D’UN AND ONLY JON KENNY TELLS ALL

it’s fri­day!

Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - Maeve Quigley by

NO matter what age you hap­pen to be, Jon Kenny is still one of the most recog­nis­able faces in Ir­ish com­edy.

Years af­ter they called it a day, D’Un­be­liev­ables are still be­ing hunted out by a new gen­er­a­tion of fans, much to Jon’s amuse­ment.

‘If I had a euro for the num­ber of hits we get on YouTube,’ he says of his duo with fel­low co­me­dian and friend Pat Shortt.

‘Young peo­ple who would never have seen us live are look­ing at the bits and pieces on YouTube and re­ally en­joy­ing it.’

There was a brief re­union a few years ago and although he says he wouldn’t rule an­other D’Un­be­liev­ables run in the fu­ture, it’s not go­ing to be any time soon. They are, he says, done for now. ‘I would never say never,’ Jon ad­mits. ‘But the hunger would have to be there for both of us for it to come back – and that might hap­pen. But both Pat and I have moved on – you wouldn’t want to be doing the same thing that you were doing when you were younger un­less you were try­ing to re­claim your youth.

‘Though God knows I’m close to that stage now,’ he adds with a chuckle.

The thing is, at 61 Jon ac­tu­ally looks a lot more hale and hearty than he did a few years ago. Af­ter com­ing back from a di­ag­no­sis of non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma in the early 2000s, he was told he was suf­fer­ing from heart fail­ure.

But now everything is in work­ing or­der, Jon could ac­tu­ally pass for a man who is ten years younger. He has a twin­kle in his eye and an op­ti­mism about per­form­ing and cre­at­ing.

‘I had a by­pass and now everything is work­ing,’ he says of his heart scare.

‘Peo­ple say to me, ‘The way you ex­ert yourself on that stage, be care­ful you don’t do too much’. But if you were afraid of doing too much then I think there’s a dan­ger that you would do noth­ing at all.’

And that, for Jon, would be the worst thing. A delve into the more the­atri­cal side of comic act­ing has seen him heaped with praise by crit­ics, most re­cently in John B Keane’s The Match­maker along­side an­other the­atri­cal stal­wart, Mary McEvoy.

And of course, he’s now repris­ing the role of The Crow­man that he first em­bod­ied at last year’s Cork Mid­sum­mer Festival. Though his loved ones might have been slightly ner­vous about the phys­i­cal­ity of the role as it’s a one­man show, au­di­ences were de­lighted to see this new but very fa­mil­iar tale of ru­ral Ire­land writ­ten by Katie Holly.

And now the show is re­turn­ing to the stage in Dublin’s Olympia next week be­fore hitting high spots around the coun­try.

‘I’d done this in Cork last year and I was glad to bring it back and have a good run at it,’ Jon says.

‘I had known Katie be­fore as she did a bit of act­ing and she plays a bit of mu­sic as well and she de­cided then that she was go­ing to write this. I don’t know whether she had me in mind or not when she was writ­ing it.’

The play cen­tres around Dan Lon­er­gan, a bach­e­lor in his 50s who is liv­ing in ru­ral Ire­land in iso­la­tion that Jon feels is pretty much of his own mak­ing as he has taken him­self out of so­ci­ety be­cause of a cou­ple of things that have hap­pened to him. ‘Dan is a man who has kind of with­drawn from so­ci­ety for a num­ber of rea­sons,’ Jon says. ‘He’s an out­sider who wants to fit in but it has got to the stage where he doesn’t re­ally know how. And as it tran­spires he has been al­most pun­ish­ing him­self for things that have hap­pened in the past.’ Through­out the course of the play, Dan tells sto­ries about his own life and we dis­cover why he has his in­trin­sic dis­like for crows. ‘There is a bit of Dan in all of us,’ Jon says. ‘A lit­tle bit of us that feels we don’t fit in. We all just want to be­long some­where. It’s a story that’s uni­ver­sal, there are Dans all over Ire­land, there are Dans all over the world when you think about it. And the play is a roller­coaster of emo­tions. Like any other per­son Dan is not all doom and gloom – he sings, he dances but the most con­ver­sa­tion he has is with him­self and his lit­tle dog, as we all do when we live alone.

‘But the thing about the show is the au­di­ence never knows what will hap­pen next. They never know where it is go­ing to turn.’

In fact there’s so much in Holly’s writ­ing, so many nu­ances and twists and turns that Jon says he finds some­thing extra in the play ev­ery time he per­forms it.

‘I find new things in it ev­ery night,’ he adds. ‘It might be some­thing different from pre­vi­ous night or the week be­fore, the way I think about Dan and the way I ap­proach him.’

You re­ally couldn’t imag­ine Jon Kenny not fitting in any­where, though. He’s per­son­able, warm and ap­proach­able with an en­thu­si­asm for life and peo­ple that seems to bub­ble through ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion.

BUT his laid-back ap­proach to work and life was a long time com­ing. He says it’s taken him un­til now to have a more re­laxed at­ti­tude to doing in­ter­views, to ap­pear­ing on tele­vi­sion, ba­si­cally to what peo­ple out there in the wider world might think about him.

In The Crow­man he is a ves­sel for some­one else’s work but cer­tainly he feels a need to cre­ate too and is always writ­ing.

He in­tends, he re­veals, to do a bit more of that once he is fin­ished this tour and is cur­rently work­ing on a one-man com­edy show that

will be sort of stand-up.

‘I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life,’ he ex­claims, when I ask what the for­mat will be. ‘All com­edy re­ally is rooted in laugh­ing at some­one else’s mis­for­tune re­ally, there’s light and shade in everything.

‘And if I was to go back to stand up I think it would be more in a the­atri­cal vein as that has been the work that I’ve re­ally en­joyed lately. But I will be doing this right up un­til Christ­mas and then we will see what hap­pens next.’

How­ever, there will never be a re­turn to the days of the end­less tours he did when he and Pat Shortt were on the road to­gether. Although it was his health that stopped D’Un­be­liev­ables ini­tially, there was no go­ing back to those times when he ad­mits he didn’t re­ally know how to slow down. ‘When I was out on tour six days a week we were go­ing all over the coun­try and that was hard when the kids were smaller.,’ he says.

‘You weren’t doing one long run in one the­atre, you were trav­el­ling all over the place – one night you could be in Cork and the next some­where in Leitrim.

‘So it meant you spent maybe one night a week at home with the fam­ily. And even then I don’t think I ever re­ally switched off. I thought I did but I was more likely to be in the pub with a few pints – although I still do that the odd time to be hon­est with you.’

So how does he man­age to switch off now?

‘I love be­ing in the gar­den,’ he says of the home he shares with his wife Margy and their two chil­dren, Ar­ran and Leah, who are both now in their twen­ties. ‘I love get­ting right down into it like a child and smelling the earth. And I love just sit­ting with a book and re­lax­ing – some­thing I’ve only learned to do in re­cent years.’

Meal­times at home, he says, are when he is hap­pi­est, having a leisurely break­fast with the fam­ily and catch­ing up on all the craic.

‘I think the kids are both more grown up than me any­way as nei­ther of them have cho­sen a ca­reer on the road,’ he adds. ‘Well nei­ther of them have yet – they are fol­low­ing their own paths but they are still young so there’s time to de­cide what they want to do. I’m not even sure if I know my­self yet.’

Cook­ing is also some­thing that Jon gets great plea­sure from. ‘I love food, I love cook­ing and one of my favourite things is when we are all round the ta­ble having break­fast and the chats with the lads,’ he says.

‘And I love soup. I make soup ev­ery day. My fam­ily give out to me be­cause it could be swel­ter­ing hot and I would say to them, “Will you have a bit of soup?”’

He can make all kinds – beet­root, turnip, parsnip, chicken, vegetable – whatever is hanging about, Jon will turn it into soup.

AND restau­rant own­ers be­ware – if Jon leaves af­ter just having a starter, it means your soup is not up to much. ‘I always judge a place by its soup,’ he says. ‘If I go to a restau­rant and have soup as a starter and it isn’t nice then I won’t eat the main course. ‘If I go some­where and the soup is lovely then I’ll have a different kind for the main course and even an­other for dessert.’ Jon Kenny is a tal­ented mu­si­cian too and he still keeps his hand in play­ing mu­sic. He is in touch with Pat Shortt and they have the oc­ca­sional pint to­gether when the stars are in align­ment. And although D’ Un­be­lie­ve­ables might be gone there will still be tour­ing for Jon Kenny, like with The Crow­man at the minute. Un­like Dan, Jon doesn’t mind the dark feath­ery crea­tures as when he was grow­ing up crows were a sign of good luck. And this pro­duc­tion cer­tainly has brought that, not that Jon needs much of

it. A pow­er­ful and en­ter­tain­ing piece, he is look­ing for­ward to bring­ing The Crow­man around the coun­try. And he does still en­joy trav­el­ling with one big difference.

‘l’ve been trav­el­ling since I was in a band, it’s the only life I know re­ally,’ he says.

‘But now things are different and I tend to try and go home af­ter each per­for­mance.’

The Crow­man will be at Dublin’s Olympia The­atre from this Wed­nes­day un­til Septem­ber 7. Tick­ets start at €24 and are avail­able now from tick­et­mas­ter.ie

Clas­sic craic: Jon Kenny and Pat Shortt as D’Un­be­liev­ables, above, Jon prepares for new stage role, main picture, as The Crow­man, inset.

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