Having a laugh with Paddy Raff

As he prepares to take his new Gimme A Minute tour on the road, multi-faceted comedian Paddy Raff talks to Sophie Clarke about his wild ride from wedding band to stand-up

Comedian Paddy Raff.
Paddy Raff only gave stand-up a try for 'a bit of craic'. Now he sells out venues and has a TV show... (LEWIS GRAHAM)

Paddy Raff decided to give comedy a whirl back in 2018, posting hilarious online parodies and musical pastiches. Since then, he hasn’t looked back; he has gone on several tours, selling out venues across Britain and Ireland, including six nights in Belfast’s SSE Arena, created a TV series and even picked up some awards along the way. Not bad for someone who started stand-up “for a bit of craic”.

Now, Raff is gearing up to get back on the road with his brand new tour Paddy Raff: Gimme A Minute.

“It’s funny when you talk about being out on the road here because you can go out and back home to most places here within a couple of hours,” he laughs.

“I still really enjoy it though and it’s great because the way I write my stand-up is a lot of the time I’ll do it here in the shed at home as opposed to trialling it out in the clubs.

“So, whenever I’m out on the road doing it, I’m doing it for the first time.”

Characters from The Paddy Raff show.
The many faces of Paddy Raff

Raff rose to prominence by doing short online skits posing as different characters who have gone on to become synonymous with his stand-up, among the most notable of whom are Granny Raff, Fr Pat and of course, Nigel...

“I didn’t expect the character thing to be what people responded to,” he tells me.

“The Nigel character literally came from using Snapchat filters. At the time there was one filter that gave you a moustache and glasses and as soon as I put it on and looked at myself, I thought, ‘Oh god it looks like some sort of posh guy,’ and I just started doing a posh voice.”

Although Raff initially believed that his Nigel persona came about by coincidence, he later realised that the real inspiration behind him was actually a close friend.

“It turned out that subconsciously it was an impression of one of my best mates, Mark, who plays Jarlath on stage and he is quite posh but also a lovely fella - certainly not a snob and a tout the way Nigel is,” Raff clarifies.

Everyone's favourite BT9er.
Nigel, everyone's favourite BT9er... (LEWIS GRAHAM)

The characters Raff creates enable him to make hilarious observations on life in Northern Ireland that many can relate to.

“Fr Pat, for example, was a reaction to being a recovering Catholic and not going to Mass for so long and then going and seeing all these wee modern bits of technology that they’re bringing in, like cuing up hymns on Alexa and using those bluetooth clickers - it’s all getting very AV and technical.

“So I started thinking about how far you could actually push it and then, again, Fr Pat came about quite naturally because I just started talking like a priest one time into a wee bluetooth microphone that one of my kids had and it just spiralled from there.

“I think it’s very rare to create a character that will land with people that isn’t based on somebody or some type of person.”

Fr Pat - character created by comedian Paddy Raff.
Fr Pat is one of 'recovering Catholic' Paddy Raff's favourite characters (LEWIS GRAHAM)

In addition to his multiple comedic personalities Raff also performs musical parodies as part of his routine, including Stacy’s Ma and Teenage Millbag.

Raff has always had a keen interest in music and prior to becoming a comedian he performed in a wedding band, which he plans to highlight in his new show.

“I find that a lot of people don’t know that I play music in my stand-up and that I was a musician - and I talk about it quite a bit so I’m always quite surprised when they don’t realise,” he says.

“Comedians’ previous jobs or the last job they did before getting into comedy full time always tends to form a big part of their routine because they know that world so well and there’s lot of funny stories to come from it.

“For me, being in the wedding band does form a big part of my stuff because it’s the kind of thing people can relate to - everyone has had some experience of going to a mad wedding reception.

“Then there’s also some stories and observations from my personal life and being a dad and coping with the modern world as well.”

Raff confirms that everyone’s favourite BT9er will also make an appearance.

“If he’s not on the poster you get people asking if Nigel is going to be in the show so yes, there will be an interval and then he comes out in the second half.”

Comedian Paddy Raff playing guitar.
Music and song play an important role in Raff's shows (LEWIS GRAHAM)

In addition to hitting all his regular haunts on his upcoming tour with over 20 gigs at home, Raff is also taking it across the water to London, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Manchester.

“You’ll always try and do something that relates to the people from the area you’re performing in whether it’s a few miles down the road in Lisburn or in Glasgow or Liverpool.”

Shaping his comedy to suit his audience is a skill Raff has become increasingly good at, particularly after opening for fellow comedian Micky Flanagan during his 2023 tour If Ever We Needed It…

“I did two nights opening for him in Dublin which were brilliant and then he actually asked me to support him over in Cardiff which for me was an even bigger honour because it wasn’t a home crowd and that was amazing.

Paddy Raff: Gimme A Minute, tickets on sale now.
Paddy Raff's Gimme A Minute tour starts in March (LEWIS GRAHAM)

“I put in lots of stuff about Wales. I’m a massive Manic Street Preachers fan so I had a whole bit about them having the longest named number one in the world – ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ - and I talked about how people were surprised at that but the Welsh shouldn’t be surprised because they have a town called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch,” (and yes, Raff can really pronounce it properly...).

In 2020 Raff moved from stage to screen with his television series entitled The Paddy Raff Show.

“Luckily the transition into TV felt quite natural but I think that’s because it was filmed during the pandemic which meant that because of regulations we couldn’t have lots of different people on set,” he says.

“It literally was me with a cameraman and the director, George Kane, who was on Zoom but that meant I still had a hell of a lot of control over it.

“The other good thing about filming during Covid was because everything was closed, we were able to get loads of locations for free and not have to shut things down or keep the public out – so it was almost like having a purpose-built set.”

Characters from The Paddy Raff show.
Some of the characters from The Paddy Raff show

In addition to having the entirety of Belfast as his production space, Raff also lucked out when it came to the cast of his series with Belfast comedian and actor, Michael Smiley, appearing in the second series Christmas special in 2021.

“I wasn’t prepared for how absolutely sound Michael was, he was giving such good advice and throwing in wee stories and anecdotes.

Winter Wonderland Scam 😱🎄😂

When you book a Winter Wonderland experience and it turns out to be a scam 🎄 featuring the legendary Michael Smiley as Santa 🎅🏻

Posted by Paddy Raff on Thursday, December 7, 2023

“But one of the things I learnt which really blew my mind was that he was the one who started big fish, little fish cardboard box which I thought was amazing, especially because one of the bits Fr Pat does is big fish, little fish Trócaire box,” recalls Raff.

Reflecting on his career over the last six years Raff admits that he never expected to find himself in the position he’s in.

“Had my first gig not have gone so well I would’ve knocked it on the head, it was so nerve-racking, and I never would have gone back to it and then none of this would’ve happened.

“It’s been crazy and I think it’s even nicer that it wasn’t something that I spent my life wishing for and it’s happened organically.

Raff also confirms that everyone’s favourite BT9er will also make an appearance in his new show Paddy Raff: Gimme A Minute.
Raff confirms that everyone’s favourite BT9er, Nigel, will also make an appearance in his new show Paddy Raff: Gimme A Minute. (LEWIS GRAHAM)

“That helps me stay grounded and enjoy the fact that its been a wild ride and there’s so much more still in the pipeline, so yeah, I’m really enjoying it and long may it continue.”

Tickets for Paddy Raff: Gimme A Minute are on sale now with tour extension tickets (including a third Waterfront Hall date) on sale from Friday February 16 at 10am via paddyraffcomedy.com