Jake O'Kane: I get a nosebleed if I go farther from north Belfast than Glengormley
After each show I go out to meet those kind people who've taken the time, and spent their money, to come along and hear me talk nonsense. What has struck me on this tour is just how small the place we live in actually is – you literally never know who you're going to bump into
SOME of you know me, some of you don't know me and some of you won't want to know me; such is life. For those of you who don't know me, and have yet to decide whether they want to know me, let me introduce myself. My name is Jake O'Kane, and my wife best summed me up when she bought me a T-shirt with a logo on the front which read, ‘Minor Local Celebrity'.
It was the ‘local' that cut deepest, but then she knows how to hurt. I couldn't argue, as while I've worked for the past 20 years as a stand-up comic, I've seldom ventured outside Northern Ireland. I'm not a great traveller; to be honest, I really don't like leaving north Belfast and get a nosebleed if I go farther than Glengormley.
If you decide to allot me some of your valuable time, I think it only fair to warn you that this won't always be a ‘comedy' column. I have more than a passing interest in local politics; in fact, I'm probably best known as a political comic. I make no apology for venturing into that arena, and hopefully I'll do so in an amusing way, but not always.
I'm a late-in-life husband and father. I was married at 40, still believing I was rushing into things – the wife didn't share this opinion. My first child was born when I was 46 and the second when I was 48, but more on that in later columns. For now, I just want to say ‘hello'.
I hope the year so far has treated you well. I hope you haven't been ill and had to wait for hours in one of our A&E departments, staffed by overworked and underpaid heroes, who literally save lives day in and day out, with little recognition.
I hope your children's school has been able to buy the books they need to provide the standard of education our generation took for granted. Schools, staffed by overworked and underpaid heroes, who literally change lives day in and day out, with little recognition.
I hope you aren't worried that your job may be on the line, if you're working at all, or that you may not be able to pay your bills, or that you're one of the growing army of working poor.
I hope, most of all, you're regretting voting for our present cabal of non-working and overpaid MLAs who've spent the last year pocketing monies they have neither earned nor deserve. Never in the field of public service have so few gained so much while doing so little.
But keep faith, all is not lost; so long as we retain our very dark sense of humour, there is hope. I'm coming to the end of a 20-date theatre tour that has taken me from Coleraine in the north to Armagh in the south, from Enniskillen in the west to Belfast in the east. Don't worry, this isn't a sly punt for ticket sales, they're all gone long ago.
The show takes the form of a review of the previous 12 months, where I detail the peculiar insanity that passes for our politics and everyday life. Over the last four years The Irish News have very generously allowed me the use of both their stories and pictures in those performances, and for this I am very grateful.
After each show I go out to meet those kind people who've taken the time, and spent their money, to come along and hear me talk nonsense. What has struck me on this tour is just how small the place we live in actually is – you literally never know who you're going to bump into.
Having recently finished a performance in the Waterfront in Belfast, I was asked by a lady if she could have a selfie and I, of course, said yes. I was stunned to discover that her husband, taking the picture, was the renowned north Down ‘community worker', Dee Stitt.
The fact that Mr Stitt had featured more than once in my show hadn't put him off attending, although I suspect audience members sitting close to him stifled their sniggers when I, at one stage, described him as a ‘psycho in a suit'. Luckily for me, Mr Stitt has a sense of humour and is a fan.
Well, I hope he's a fan, for if not, then this could very well be both my first and last column.