It takes courage to embrace comedy as a career – especially if dark humour is your creative outlet. The ability to shock, to jolt, to say the unspeakable for an audience reaction borders on masochism. It takes even more courage to do so – in front of your own mother. Galway’s Show Me The Funny Winner Ian Burke did just that at the final of the comedy competition held at the King’s Head on Shop Street. “My mum was at the show and she was a bit shocked,” says Ian, “especially when I called her out in the middle of the crowd. It was a pretty rude joke! But she knows that’s who I have always been and I will say anything.”
The Road to Comedy:
The Galway man admits his family were taken aback when he announced he wanted to be a comedian. It hasn’t been an easy road, but Ian is determined to carve a career path as a stand-up, and is dedicating this time in his life to perfecting the craft.
His resolve is unwavering. This was not his first time to enter the Show Me The Funny competition in his native Galway. He placed second in 2019.
“I’m a really competitive person,” he explains. “Whether it’s sports or board games, I’m in it to win it. I entered the competition in 2019 and came second.
“Most people would be happy with that. But I wanted to go again. It’s the biggest comedy competition in Ireland – I had to go for it.”
Never Give Up:
Ian has fought hard to gain this confidence. It took years for him to put his work out there in front of others. He often wrote jokes, only to shelve the idea at the thoughts of performing in front of a live audience. He shared his material with one close friend, who was fully supportive. And yet this circle of writing and abandoning the idea continued. He credits the support of the Galway comedy circuit and the people involved for allowing him to develop as a comedic writer and performer.
“As a teenager I watched a lot of shows and loved the TV programme Eight Out of Ten Cats. I thought it would be the coolest job and I just had it in my head. When I finished college, I started writing jokes to see if I could be funny. But I couldn’t get over the idea of being on stage. The thoughts of an open mic was just too much and I would stop writing. I went through this cycle for years.”
Now or Never:
For the 29-year-old from Moycullen, on the outskirts of Galway city, it was a case of now or never. He realised the ability to try, and fail, was better than not trying at all.
“I figured if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it,” he says.
“What is worse? Getting up on stage and bombing, or to spend 20 years of my life with regret.”
Galway Comedy Scene:
Ian became a regular on the Galway comedy scene, which was alive and kicking at different venues every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday night pre-pandemic. He is looking forward to a return to these frequent live events where he can meet his peers and have fun. These nights became a platform for him to grow and develop his routine and he became comfortable with the live format.
Show Me The Funny:
Competition, however, is another animal and it does bring that adrenaline rush of nerves for someone whose comedy has that shock factor.
“My comedy is dark,” he says. “A lot of my punchlines would genuinely shock people but be funny at the same time. I get a lot of loud reactions, with people gasping, and that’s what set me apart on the night.
“The Show Me the Funny competition in Galway is more nerve wracking than a normal comedy night. I am now comfortable on stage and quite relaxed. But during the competition I had nerves the entire time. Basically, I am watching other acts and wondering if they are better than me. You can’t sit back and relax. You know you have to put in your best performance. It’s really hard during the heat to see if you get through. Then at the final I was having a mini heart attack. There were so many good acts on the night. Being announced as the winner was the best feeling in the world.
The Final Countdown:
On the night of the final at the Kings Head on Galway’s Shop Street, Ian wanted to save the best ’til last. He decided to keep up to five of his favourite jokes until the final night. “There is nothing better than the first time you tell a joke,” he explains.
“I tried out new things. I wanted to do a different set to make sure the jokes hadn’t been heard before by the same audience. You wouldn’t get the same reaction. My material is pretty out there and I was pushing the boundaries. My last joke was a very touchy subject for a lot of people and I knew this would be very memorable. It was the biggest reaction
I received on the night. You always want to end and walk off to a pause, shocked noises or hysterical laughter. It was a bit of all three.”
A Bright Funny Future:
Ian Burke is actively pursuing his dream. He is taking the time now to follow his passion, before “life comes at me.” While the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is on his radar, he is reluctant to commit to a full one hour show. As a result, he is happy to “take things a little slow”. He describes the idea of a one hour as “daunting” and understands that even though the Edinburgh Fringe Festival can be an incredible career launch pad, he doesn’t want to “bite off more than I can chew.” For now, he is excited about his upcoming gigs at the All Together Now Festival in Waterford and at Electric Picnic.