Bain Sult Ass! Hilarious!

As I have to wait up to feed the ba these nights, I am watching a lot more TV. My brain can’t cope with the mental effort required from reading, and besides I crushed my glasses a few weeks ago by sitting on them so even if I did have a book to read and my brain was functioning properly, I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.

That’s the excuse anyway. Today I ventured into Dublin for the first time in a month or so in search of a new pair of glasses, with a somewhat blurred view to getting back in the saddle with my reading habits. I was able to pick out a billboard poster for the Des Bishop series that began tonight on RTE1, in which he learns Irish, and on my return this evening, faute de mieux, I sat down for an hour’s entertainment as the popular stand-up comedian comes up with all sorts of witty observations about the Irish language.

I watched 15 minutes. Apparently Des Bishop is supposed to learn enough Irish so that, by the end of a year, he is able to do a stand-up routine in the language. Yet -and this was the first time I have ever watched him, so he may be excruciatingly funny on other occasions- it seems he would also need to learn to do a stand-up routine.

The subject matter has a lot to do with it. The funniest thing in the first 15 minutes was when he observed that in Irish you have three words for two, and it was about as funny as getting your head kicked in. (Actually, in fairness to getting your head kicked in, that can sometimes be funny) Talking about the strangeness of words or sounds in another language is just not amusing in the slightest. If the words or sounds of another language didn’t seem strange, it wouldn’t be another language. It’s a bit like making a load of jokes about the tallness of tall people.

Maybe I’m out of tune once again with the spirit of the nation. For all I know, there are hundreds of thousands of people who think it’s great crack altogether, just as I never cease to be amazed that there are people out there who think it’s funny that the Spanish for thank you sounds like grassy ass. He seems a likeable enough fellow, so I hope he improves, but I’ll do without tuning in to find out.

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9 Responses to “Bain Sult Ass! Hilarious!”


  1. 1 Mark Waters March 14, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I saw his stand-up show which is based on this and I was impressed. The programme last night didn’t really work. It jumped from one thing to another and it never settled down. It was way too busy. Very poorly put together in my opinion and didn’t do him justice.

    Maybe this is because it was the first episode and it was trying to set the scene. In his stand-up act he did come out with some interesting observations about the language and about life in the Gaeltacht (and he was funny too). Hopefully this will come across in future episodes.

    Having said that, the programme has a little bit too much of the “Isn’t it great to be Irish” attitude that you talk about in the next post so I wouldn’t have too much hope that we’re going to get much introspection into the state of the Irish language and the Gaeltacht culture.

  2. 2 Hugh Green March 14, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Well, that’s interesting. It did seem to me that the programme was using a format -interspersing documentary footage with stand-up scenes- which may not work with some material. I think it’s possible to be funny about the whole area of learning other languages, but it probably needs longer, more reflective sequences than what the format allows.

  3. 3 Donagh March 14, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Perhaps it is the difference between a live show and stuff on the telly, but I’m not so sure. When actors burst out laughing on stage, forgetting their lines, its called corpsing and when a comedian has a whole room laughing till they are physically sick, he or she is called ‘dead funny’, but any time I’ve seen Des Bishop on telly, and this includes a recording of his live show, I’ve found his humour pretty lifeless. Which is a rather pathetic joke, I’ll admit.

    But maybe its me. Although I’ve very rarely been to stand up shows I do remember one occasion where I sat in the audience surrounded by great howls of laughter coming from everyone around me and was completely incapable of even breaking a smile.

    It was like Nuremburg Rally moment where you’re in the middle of the crowd who are really digging this guy’s ideas and his plans for the future of your race and you’re there thinking, is it just me or is this guy a bit of a fascist?

  4. 4 Hugh Green March 14, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Although I’ve very rarely been to stand up shows I do remember one occasion where I sat in the audience surrounded by great howls of laughter coming from everyone around me and was completely incapable of even breaking a smile.

    Was it Ed Byrne? He’s about as funny as kidney failure.

  5. 5 Donagh March 14, 2008 at 11:41 am

    No, although I don’t find Mr. Byrne very funny either. It was Dennis Leary.

  6. 6 Hugh Green March 14, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Oh him. He’s dreadful. This conversation is making me begin to wonder if there is anything particularly desirable about watching someone stand up on stage and talk about things, and expecting to be amused. It is the ‘here we are now, entertain us’ entitlement that is implicit in the stand-up show. So much of it is dire, it makes you wonder if the funny ones are somehow succeeding in spite of the format.

    I presume, given modern auditoria, that it’s commercially impossible to develop a widespread art form known as sit-down comedy.

  7. 7 copernicus March 15, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Didn’t, see it and wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Bishop’s shtick (love “stand up” though, so much of which is awesome), but a friend pointed out that he is making the unfashionable point that the native tongue is not hard to learn if you put a small bit of effort in.

    That’s not a bad joke about having three words for two. People are daunted by difference and language and use humour to disarm the object of their fear. Obviously at its most extreme that can be a distinctly foul phenomenon, but in most contexts (like this one) it’s harmlessly amusing; and if it can defuse some of the serious tension that has grown up around the language and culture recently, it’s hardly a bad thing.

  8. 8 Hugh Green March 17, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I’m not that familiar with ye southerners’ relationship with the language, so I may be missing out on some achievements of Bishop’s series.

  9. 9 Mark Waters March 18, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I meant to point that out. You really ‘had to be there‘ to appreciate much of his comments on the peculiar relationship between the citizens of the republic and the Irish language. Then again, that’s probably due more to recognising your own experience than any deep insight on the programme’s part.


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