FOR MOST of us, January 2018 is the start of a new year, the beginning of a new cycle of 12 months, but for university students, about to begin a new semester, this is actually the half-way mark in the college calendar.
Students are back at NUI Galway next week, and for the university's Comedy Society, 2018 is about maintaining the strong momentum built up last semester, something it looks set to do with an intriguing run of shows throughout the next few weeks - all involve encouraging and celebrating diversity, with one of the shows even taking place outside the NUIG campus.
"Comedy Society got off to a running start last year, and we plan to ramp that up in 2018," declares Comedy Soc auditor Niall Horisk, "and one of the ways is that we plan to do gigs in Nova, as well as on campus. So we'll see how it goes. Another new departure is we're involved in public speaking workshops. It's the brainchild of comedian Áine Gallagher and Jessamyn Fairfield, a physics lecturer. It's a student-staff initiative, produced by the Explore Initiative at NUIG. It's a great thing to be part of."
Kicking off Comedy Soc's 2018 is the next instalment of Comediversity on Thursday January 18 at 7.30pm in Sult, the college bar. The night is about ensuring that not all comedy line-ups are just white, male, or straight, but are a more accurate reflection of the multifarious spectrum that truly makes up society. The line-up is singer-songwriter Steven Sharpe; Áine Gallagher, who often performs comedy as Gaeilge; Ruth Hunter; Julie Jay; drag queen Dixie Normous; Martin 'Beanz' Warde, a Traveller and comedian, as MC; and Iback, a man currently living in direct provision.
"Iback got a very good reception when he played the last Comediversity show in October in the Róisín Dubh," says Niall. "He speaks about his experience of direct provision; about his coming from Africa to Galway; and the cultural challenges of adapting to Irish society, and how he deals with that, but all in a very light hearted way."
Julie Jay, winner of the Forbidden Fruit Comedy Search '17, is another 'one to watch'. "There is a lot of self-deprecation in her comedy," says Niall, "but there is also charm. Her material is razor-sharp and sassy."
Fans of the YouTube channel Facts - and there are a lot of them, it has more than a million subscribers - will be looking forward to An Evening With The Stars Of Facts, on Thursday January 25, again in Sult, at 7.30pm, and featuring Ryan Cullen, Laura Byrne, George Fox, and Davy Reilly. "Facts has developed its online presence by using some of the best up and coming comedians, like the four we have coming to Comedy Soc," says Niall. "These guys are very popular with students. All are stand-ups who have played Electric Picnic or the Edinburgh Fringe."
Both shows are open to the public (admission €10 ) as well as students (€5 ). Tickets are available from the Socs Box, on the door, and eventbrite.ie All proceeds from Comediversity go to Focus Ireland.
A new venture for Comedy Soc will be its first show outside campus. Laugh Out Proud! takes place in NOVA, William Street West, on Thursday February 8 at 8pm, and will be a night of LGBT+ themed comedy and music, featuring Michaél Keirns, Therese Cahill, Padraig McLiam, Ruth Hunter, and a drag queen. Martin 'Beanz' Warde will MC.
"The management of NOVA reached out to us and proposed running an event there," says Niall. "I thought it would be good to have a night of comedy, cocktails, and tunes, and having a funny and diverse night, showcasing and highlighting LGBT talent. Hopefully it will be the first of more such Laugh Out Proud! gigs."
It will also be second Comedy Soc gig Ruth Hunter plays in 2018. "She runs the working man's comedy club in Dublin," says Niall. "She has a dry and sarcastic humour, very clever, misanthropic, and she also draws from her science background." Admission is €5 (students ) from the Socs Box, and €8 (public ) via eventbrite. Proceeds from the event will go towards the Teach Solas LGBT resource centre.
If there is a theme which links the three events it is 'diversity'. "Often you get, say, female comedians not getting the stage time they deserve, but Comedy Society's mission is to provide a platform for comedy from diverse backgrounds," says Niall. "It's more interesting and rewarding to have people not talking about the same experiences. Having people from a variety of experiences ensures there is something for everyone and that there are more points of view."
Niall Horisk will also be performing sets at the above shows. For more see www.facebook.com/NUIGComedy