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Have you seen or heard of The Liffey Laugh?

You’ll see The Liffey Laugh TV series mentioned on grintage from time to time and before we expand on RTE Two’s successful stand up series ….. first we turn back the comedy clock. Hope you have time to take a trip down Irish comedy memory lane …

The Liffey Laugh was a live 10 day event first staged in 1992 in venues across Dublin – without TV cameras – and recognised as Ireland’s 1st ever international comedy festival.  It featured a wide range of stand-up shows from Irish and UK acts – like Jon Kenny, Dermot Morgan, Jack Dee and Lee Evans; theatre events – a US touring Lenny Bruce one man tribute show and a UK produced version of Spike Milligan’s classic novel Puckoon – plus various workshops – e.g. writing comedy for TV and a special live interview with author Roddy Doyle.

The future Fr. Dougal, My Hero and acclaimed actor, author and stand up Ardal O’Hanlon was voted Best New Irish Act and to close the festival then 27 year old Sean Hughes became the first ever Irish stand up comedian to not only headline the 2000 seater National Stadium but also the first (and last) to sell it out. A younger Barry Murphy – currently one of Ireland’s most productive and inspiring writer / performers with RTE’s Apres Match and Pictorial Weekly – opened the show and MCed.

12 years after The Liffey Laugh International Comedy Festival a large scale TV stand up series was developed and pitched to RTE Entertainment by the same producer. Up to that stand up comedy on TV was usually wide / close shot with a curtain and spotlight. The ambition now was to stage an Irish stand up comedy TV show with increased set design, lighting and extra tracking / jib cameras to capture for TV audiences the growing impact of live comedy.

And seeing as the venue was so close to Dublin’s great river the title seemed obvious.

Filmed live in the 1000 seater Vicar Street on Thomas Street, each episode of The Liffey Laugh tv series on RTE2 showcased established and emerging comic talent, often giving deserving local acts their first television appearance in front of a capacity audience of live Comedy fans.

Series One – 2004

Presented by the now multi award winning comedian, actor and writer Sean Hughes (Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Sean’s Show) series 1 featured Jason Byrne, Andrew Maxwell, Tara Flynn, Dermot Carmody and a host of Irish talent. Additionally, it premiered the stand-up gifts of John Lynn, Eddie Naessens and Paddy Courtney to a national audience.

Series 1 of the The Liffey Laugh was produced by grintager Billy McGrath (who also was involved in 1992) for  Midas Productions in association with Bren Berry in Aiken Promotions with live direction from Simon Gibney

Series Two – 2005

Presented by new host Clare McKenna, the second series returned to Vicar Street with another triumphant lineup. The comics included acts Ed Byrne, Deirdre O’Kane, Reuben, Karl Spain and Eddie Bannon. New Irish talent on show included Bernard O’Shea, Dermot Whelan, Eleanor Tiernan and Keith Farnan. An impressive list of visiting acts included Adam Hills & Brendan Burns (Australia), Rhod Gilbert (Wales) and emerging UK based comics Alan Carr, John Moloney and John Bishop. Most of them were making their 1st ever Irish live and/or TV appearance.

The second series was co-produced by Sideline Productions with new producer Grainne O’Carroll and director Simon Gibney again on board.

And Now…

Since the series was recorded many of the acts have gone on to become stadium fillers and household names. Adam Hills, Alan Carr and Rhod Gilbert are now genuine comedy stars and often hosting their own shows on UK TV.

But John Bishop’s story has no equal. He had to quit his sales job in Manchester the day before the recording so he could fly to Dublin in 2005 – so he made his first ever professional appearance on RTE 2’s The Liffey Laugh. And the rest is history. John has been generous thanking Irish audiences for spotting his potential in his early career and his name was well established with regular live gigs and more TV like The Panel in Ireland before the UK woke up to his huge talent. Now he can sell out the 3Arena in Dublin many times over and is today one of the BBC TV’s most prized talents.

The tradition of producing live comedy shows continues with Sideline’s Comedy Showhouse in The Project Arts Centre for RTE Radio One. Starting on Sunday 31st of January 2016 with Moone Boy star Deirdre O’Kane, Ireland’s first radio comedy festival will record eight days of live comedy including sketch, panel and stand-up shows.

Expect to once again experience a mix of crowd-pleasing headliners and emerging unique talents live on stage. Tickets are currently sale at projectartscentre.ie/event/comedy-showhouse/

Information on all shows on grintageireland.com

… and if you have time to watch short clips of The Liffey Laugh – inc. John Bishop, Adam Hills, Karl Spain and Deirdre O’Kane – explore grintage’s 2 month old news & video archive before you leave us …

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