Arts

Jimeoin still raising eyebrows after all these years

Australia-based Co Derry comic Jimeoin plays Dublin and two Belfast gigs this weekend, before a gig in Derry next month. He talks to Brian Campbell about arenas, John Bishop and cracking England

Jimeoin plays two gigs at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on October 24. Picture by Hugh Russell

JIMEOIN admits that he’s never liked having to dream up titles for his shows.

In the past few years the Co Derry stand-up, who has lived in Australia since 1989, has had shows called Yeehaa! Yes Yes Whatever! Lovely! and What?!

His latest follows this simple tradition and is called Is It?!

When he was playing a couple of Irish gigs in 2013 Jimeoin told me that in his comedy, “My point is I don’t have a point. I don’t try to be controversial. It’s more about trying to make people laugh”.

His brilliant and often surreal observational comedy can see him getting huge laughs out of everything from impersonating a washing machine, doing 'good-looking looking around in a pub’ to a five-minute routine about eyebrows and facial expressions.

Speaking to me in Belfast ahead of two gigs in one night at the Waterfront this weekend, he says he doesn’t have much time for show titles.

“They’re a pain in the ass. It’s almost as hard as writing a joke,” he says.

And while he was happy to get the chance to play the Odyssey Arena (now the SSE Arena) in 2013, he says he’s happier playing smaller venues.

"It was good to be able to do the Odyssey but I’m looking forward to doing the Waterfront. I like the Millennium Forum and playing the Opera House was really nice. I suppose you take [arena gigs] if you can get them but I’m not sure about them from a punter’s point of view.

"I did The O2 in London and I was standing at the back watching someone else on stage and I thought, `Why would anyone want to come and see this?’ Even the big screen looks small from the back of the room. Sometimes people just want to be in a big audience, I think.”

Jimeoin McKeown moved to Australia when he was 23, did a couple of stand-up gigs, got offered three weeks’ work supporting an American comic that turned into four months and his comedy career took off from there.

He and his wife have four children, yet they tend not to go on tour with him.

“Before the first couple of kids were in school, they’d come on tour with me. I would play Edinburgh for a full month, so they could come because I was in the one place. The rest of the time I’m on the road, so you can’t really travel with a bunch of kids. Nor would I want to,” he laughs.

He says he doesn’t think any of his kids will follow him into stand-up comedy. “My wife is absolutely dead against them doing what I do. She thinks it’s such a 'dodgy’ career. Not as dodgy as other showbiz careers, I think. I used to always want to be in a band when I was younger but you’ve got such a short window when you do that – and then what do you do?

“Comedy has more longevity. Lots of comics don’t make it until they’re a bit older, like John Bishop and Micky Flanagan. Myself and John Bishop started our careers at the same time, so there was a period when you didn’t get much of an audience.

“So I’ve been getting away with this for 26 years now. It’s great that I’m still doing it. I’ve got a real lust for it again, because I’ve started to get an audience in the UK through doing stuff on TV.”

Jimeoin always got good crowds in Australia, Northern Ireland and Scotland but not across England until the past few years.

“You play places like Leeds, for example, where there’s a big Irish population and that comes across in the number of people who come to the shows,” he says. “I love playing around England now. I go to see cathedrals and historic buildings, stuff you don’t get in Australia. And there’s an audience in Dublin now too, whereas that used to be a bit tricky too.”

When he’s 'off duty’, he says it’s not always ideal to be introduced as a comedian.

“In a social environment it can be quite awkward sometimes; people think you’re going to be funny all the time.”

One review of Jimeoin’s recent shows concluded that, ‘if laughter is the best medicine, Jimeoin is a course of steroids’.

He tends to mention his wife in his routines but doesn’t involve his children.

“No, I’ve never really liked comics that talked about their family,” he says. “I do a bit of slagging about my wife, so luckily she doesn’t go to my shows. She doesn’t like people listening to me or if I get too much attention.”

When he goes back to his hometown of Portstewart, lots of people recognise him but nobody is ever “overbearing”. And he doesn’t get asked for autographs too often: "It’s all selfies now.”

He’s surprised to hear that his two Waterfront shows on Saturday are billed as being for “strictly over 16s”.

“Does it say that? I don’t know why that is. In Edinburgh lots of young people come. It’s not overly clean but it’s certainly not overly smutty.”

:: Jimeoin plays Vicar Street in Dublin tomorrow at 7.30pm and two shows (7pm and 9.30pm) at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Saturday (Waterfront.co.uk). He also plays the Millennium Forum in Derry on November 7 (Jimeoin.com).

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