Danny Dowling @ the Galway Comedy Festival

HE MAY call himself “Ireland’s slowest rising comedy star!” but Danny Dowling is all over this year’s Galway Comedy Festival both as a participant and an MC of what could be among the festival’s wildest and most outrageous nights.

All the way from New Zealand

Danny is originally from Fairview, a village outside Timaru, on the South Island of New Zealand. What sort of place was it like to grow up in?

“It’s like a rural enclave outside a small town,” Danny tells me during our Wednesday morning interview. “Timaru is about the size of Ennis. In New Zealand the English settled around Christchurch, the Scots in Dunedin, and the Irish around Timaru. There’s placenames like Kerrytown and there’s an O’Connell Street.

“Fairview is like small Irish villages, it was a 10km bike rise to school up three huge hills on a 1950s lady’s bike. I was also into retro before everyone else. I was the youngest of five brothers. There was a lot of ‘hand-me-downs’. I had a Hawaii 1976 shirt in 1989! It wasn’t until I got to university that I was finally able to have jeans that fitted me properly.”

Danny’s journey to comedy began at a young age, listening to old episodes of The Goon Show and watching Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers on TV. He also performed comedy sketches during Friday school assemblies and Scout jamborees. “Anything I did was mainly comedy based,” he says. His uncle was also a concert promoter, which allowed Danny to attend shows by Billy Connolly and Hal Roche, and meet them afterwards.

By the mid-nineties, Danny was living in Sydney and saw Tommy Tiernan perform there in 1995. It was also around this time that he began to make his first forays into stand-up. “I was finding my feet,” he says.

By the early noughties Danny was living in Ireland - a mixture of a former romance and an interest in exploring his Irish roots. He began looking for a way into the comedy scene here, but “it wasn’t until I moved to Galway in 2005 and the influence of John Donnellan and Kevin Healy” that he began to take it seriously and finally make the plunge into full-time comedy.

“I’m not sure if I can stop now,” he says. “I don’t know if I want to ever stop! My wife Lorraine has been amazing and has supported me right the way through, and every year things have gotten bigger and bigger, but slowly. I am Ireland’s slowest rising comedy star!”

Danny @ the Galway Comedy Festival

Danny features in no fewer than four shows at the Galway Comedy Festival this week, either as a participant or as host. The first show was on Tuesday where he was among the support acts for the brilliant Russell Howard.

“That was one of the most important shows I’ve done so far,” says Danny. “Russell Howard’s Good News TV show has a slot for stand-ups that allows them to stretch their legs and I’ve seen good friends get on there and get a huge push.”

On to the shows et to happen and where you can catch Danny in action. Among these is Gunther’s Sunday Roast in Kelly’s, Bridge Street, tomorrow at 8pm. The show will feature Barry Murphy’s brilliant alter-ego, the condescending and arrogant Gunther back to Galway for a another round of insulting (and highlighting ) the (absurdities ) of Irish society, as well as Kevin Gildea, Ian Coppinger, Karl Spain, and Danny.

“It’s a show of five different shapes - a wig wearer, a fat man, a small man...” laughs Danny. “That’ll be an improvised show. The audience will choose the topics and there will be visuals as well. It’s kind of Chinese whispers out loud with pictures. You might get asked to put ‘global warming’ into a sentence and then Gunther points at the next comic and says ‘dwarves’ and he has to fit that into the ‘global warming’ sentence.”

Danny will also host two of what could be the most outrageous shows of the festival, both featuring arresting comedic line-ups - The Mad Hatters Tea Party and BOOM! Late & Live.

The Mad Hatters Tea Party, is in Kelly’s, this evening at 8pm, with Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III, a heavy metal, Tennessee trailer-trash TV evangelist, and fire and brimstone Christian holy man; Frank Sanazi, who combines elements of Frank Sinatra, Adolf Hitler, and Las Vegas schmaltz; Belfast’s Paul Currie who FringeGuru.com called “the Monty Python version of stand-up comedy”; and Danny. So what can audiences expect tonight?

“The Mad Hatters Tea Party is full of diversions and riddles,” says Danny. “It’s a break from the standard MC introducing three acts and the ‘Who are you? Where you from?’ questions to the audience. So the audience will be safe at this show but they may be confused. It will be a bit vaudeville. The Mad Hatter is obsessed with a magical baboon who causes all kinds of diversions. My aim is to make people ask ‘What is this? What’s going on? I think it will be a good night for non-traditional comedy fans.”

Finally, Danny will also be the host of BOOM! Late & Live at the Róisín Dubh tomorrow (line-up: Phill Jupitus, Andrew Maxwell, Kevin Gildea, Paul Currie, and guests ) and Saturday (line-up: Colin Murphy, Glenn Wool, Barry Murphy, Eleanor Tiernan, and guests ) at 10.30pm.

“These shows will feature shorter sets and there will be big tunes, screens, and it will be craic and crackers,” declares Danny. “I have a distortion peddle and a vocoder and I will be interviewing people through that, doing impressions, and odd stuff.”

Tickets for the above shows are available through the festival box office in the Róisín Dubh (open 12 noon to 7pm ) and www.bulmersgalwaycomedyfestival.com

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