Entitled “Hysteria – Women in Comedy”, last night’s comedy gig welcomed seven female comedians who provided the audience with a mix of sketches, impersonations, stand-up, and even rapping. The comedy night was indeed a welcome addition to the line-up of Trinity Arts Festival (TAF), reflecting the diverse array of events on offer. Taking place in the upstairs of Whelan’s, the evening was organised by both TAF and Trinity’s Comedy Soc,and was sponsored by Trinity’s Equality Fund.
First up was Joanne McNally, of “Republic of Telly” fame. Hailing from Killiney and a recent graduate of UCD, McNally knew that that a Trinity audience largely made-up of South Dublin kids would be easy to delight, with her ridicule of both the college and its supposed elite-nature. On top of this, McNally had a knack at discussing many of the issues that face women in an amusing manner, jumping between themes of online-dating, sex, and beauty standards.
Her discussion of Tinder was one that resonated well with the women in the audience. She compared the online dating experience of men vs women. A man’s greatest fear is that his date “might be a bit fat [..] or might even have a muffin top” whereas a woman’s greatest fear is that that she might be murdered: “maybe he’s the one, maybe I’ll die”.
Later in the night, the discussion turned to feminism. McNally, who is 33 and continues to live with her mother (a situation she describes as a “shitemare”), quipped that she’d “burn [her] bra if there was a guy there to buy [her] a new one”. McNally’s speech, though hilarious, was controversial for a Trinity audience with many astounded faces amidst the laughter. Her performance concluded with her being awarded the Honorary Patronage of TAF by Shannon Buckley Barnes.
Up next was Jane D’Altuin, a second year Trinity student and the rising star of the night. Having lost her “comedic virginity”, D’Altuin kept the audience in a state of constant laughter with quips about her life growing up in Kerry and her amusing family. She brought a nuanced perspective on family life as a gay person, teasing that she liked “to dress more butch when [she] was at home” to test her mum and dad’s parenting abilities. On top of this, her tales of her younger brother and his perceptions of boys, girls and how they acted was priceless. Her closing words indeed epitomised her comedic style; “Remember, when the non-binary utopia succeeds, it all began in Kerry.”
After a short break, the audience were indulged with two comedic sketches performed by Anjali Sundaram and Sheila Naughton, of Gogglebox fame. Sundaram made light of the “new year, new me” obsessed crowd and their fixation with the gym as the solution to all of their problems. Impersonating a fitness instructor, she shouted at the audience to exercise more: “If you worked harder, your husband wouldn’t have left you, your cat wouldn’t have died!” Naughton followed this up by playing one of her many funny characters, Jazzie K, an Airmax enthusiast.
Next in the line-up was Carol McGill, a History and English student, who told us of her experience in Spain as an au-pair and her struggles with menstruation and its unfortunate timing. In-jokes were a continuous feature of the night and as McGill looked out to the female dominated crowd, she asked who would make faces at her menstrual jokes: “Hey Matthew!”
The following sketch performed by D’Altuin, Sundaram, and Aoibhin McDonnell unfortunately fell quite flat. From a night that had thus far caused ceaseless laughter, the sketch was a minor blip in the show’s line-up. The jokes, centred around a women’s rights event, failed to really impress the audience and lacked the nuance of many of the other acts.
The show quickly regained momentum with its next performer, Ashling Buggle, a second year English student. Her stand-up routine was a medley of jokes from her life including earning her sea-legs on the many bends and twists of the Dublin Bus route, and her description of meeting “Google God” in a dream and asking it why her legs wobble when she goes up on her tiptoes. For her second gig, Bugell was confident and comfortable in her abilities.
As the night was coming to a close, it was paramount to keep the audience engaged. A sketch performed by D’Altuin and McDonnell could be easily chosen as the best performance of the night, leaving the audience in stitches. The sketch focused on a girl (McDonnell) getting ready for a night out when her “Fairy Dude Brother” (D’Altuin) arrives to help her get a man. They go through the rigmaroles of picking out an outfit that doesn’t make the girl look like a nun or a whore but a complete babe, and make-up that doesn’t lie to men- because lying is bad- but looks natural. The sketch perfectly captured the audience’s attention and highlighted the many contradictions of the modern day man and their belief that all women want is them.
The final performance of the night was given to us by Aoibhin McDonnell, the perfect person to conclude a night about celebrating women. She opened her routine with a shout-out to all girls for being “exquisite, beautiful creatures”. She further went on to describe girls who wore heels as being “as tough as nails”, the kind of girl who had probably “drop-kicked out of her mother’s vagina”.
As the event drew to a close, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with the two main people who spearheaded the event; Shannon Buckley Barnes, Director of TAF, and Annie Keegan, Chair of Comedy Soc. The idea for the event was spurred by Barnes’ year abroad in Australia where she took part in a women’s comedy group. Unfortunately, Barnes returned to Ireland before her big showcase but this encouraged her to establish her own event to allow other women to demonstrate their comedic talent.
All in all, the second night of the festival was a rousing success, celebrating a mix of women, comedy, and creativity. Ludivine Rebet, one of TAF’s event coordinators, explained that the “Women in Comedy” event was something completely new for the festival. Barnes added that she hoped the event would continue to prosper into the future. She spoke about the unprecedented interest in the event, the volume of responses to the call for female comedians, the quality of those responses, and ultimately the huge audience interest in the event.