Mr Trellis. Anyway, Mr Izzard, in our conversation, was referring to the impressive talent he saw in the Cellar shortly after the club’s inception in 1988. He predicted, he told me, that the Irish would ‘cut a swath’ through the English club comedy scene (which was then burgeoning, but under- represented by talent from these shores). ‘And so it has come to pass,’ he noted.
He was also referring to his positive impression of the newer Irish comics he encountered on the night. More than 50 comics performed during the four-hour show. As I’ve intimated, I hardly care to mention that only about seven, including
Eddie Izzard’s done shows in French; how about Irish? ‘If the Irish
can’t be bothered with Irish, why should
I?’ he quipped
us three Nualas, were women. Backstage, the sight of the solid mass of maleness — men jamming the stairs leading to the stage, clogging the narrow corridor between dressing rooms, squashed together in the stuffed greenroom — was a wonder of testosterone-ness. I just felt privileged to be there, amongst old, old, too-oldto-care-to-mention comedy chums.
That’s another old chestnut one might add to the bag of nuts that is comedy: when are you ‘too old to still be doing this’? It was one of the youngest comics who settled that for me and reminded me of the childhood desire that led to my being there: it was never the ‘comedy’ biz I wanted to be in, but the business they call ‘SHOW’! And in the great tradition of the roar of the greasepaint and smell of the crowd, you keep on hoofing till you pop your glittery geriatric clogs.
That comedian’s name is Al Porter — a stage name, darling (real name Alan Kavanagh). He’s like the love child of Noël Coward, Frankie Howerd and Judy Garland (they had a threesome, it was a biological miracle — just go with this, okay?). In real life, he’s a 20-year-old chap from Tallaght. He adores, as I do, the traditions of The Biz and bemoans the passing of the old etiquette: ‘Everyone was Mr or Miss until they told you otherwise — “Hello, Mr Grayson.” “Please, call me Larry” — so you had the social cue that you were being “let in”.’
‘Ah, I see, Mr Porter,’ I said. ‘Please, you can call me Al or Betty,’ he replied. OMG, I think I’ve got a new comedy best friend. Anyway, Al lives his philosophy: his look a royal-blue sharp suit and pristine silk tie; his talk, ‘I don’t say “reviews”; I say “notices”. I don’t call them “gigs”; I say “engagements”’; his sense of being part of a continuity of camp performers. I loved chatting to him and hope the world will be his oyster.
Finally, back to the lovely Mr Izzard. He was explaining that, having done shows in French in France, he’s preparing to perform in German in Germany, with the new goal of gigging in Russian on the horizon. ‘Would you consider doing a show in Irish?’ someone asked. ‘If the Irish can’t be bothered doing Irish, why should I?’ he quipped back.
Thank you, Mr Murphy, and Mr Berry of Vicar Street/Aiken Promotions, for a stellar evening, and Messrs Murphy, Gildea, O’Hanlon, Carmody and Lyons for creating a little club, a quarter century ago, that grew a massive laughter industry.