Comedian Neil Delamere on Delamerium tour and love of TV quizzes

David Roy chats to Co Offaly comedian Neil Delamere about his upcoming return to the SSE Arena in Belfast with new stand-up tour Delamerium and why his penchant for appearing on TV quiz shows runs in the family...

Comedian Neil Delamere. Picture by Frank McKenna
Comedian Neil Delamere. Picture by Frank McKenna

"I WANTED to call it 'Delamerium Tremens' but then I realised that loads of people don't know what 'delerium tremens' is," admits Neil Delamere of Delamerium, the pun-tastic title of his current tour.

That's almost as good as the name he came up with for his 2016 tour, Ctrl Alt Delamere – but if you're wondering what 'Delamerium' means, don't bother: the name of a stand-up comedian's show is usually little more than an attention getter that bears very little relation to the actual content.

"People always ask you, 'What's it about?'," explains the Dublin-based Co Offaly comic, who will be playing The Burnavon in Cookstown and Enniskillen's Ardhowen Theatre next week in the run up to another huge show at Belfast's SSE Arena on February 17.

"You always just say 'yes' and try to get away before they ask any follow-up questions."

Not so fast, pal.

"Well, myself and McGarry [Tim, fellow comedian and Blame Game compere] went to the Champions League Final, and were involved in the tear gassing – on the receiving end, not the dispensing of tear gas, I should hasten to add – so I'll probably be talking about that," reveals Delamere when pressed to disclose a few more details about the content of his current show.

"I'll also be talking about getting stuck in the doors of a London Tube train. Naively, I'd always assumed that they would just open again, like lift doors. But they don't: they do this mindless thing of the sensor saying to itself, 'There's something stuck in these doors, so I will retain this position, ensuring that whatever is stuck will remain stuck for the foreseeable future'. It's a mad system and I learned that the hard way, let me tell you.

"I'll also be chatting to the audience and bouncing off them as well. It's been great fun so far. There was a girl in the front row in Newtownabbey the other night. I asked her, 'What do you do?', and she goes, 'I'm a steamy romance author'. And she was from Newry. If you can't get five minutes out of that – you're in the wrong job.

"All her books are ice hockey based, apparently. I was like, 'What's your best selling book?' and she said 'Two for Tackles'. She's got another one called Two for Interference. I told her, 'Please come to all my gigs and sit in the front row and I'll just chat to you the whole night'.

As mentioned, Delamerium finds The Blame Game regular returning to Belfast's SSE Arena. When Delamere made his debut there last February on his Liminal tour, it was his biggest ever solo gig – and the comic is on the record as saying that he only booked it as a challenge to himself during the darkest live comedy-free days of Covid.

"It worked out very well," says Delamere, who also co-hosts the 'weird facts' based podcast Why Would You Tell Me That? with broadcaster Dave Moore.

"It was one of those situations where you don't know when or if you are going to be able to gig again, so you book something on the horizon just to see if you can have some something to look forward to.

"Because, when you book something like that, you have lots of ancillary stuff around it. So you go, 'Well, I'm going to have to do chat shows, talk to the papers and I'm going to have to make sure that my social media is on point', and so on.

"Last year it was something to focus on – this year it's already a bit old hat: 'Ah, it's just another arena, no biggie, it's just another thing', he says, trying to convince himself."

Of course, there's a big difference between how you play to a 350 seater like the Burnavon and trying to entertain an audience of 2,500, as will be the case at the upcoming SSE 'theatre format' show.

"You gotta make sure everything is in order for that one, because it's a different type of gig to do, you know?" explains Delamere of how he'll tweak his show for the occasion.

"You're out in the open sea, sort of: it's not an intimate little theatre where you can form a connection just based on proximity. You have to do different sorts of jokes, really. And I suppose you have to deliver them in a different way. It has to be 'bigger', and the laugh moves around the place in a certain way, you know. But I'm really looking forward to it again."

Neil with Susie Dent, Colin Murray and Rachel Riley on the set of Countdown. Picture from @neildelamere on Twitter
Neil with Susie Dent, Colin Murray and Rachel Riley on the set of Countdown. Picture from @neildelamere on Twitter

While Delamere is already a familiar face on our TV screens thanks to his recent appearance on RTE's Dancing With The Stars and a long-running stint on BBC Northern Ireland's topical panel show The Blame Game, keen quizzers will also have spotted the comic appearing in Countdown's Dictionary Corner alongside Susie Dent and his good friend Colin Murray, the Dundonald-born journalist and broadcaster recently confirmed as permanent host of the Channel 4 favourite.

"Countdown is what I grew up watching with my Mam after school," enthuses Delamere.

"So it was kind of insane to then actually be sitting there beside the clock. And to have been part of this series where one of the guys went eight rounds without losing a single game, which was a record breaker. I was actually texting Colin going, 'This is unbelievable'.

"At that point he was still only a 'temporary' presenter, but it was evident to me that everybody working on the show loved him, and that the viewers loved him. I think he's gonna sit in that seat for a long time now – he's so good."

Delamere adds: "Sometimes when I'm on, we have to be careful not to be too 'Irish' when we're chatting. Colin actually said that on air and we both kind of laughed – and then the very next four letters Rachel Riley picked out were P, S, N and I.

"I was like, 'If the next four letters out are 'I, N, L and A', Colin, we're gonna have to address it'. I think MI5 must have taken control of Rachel."

The comedian has appeared on a few TV quizzes over the years going right back to his telly debut on RTE's Blackboard Jungle when he was a teenager, which he recreated for the finale of an Edinburgh Fringe show a few years ago featuring all the other now grown-up contestants and original host Ray D'Arcy.

Indeed, it seems quizzing is very much in the Delamere family's DNA.

"My sister actually won a previous incarnation of the school's quiz and my brother's table quiz team have just won the all-Ireland competition on TG4," he says.

"So the whole family just loves an auld quiz – and I actually wouldn't even be the biggest quizzer of us."

However, he's not doing too badly: viewers will soon get to see how Delamere fares on upcoming celebrity editions of The Chase and Mastermind.

When asked about his experience of sitting in the iconic black chair, the comedian remains tight lipped. Or tries to, at least.

"It was great, but I can't tell you how I did," he offers, before adding with suspicious enthusiasm, "although, I probably wouldn't have mentioned it at all if I hadn't done okay."

Neil Delamere plays The Burnavon in Cookstown on February 2, the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen on February 3 and SSE Arena Belfast on February 17. Ticket details and full tour dates available at neildelamere.com/gigs