Arts

Neil Delamere: It's important to me to slag both sides equally

Comedian Neil Delamere is back soon to his 'adopted' Belfast with his new show at the Grand Opera House. The Blame Game star tells Joanne Sweeney that his next goal is to act in a sitcom

Neil Delamere will perform his new comedy show Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Pensioner at the Grand Opera House, Belfast on September 9 and 15 Picture: David Sexton

THERE'S no doubt that comedian Neil Delamere feels at home in Belfast and it seems that the city is very much at home with him.

Due to demand, an extra night has been put on at the Grand Opera House, where he will perform his intriguingly entitled Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pensioner show on September 9 and 15.

The new show, which is being fine-tuned by Delamere at preview shows at the Edinburgh Fringe this week and next, is not quite like the antics recalled in the famous Robert Redford and Paul Newman movie from 1969; rather, he says, it’s more like a hilarious insight into the relationship between him and his 82-year-old father.

"It was inspired by me and da delivering the Meals on Wheels about six months ago," Delamere explains from Edinburgh.

"One day he asked me to help him out and during that day he said that he didn’t feel like doing it anymore, so the show's about what happened on that day, which is marking the end of an era. Basically, we got a tip for a horse which led us to try and complete the journey in the quickest time as possible. It’s a bit of craic and a slight exaggeration of the father-and-son relationship."

Delamare has been one of the stars on The Blame Game, BBC Northern Ireland's topical news and current affairs comedy TV and radio show for the last 11 years, enjoying the craic and camaraderie with panellists Colin Murphy and Jake O'Kane, host Tim McGarry and visiting comedians each week.

"I was involved right from the very start and did the pilot with Colin and Jake in 2005. When we did the live show with Kevin Bridges in the Ulster hall, there were 15,000 applications for tickets," says Delamere.

"The show regularly gets more audience share than Graham Norton and those types of shows. One way or another, we are bone fide hit and long may it continue, says we."

The 38-year-old Co Offaly native considers himself to be an 'adopted northerner' now.

"I almost consider myself a proxy northerner at this point,” he tells me. “If you dip in and out of the place every week for 20 weeks of the year and holiday up there and work up there, have friends there, I reckon you are as clued in as any southerner would be about what's going on. I’d say I'm an adopted northerner now. I would be happy enough with that."

While Delamere is known for his quick wit and his gentle but deadly way of nailing the absurdities of life here, he does believe in being equal in his comedy and also with the staging of his new show, which will mostly run next year due to his recording commitments with The Blame Game.

"I think it’s important that I play every single place that I can in the north as that basically means that you slag off everyone equally," he says cheerfully.

"I wouldn’t like people to think that I slag off one side more than the other so it’s important to me to do like I did recently, which was Ballymena on St Patrick’s Day, then Lisburn the next day and Downpatrick the next. It’s important to me that I go to both sides. If you get it right, you’ve probably offended everyone."

Delamere has managed to do just about everything he wants to do in radio and television in the north and south for the BBC and RTE. He has performed and hosted comedy shows, presented documentaries, and has been an interviewer. He still hosts his Sunday Best radio show on Today FM every week and says it's something that allows him to "engage a different part of his brain".

"I’m just trying to make compelling radio. When I listen to radio I don’t necessarily want someone to be funny all the time, as long as they are interesting.”

However, in the future Delamere would like to try his hand out at both writing and acting in a television sitcom.

“I never written a sitcom and I’ve never acted," he tells me. "I would like to try my hand at acting in a gentle way, not one where I would be the lead of anything, as that would be difficult for someone so inexperienced, but having a bit part in something would be good fun.”

"I would like to write a sitcom or play over the next three to four years. But for the moment I’m very lucky doing The Blame Game as it’s the closest thing you will get doing stand-up in television.

"And I’m sitting around a table with four people that make you laugh – it’s just incredible. I never know what Colin Murphy is going to say or what Jake O’Kane is going to say, so it’s just great fun. Viewers can intuit whether something is fake or not, and know there’s a real bond."

He's proud of the longevity of The Blame Game, which will return in the autumn, and believes that there are still rich pickings from day-to-day life to make sure it continues.

"What I find is that extremes are brilliant for comedy so when everything is tripping along nicely and going very well, you can’t talk about that," he explains.

"Whereas if there are lunatics on both sides in Belfast, in Derry, in Brussels, in America – like, Donald Trump has just been a boon to comedy – so long as there are those sorts of extremes, I think we will be around for a while.

"I can’t see us on The Blame Game sitting saying we have total employment and sure isn't everyone is happy? That’s the day I give up comedy. It’s never happened in civilisation and it’s not going to happen any time soon. I’m sure the world and its problems will outlive The Blame Game."

:: Tickets for Neil Delamere's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pensioner show at the Grand Opera House, Belfast on Saturday, September 9 (limited availability) and Friday, September 15 are available from www.goh.co.uk

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