Thursday, 27 February 2014

Why do Irish people think being Irish is so funny?

We're fucking gas alright boys

Us Irish are hilarious. Everything we do from our daily mundane tasks to our zany idiosyncrasies is immeasurably funnier than any other nationality. How do we know this? Because we say so. And since, as stated above, we're the funniest fucking race on the planet, we're a pretty good authority on the subject. 

You know what I'm talking about. Those lists, those articles, those videos which seem to have invaded the internet in recent years celebrating the vagaries and the oddities of us Irish. "You know you're Irish when; You say grand stretch in the evening; You have an uncle John and an auntie Mary; You drink flat 7UP when you're sick; bleh bleh fucking bleh. 

What started out as a bit of harmless, self-deprecating-yet-at-the-same-time-vaguely-patriotic humour is now a bona fide industry online. Youtubers have jumped on this bandwagon in their droves. Blogs and Facebook pages are dedicated to this phenomenon. Even apparently respectable publications (*cough*THEJOURNAL.IE*cough*) churn out articles en masse on the subject.

It's all a bit tiresome, no? The popularity of these articles and videos has shown no signs of wavering. Last year, the third most viewed Youtube video in Ireland was Republic of Telly's contribution to this growing library of national self-aggrandisement. The video was, to put it bluntly, cliched and shit. Especially considering very few of the skits were original and a couple were rather blatantly lifted from online (The homework during Glenroe skit has been a like-page on Facebook for years).

We have a bit of an obsession with ourselves, don't we? You may have noticed I referred to these videos as self-aggrandising in the above paragraph which may strike you as odd as most of the videos and articles are ostensibly self-disparaging.. But they're not really. Even if it seems that the videos and articles are bemoaning our backwardness and stupidity, what they're really trying to say, in a broader sense, is "Look at us Irish! So unique! So goofy! And we can laugh at ourselves!". 

What made that Republic of Telly video I mentioned all the more disappointing was that it starred Martin Moloney who shot to fame playing the lovable waster Eddie Durkan in the brilliant online series Hardy Bucks (Yes, the online series, not the sanitised, bastardised version RTE put out). 

You see, Hardy Bucks was a much more subtle and, for my money, accurate depiction of Irish people's mannerisms. Sure, it was a mockumentary series, a medium which allows for much more scope and insight than a 4 minute Youtube clip or a 200 word article, but its depictions of Irish life felt much less contrived and much more natural. Which made it funnier. I mean, I've never actually, genuinely, heard an Irish person use the exact phrase "Grand stretch in the evening" and I don't actually have an uncle John or auntie Mary but some of the scenes in Hardy Bucks left me in awe at their attention to detail. If you want an example, this entire episode is both veracious and hilarious. 

What actually compelled me to write this article was the popularity of Mr. Cian Twomey, a Facebooker whose short videos documenting Irish mother's/grandmother's reactions to things have become wildly popular. I have no beef personally with him and I don't want to be labeled as one of his "haters" as the rappers would say but the popularity of his videos perplexes me. 

It's just the same cliched nonsense we've seen for years. Do people really find jokes about the immersion being left on and Bebo stunnahs hilarious after all these videos and articles? Obviously they do as his popularity is only growing though I think it says more about our obsession with ourselves than does about his comedic ability. I don't want to shit on him as it takes a lot of courage and confidence to post the kind of videos he produces and he does seem like an interesting and affable chap but it confuses me that Irish people still find this type of thing hilarious even though it's been done again and again and again. 

I guess my argument is a futile one. Humour is subjective and I can't say that just because I don't find something funny it isn't. But there is something deeper in this infatuation we have with ourselves. Other countries don't seem to bring it to such a level. I have a half-baked theory that it has something to do with the recession and the fall of the Celtic Tiger as during those years we seemed much less parochial than we do now. I'm not exactly sure why that would happen though. Maybe it's because of our isolation from the rest of Europe? Maybe it's because of the unfettering adulation we receive from other countries? Any sociologists in the room?


  1. I agree with pretty much everything you've said. It's really frustrating because I'm a stand-up comedian. You can write & rewrite whole sets, making people laugh but also trying to tell a story with your material. Another comedian goes on after you and does 10 minutes of what his mammy says when shes making dinner and people are falling out of their seats laughing. It's the Irish version of hack.

    1. Cheers for the comment pal. I'd never thought of it from the point of view of a comedian. You raise an interesting point. It really is a cheap way to garner laughs.

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  3. 2nd to last sentence of the article. I am convinced that that's it. The Irish are just better than everyone else at having fun and being funny; the adulation is deserved imo.