Funny Talk: Seán Begley

Ahead of his Feb 5th show, comedian Seán Begley reveals his long road to stand-up. The one thing about having a dream is that, hey, it’s never too late to make it come true.

And that certainly seems to be the case with comedian Seán Begley. The man got stage fright early on, and didn’t step out into the spotlight for the next 18 years. That’s 6,570 days. Or 9,460,800 minutes in today’s money.

When Seán finally did step back up on stage, he walked off with the Best New Act award at the 2018 Bray Comedy Festival. And he hasn’t looked back, or over his shoulder, since!

His new show, Tragic, playing to packed houses up and down the country, and now it’s coming to The Whale, on Saturday, February 5th.

Which is why we asked Seán to reveal those early comedy sparks…

“Since childhood I’ve had a keen interest in joke telling, and was vaguely familiar with the art of stand-up comedy from watching the likes of Billy Connolly and Brendan Grace – and many a now-forgotten comedian – on TV. The concept of comedy clubs or a circuit were alien to me until I became a regular attendee at Murphy’s Comedy Club in Galway. I was enthralled by the styles, themes and physicality of the acts, and very much in awe of anyone that had the courage to stand up in front of an audience. I spoke to the MC Gerry Mallon on many occasions but would have been too self-conscious to ask about performing myself.

The opportunity finally came when I was living in Limerick City during the late ’90s. I entered a competition held by a local pub, which I won with five minutes of fairly dodgy, low-brow material. I tried another few gigs after that and they went reasonably well but my aspirations came to a sudden end when I did a support slot for Des Bishop in 1999. The gig went so badly for me that I didn’t attempt comedy again for 18 years. What eventually brought me back was a conversation with Adam Burke, the MC of the Hardy Har in Bray. He has always been a huge advocate for new acts and regularly offers open mic spots, one of which he extended to me in August of 2017. It went very well so I was given another spot in December, which was even better. Subsequently, I entered the competition for Best New Act at Bray Comedy Festival 2018, which I ended up winning. I have since gone on to feature in most of the major comedy clubs in Ireland, shared the stage with many of the top acts in the country, including several household names, and was shortlisted for the Ray D’Arcy RTE Stand Up And Be Funny competition 2019.

My debut show, TRAGIC, is a performance which was pieced together over 18 months. It features anecdotes revolving around some embarrassing health issues, nostalgically reminiscing about my granddad, the challenges of marriage and fatherhood, plus several other pivotal moments in my life. The through line is an honest reflection on the untimely passing of a very close friend. I draw on the many stories from our formative years as well as the aftermath of his death and the process of ultimately reconciling with the decision to move on. The show has sold out at every performance to date, and enjoyed hugely positive audience feedback. The good people at Whale Theatre are bringing TRAGIC to Greystones on February 5th with Tara Calihman in support. Sure, it’s going to be magic…”

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