WINTER 2016-2017 / VOL. 16 ISSUE 1
Irish Comics Hit the Laughter Road 

Special to The Irish American Post 

 

The Irish Comedy Tour takes the party atmosphere of a pub and combines it with a four-man boisterous band of self-described hooligans. The tour makes a stop at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center's Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15. 

The quartet consists of Detroit native Derek Richards; Boston-born Mike McCarthy; Nova Scotia's Damon Leibert; and Derrick Keane of Inchicore, a Dublin suburb. 

Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office (929 North Water Street), by phone at 414-273-7206 or online at Ticketmaster.com or MarcusCenter.org. Groups 10+ SAVE! and should call Group Sales at 414-273-7121 x210 or x213. 

Other spring tour dates for 2017 include:
Infinity Hall, Feb. 16, Norfolk, Conn. 
Newton Theatre, Feb. 17, Newton, NJ 
Paramount Hudson Valley, Feb. 18, Peekskill, N.Y. 
The Rockwell, Feb. 23, 2017, Somerville, Mass. 
Greenwich Odeum Theatre, Feb. 24, East. Greenwich, R.I. 
Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Feb. 25, Old Saybrook, Conn. 

Following is what the boyos have to say for themselves. 

Derek Richards:

Derek Richards started in comedy in 1993, entertaining full time and making a living at it since 2000. As a kid, he was into performing but always with an interest in theatre but never really considered comedy. 

"My parents supportive, thinking I was going through a phase. Then they realized I was serious about it and I think that startled them," he recalled. "I would drive all over to get stage time, from Michigan to Missouri to do a couple shows. Dad would always say, ‘You can't treat the United States like it's your backyard!'" 

Richards founded the Irish Comedy tour in 2006 at a small theater in Jupiter, Fla. Mike McCarthy has been with the tour since Day One and he recruited the other musicians (Derrick Keane and Damon Leibert), four years ago. He knew McCarthy from the comedy circuit in Florida and the others he found via musician message boards. 

After a decade with McCarthy and four years with the others, Richards knows what works. "We are all on stage at different times, so you don't really need to coordinate that angle. You rehearse transitions, but that's about it," he explains. 

Upstaging is part of the game, what they try to do all the time. "We are the biggest bunch of ball busters out there," he laughed. 

Thinking about what makes an Irish comic and whether the Irish have an innate sense of comic timing. Richards said that the Irish have long since been known for their gift of blab and blarney. "I think when you typically grow up in a large household you try to find ways to stick out." he added. 

Being on tour can be a grind. Richards agreed that while on the road it's tough to really do much of anything other than get into the hotel, do soundcheck and related housekeeping tasks. "Afterwards, we usually find a pub and decompress. I don't care to go to comedy clubs when I'm off stage. That's like a construction worker going to a job site after he's done with work. If there's a friend in town working the other club, we'll try and connect, but that's about it," he indicated. 

"Life is the best developer of a routine. Live and do stuff and open your eyes and ears to what's around you. Everything can be funny, you just need to MAKE it funny," he emphasized. "I work out material on stage at regular clubs, I don't go to open mikes since you can never get a good barometer on whether a joke works or not. You need to have an actual audience, not a bunch of your peers in the back of the room." 

For Richards, a good audience member is someone with an open mind and fun attitude. "Leave the B.S. of your day in the car or at the office, it'll still be there when you leave. Also, put your political correctness on a shelf, there's no need for that in a comedy show," he warns, almost shouting, "AND TURN OFF YOUR DAMN CELL PHONE." Richards complained that no one is ‘present’ anymore, pointing out that everyone seems to feel the need to be on Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook 24/7. Get a life." 

"You can be any ethnicity and enjoy this show. At the end of the day, we're all cut from the same cloth. We all have that crazy uncle / grandfather / mother. People come up all the time and say, "I'm German / Italian / Greek / whatever your nationality is and say... 'I know exactly what you were talking about!'" he explained. 

"I've been doing this 23 years and it's always a blast. I love to make people laugh. The behind the scenes stuff is the work...the travel, the technical stuff, but when you get to finally do it, that's the payoff," Richards said. "You need to constantly be writing new stuff and challenging yourself to keep it fresh. No one else will do that for you. If you become stale, the audience senses that. Once you become the bitter, jaded one... leave the business." 
 

Damon Leibert: 

Damon Leibert’s foray into professional comedy began when Derrick Keane, or "Keano" as he calls him, suggested it would be a good idea to take a professionally trained violinist and dress him as a leprechaun and bring him on the road with the tour. "Pretty funny," the Nova Scotia native laughed. He now lives in Somerville, Mass., and formerly partnered in the Bluetone Studio. Leaving there in 2016, he freelances as an engineer and producer. 

Leibert also owns and operates Live Art Technologies (LAT), which provides technology for arts related use and small business. His firm not only sells technology, it designs, installs, and services the systems audiovisual systems for bars and restaurants. Since January, 2015, he has been director of The Rockwell, formerly The Davis Square Theatre, in Somerville. 

"I don't recall actively being funny as a kid, or purposefully being funny, unless you consider picking up the fiddle as a funny thing for a four-year- old to do? My classmates did; laughs on them!" 

Leibert’s parents are both musicians. His father plays trad-music (traditional, accordion, concertina) and his mom plays the harp. "I grew up around traditional dance music and was playing for dances with my father before I had hair on my chest. Apparently if you keep it up it removes hair from your head. I ended up studying music, but didn't go the direction of wearing a black suit and sitting in an orchestra. My suit is now green," he said. 

He’s been playing music professionally since he was a youngster, moving to Boston in the late 1990s. and started working with a number of groups, One was Keane’s band Inchicore in 2000, joining the group full time in 2007. Then someone mentioned the ICT was looking for a Irish musician/emcee for a comedy production. 

"Derrick (Keane), with his quick Dublin wit, immediately came to mind. After a few emails I had gotten him the job. Four months later while on the road, they called to ask if I'd be crazy enough to join them. I did." The comedy’s troupe’s first show was March 15, 2012. 

At the beginning of the tour, the guys typically block the show, running through the format and the essential components. However the show is constantly in flux. Each audience in each city is different, so they adapt, Leibert explained. 

"One of the great things about comedy and music is that they live in real time, and as things happen during the show, the show tends to follow, not lead. For example, you can expect a joke or lauded at a latecomer into the theater. Don't be late," he suggested. 

‘Personally, I literally run through each venue. When the venue allows, I usually try to interact with the audience. I've been known to jump on/off stage, on top of seats, bow bald heads, steal drinks and occasionally play for dancers," he related about his act. 

"My favorite experience was early on in a show where I ran through a row up front only to be blocked by a fellow who was slumped over sleeping. His reaction to opening his eyes to a fiddle-playing leprechaun in his face was nearly as great as the audiences! I think he'd been drinking just a bit," Leibert chuckled. 

"So, you can't really rehearse for this. Your rehearsal is all your past experiences. In my case, a background in music, dance, and performance work together and I don't have to play any part to be a leprechaun. That comes from within and was already there, I just have a license to use it now," he added. 

"You try to upstage the others in a fun way. We tend to tone it down on stage though. If only there was a video of us on tour," Leibert grinned. 

Leibert came from the musical side of the stage, but having a unified sense of one's culture was a great starting place for entertaining. "Whether language, music or dance, all involve timing. I'd like to think of the Irish as having a quick wit. So it’s no surprise these ingredients work well for comedy," he said. 

"What do we do after a show? Well, do we have to be honest on this? Let’s just say the stereotypes of touring rock bands are smashed by tours with comedians. Comics typically work solo, so when you put them together with a leprechaun with a license, a musician who's just as funny as the comics, well let’s just say the craic is mighty. 

"We once made the mistake after driving 10 hours to Vermont to go on a brewery tour. That’s a story in itself, but we didn't realize the breweries were hours apart. What’s the last thing you want to do after driving 10 hours? It’s not sitting in a van for another six. So no, we usually find a dive bar with a jukebox. If there's a true Irish pub, we'll probably be there as well," Leibert said. 

Some of Leibert’s best material comes out of time spend with the guys in the tour, who are not shy on feedback. It also helps to have a great audience, especially one with Irish who definitely appreciate the show more than other cultures. "If anyone can have a laugh at themselves its the Irish," he added.. 

After weeks of touring, there are challenges in making the routines remain fresh," Leibert admitted. "I think the biggest challenge is toll of the road. Travel is tiring enough, but when you’re laughing the whole time..." he grinned, voice trailing away. 
 

Mike McCarthy: 

Mike McCarthy launched his comedy career when he was merely 19- years-old. As a kid, when the first time he saw Richard Pryor's first concert movie, he knew this was what he wanted to do. 

His parents were a tad skeptical but supportive about his decision to become a standup comic. McCarthy’s dad always told jokes when he was was kid. "I mean, always walking up to complete strangers and telling them jokes. I come from a small Irish Catholic family and I am the youngest of nine. Humor is what got us through any tough times," he emphasized. 

McCarthy, nicknamed "The Comedy Barbarian," joked that he met Damon Leibert in jail and Derric Keane in rehab. The tour as it is right now has been together for three years, but he has been performing with the Irish comedy tour since it began with Derek Richards about 11 years ago. "We all do four shots of whiskey with each other before the show, spin around five times and hope for the best, he offered. 

"I think the inability to cook really makes an Irish comic. All joking aside, I believe the irish do have an innate sense of comic timing. In my house, as I mentioned, all we did was joke around. So I think that it's because the Irish have had such a tough time that they have to rely on humor that makes us so funny," he added. "We go to a pub before the show, we go to a pub after the show and then we go to confession." 

McCarthy’s favorite Irish comic is Illinois-born/TV personality Tommy Johnigan. "He’s fantastic right now. And one of my favorite classic routines is the Irish take on Abbot and Costello's old ‘who's on first.’ It’s the Irish version, of course, called ‘who passes out first.’" 

"I develop most of my material by hanging out with these bozos. I usually work my stuff out on stage. My significant other is my biggest critic. Her biggest critique is when are you getting a real job?" said McCarthy. 

For him, the comedy show is absolutely universal, one that anyone from any culture can enjoy. "I think a really good audience is comprised of people who come out to have a good time, check their problems and inhibitions at the door. Also it helps if they consume copious amounts of alcoholic beverages," he pointed out. 
 

Derrick Keane: 

Irish-born singer/guitarist Derrick Keane started performing 35 years ago at pubs and clubs around Ireland and England. Coming from a large family in Inchicore, a Dublin suburb, he got most of his material from them. His career choice was supported by his parents and his dad became his manager. "My favorite comics have been Brendan Grace and Billy Connolly. Both are great story tellers," Keane related. 

He and Derek Richards hooked up after Richards placed an ad on Craigslist looking for an Irish musician. They have subsequently performed together for about five years. 

"We don't really rehearse it just comes naturally. Naturally we try to upstage each other all the time. That’s what keeps us on our toes," he said, adding that he didn’t consider him self a comic but of more of an emcee/musician. Their routines "come naturally and I take advice from the other three gobshites," he indicated. 

After a show, Keane enjoys a few drinks with the rest of the troupe and he likes visiting tourist attractions in whatever city they are performing. 

For him, the more diverse the crowd, the better. Even after weeks of touring, "we get along great and always have great fun," he emphasized. 
 
 


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