Thanks to the hard work of Sharyn Hayden, Wednesday 25th April 2012 will now go down in the history books, as the first ever Irish Music Comedy Awards! I was lucky enough to get to experience the night firsthand and it was a blast
When I heard the venue changed at the last-minute I did struggle to visualise how 4 Dame Lane would work for this event but, as soon as I walked in, I really liked the feel of the venue. It turns out they’ve far more space upstairs than my previous visit led me to believe and it was pretty well laid out to accommodate the crowd and comedians! The only thing that was really lacking was a back stage area, which meant the finalists were sitting among the punters until it was time to get on stage. I personally quite liked this, as it meant each of the contestants had an opportunity to get a proper feel for their audience and, of course, they also got a great view of their competition performing!
The three judges (Marty Miller, Amanda Brunker, Paddy Cullivan) obviously got the best seats in the house, right beside the stage, but they were cleverly placed so they didn’t block the audience’s view of each act. They also didn’t comment, Britains Got Talent style, after each act which meant the night felt more like a comedy gig rather than a ‘typical’ awards ceremony. For me this gave the evening a sense of being about supporting all Irish musical comedy not about pitting comedians against each other or seeking out their weaknesses and I think that was a big positive of the event.
Our host for the evening was the charismatic Fred Cooke, who did an admirable job of keeping the audience on side when anything started to go slightly awry, and of course there were a few mishaps along the way, it was the first event of its kind afterall! Fred managed to deal with a few hiccups in his script and various delays while some of the acts set up very well. I think Fred was a good choice of host, he interacted well with the crowd and they had a lot of fun with his material, especially once he pulled out his guitar. It certainly wasn’t the easiest crowd to keep on side, but Fred managed to end the night as he started, with his energy and enthusiasm remaining largely undampened, even in spite of some of the crowd getting pretty restless as we approached the final few acts.
The acts themselves got a mixed reaction from the crowd, but that was inevitable with 12 different contestants, a comedian MC and 2 guest performances, everyone was not going to enjoy them all! Each of the acts did manage to make me laugh in some way during their slot though and I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of musical comedy talent that made it to the final. In case you’ve forgotten who they all were, in order of performance on the night;
Brenndogg & Bolsak, Floozy & Bluesy, Johnny Graham, Marcus O’Laoire, Nostril Shorts, Really Tight Pants, Steve Bennet, The Guilty Folk, The InQuizition, Totally Wired, Trevor Browne, Ursula Burns.
I’m sure by now you all know that Ursula Burns was crowned the winner and Floozy & Bluesy were the runners-up, so why’d they come out on top you ask? Well, I can’t claim to speak for the judges but I suspect originality and uniqueness (even though that’s not a word according to Paddy Cullivan) clinched the deal for these very funny and talented acts! Ursula’s harp playing is astounding and her clever lyrics, comic timing and magnetic personality had the crowd completely absorbed in her performance from start to finish! Don’t believe me? (the cheek!) feel free to see for yourself here.
Floozy & Bluesy had great chemistry with each other and the entire crowd was laughing aloud, along with the duo themselves who seemed to enjoy every second of their slot, through all 3 of the songs they performed on the night. Check out one of the most popular with the crowd yourself here.
What about all the other finalists, how did they perform? I hear you cry. Well, my own top 3 of the rest of the night had to be Nostril Shorts, Totally Wired and The Guilty Folk. Each of these duos had me doubled over laughing and merrily singing along in equal measure which for me is a sign of a good song, comedic or otherwise. They all managed to capture and hold the audience’s attention, which was no mean feat, and had the vast majority of the crowd laughing just as hard as I was throughout their respective sets. A very close runner-up for that top3 list was Steve Bennet. It was my first time to see Steve perform and he threw himself straight into the deep end with a song that required audience interaction to work and it paid off. The crowd in particular loved his ‘The Awkward song’ which had us all in stitches
I was also very impressed with the musical improv we were treated to on the night. I’ve alot of respect for any comedian brave enough to let the audience be their guide, especially in a competition setting, and both The InQuizition and Marcus O’Laoire did a very good job of cleverly working their chosen audience members’ stories into very funny song/rap material.
I did genuinely enjoy parts of the other acts sets, but they just didn’t capture my attention and make me laugh out loud with the same joyous abandon as those I’ve already mentioned. Having seen Trevor Browne before I know he has very entertaining material but he didn’t quite manage to connect with the crowd on the night and I got the impression he cut his performance short which was a little disappointing. Brenndogg & Bolsak seemed to have preplanned their performance very well but nerves and technical issues seemed to get in the way of them enjoying their set which impacted on the crowd’s reaction. Johnny Graham seemed very nervous on stage and the crowd struggled to warm to him during his stand up set, though he did get some giggles during his song. And to be perfectly honest Really Tight Pants confused me, I’d probably describe the act as a piece of comedy with music and dancing but I’m not sure I enjoyed it per say? Most of the crowd seemed more appreciative of ‘Shizo Tight’ than the actual musical comedy but I’m sure some people enjoyed the randomness of this act too, I just wasn’t one of them.
I really enjoyed Paddy Cullivan’s performance though! He came across as a little gruff at first, I definitely wouldn’t want to be caught chatting to a fellow audience member at one of his gigs anyway, but his songs were hilarious and he soon had the crowd singing along with him (even without the threats!). I’m a little astounded that he manages to repeat a highly offensive word 48 times in one song and even I was happily singing along before I realised it! See for yourself here, I’ll bet the song gets firmly stuck in your head
I can’t possibly ignore the other special guest performance, who seemed to be the sole reason a quarter of the crowd came to the IMCA’s at all, The Rubberbandits.
Now before I say anything more, I have to admit I was highly wary of seeing The Rubberbandits perform having not really been a big fan of their particular brand of controversial songwriting. However, I must say I was actually quite charmed by them live! There’s an intelligence behind their act that I wasn’t previously aware of, they didn’t skip a beat when technical faults interrupted their first track and, let’s face it, they are funny! I wouldn’t declare myself a fan and I still find some of their material unnecessarily offensive but I will be more open minded when listening to their work in future. Needless to say I was in the minority by all accounts and most of the crowd loved every second of the performance and sang along to every word.
Overall I would definitely consider the night a success. It showcased some of the talent the Irish Musical Comedy scene has to offer, provided the audience with lots of laughter and overcame all minor obstacles along the way to crown a worthy winner in Ursula Burns. I can only assume that Sharyn will be back again next year with bigger and better plans for the IMCA’s 2013. I, for one, look forward to seeing how the comedians step it up and make next year’s show even better!
Thanks to the Irish Musical Comedy Awards 2012 for the use of their photos, you can find more of their fantastic shots from the night along with videos from each of the finalists here.