influenced his life and relationships and his drinking and all sorts of other aspects so Dixie will be tapping into a few of those areas; I won’t go into too much detail –come and see the show!
“I think he is passionate about his music and his life,” Shortt muses of Dixie’s persona, before adding with a laugh “The show is like a journey with Dixie on his rise to mediocrity would be one way of putting it”.
“I’m looking forward to the comedy festival from the point of view of sharing a stage with other comedians and getting out there,” he continues. “I’ve never done the festival before –or comedy festivals generally. A lot of them are geared toward stand-ups and a lot of my shows revolved around elaborate backstage stuff, etc, and never really fitted in so that’s why with this show written and designed the way it is about Dixie it allows me to do a lot more comedy festivals and I’m really looking forward to it. Normally I wouldn’t get a chance to mix with other comedians and see what’s going on.”
Shortt is also currently busy filming his role in Calvary, a dark comedy from The Guard director John Michael McDonagh which stars Brendan Gleeson as a Sligo priest who is tormented by his parishioners after he is threatened during confession. As well as Shortt, the cast also includes Gleeson’s son, Domhnall, Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen and David McSavage and Elaine Cassidy and it is due to be released next year. “It’s a wonderfully written film,” Shortt enthuses.
Shortt also reveals that the full I Am The Band stage show will be coming to Galway in the New Year. In the meantime, comedy festival audiences can revel in a special solo appearance by one of Ireland’s true music legends; Dixie Walsh, at the Radisson Live Lounge, tomorrow from 8pm.