Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Interview with Kevin McAleer

By Oisín Ruane

I met up with Kevin right outside the Rathmines Library one night and thought it would be a good idea to have a chat in Toast. As I led him across the road, he hesitated and joked that he had been barred from Toast (called The Lounge at the time) back in 1974, and he hoped they wouldn’t remember. He said had fallen off a stool very drunk one night, and hadn’t bothered to get up.

Kevin MacAleer has had a very successful career doing comedy, making television appearances and writing a column with the Sunday Independent. However, this well known Irish performer spent his first years out of Omagh right here in Rathmines. He attended the college in 1974. Back then it was known as Rathmines College of Commerce.

Kevin studied Journalism but told me that he was not cut out to be a journalist. He enjoyed the writing aspect of it but said that everything else was not suited to him. I had asked him if studying journalism had any effect on his comedy career and he said that “only because I learned what I didn’t want to do”.

Before coming to Rathmines, Kevin lived a life that he felt was void of real conversation, and he said that this was partially due to the upcoming troubles. He said that people, for good reason, were very guarded at that time in the north. When he came to Dublin he was eager to get involved in the social interaction that he had not yet quite experienced. He said it was a “hive of conversation” in Dublin and it was very exciting.

It was actually in San Francisco that he discovered comedy clubs. In the early 1980’s Kevin visited California and was introduced to the Open Mic style of comedy. However, he didn’t go up to perform and was “kicking” himself on the plane back home. Luckily for Kevin, a comedy club had opened in Dublin upon his return from America and this time he took advantage.

Unfortunately the comedy scene was not developed enough in Dublin for Kevin to maintain a career, but he had heard of “El Dorado” in London where comedians could work every night. After moving to London he was quickly getting steady, paid work.  The comedy scene in London was more developed in the 80’s and provided a much steadier career for Kevin.

By the end of the 80’s, Kevin got offered some TV work from RTÉ. He did a lot of short slots on television, which he said, “had a knock on effect on my live shows...I suddenly had an audience, so I just spent most of the 90’s cashing in on that hahaha, that was my hay day”.

Kevin will be the first to admit he is a very slow writer. While writing for his column in the Sunday Times he said it was like “a bloody full time job...especially if trying to make it funny you have to spend longer at it...it was only 800 words but it nearly took me the whole week”. He joked that “if I could write faster, I’d be a lot richer today hahaha”.

He wrote his most recent show ten years ago but still calls it “my new show...that tells a lot”. He said that his new show has lost some momentum, and that people think that he is retired just because he is not on TV as much. “If you’re not on TV people think you’re dead”.

Even though Kevin felt that he had to move to London to start off his career, he would argue that that is not the case now. He says that the comedy scene in Ireland has really developed and not only Dublin. When I asked if the recession makes it harder for young comedians, he inspirationally suggested that creativity is often inspired and enhanced by difficult times.

 Kevin continues to develop his routines and recently started a collaboration involving the Irish language. He also performed at the Electric Picnic last August. He currently lives in Omagh and makes frequent appearances in Dublin, both for gigs and to visit friends and colleagues.

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