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No formula for funny

COMEDIAN Conal Gallen is coming to Glór on Friday evening.
The Donegal man says his show doesn’t work to a formula, with little if any planning going into what material will be used on a given night.
“It’s two hours, there’s about six songs in it, mostly comedy songs, maybe one serious one. I get on the stage at eight o’clock and the audience are wondering what’s coming next and so am I.
“I don’t learn off stuff in order, it’s just what comes into the head. Sometimes I’d start a joke and half way through you’d move onto something else. I’ve often started a joke at ten past eight and maybe at 10pm I go back to it.”
His songs are all tongue in cheek, with titles like Horse It Into Ya, Cynthia, Do Your Ears Hang Low and Rolling in the Hay and he describes himself as “a comedian who sings songs rather than a singer who tells jokes”.
As is often the case with people who make a living in entertainment, he drifted into comedy. “Back in the mists of time, myself and another lad formed a two piece, just to play the pubs around Donegal. It wasn’t because we thought we were any good but we knew there was worse than us at it.
“We rehearsed for about a month, went to do our first gig and we weren’t long into the first gig before we realised we hadn’t enough songs. We decided we’d pad it out so I started an odd story between songs. It sort of developed from that. We became a comedy act singing some songs. Then, as these things go, I emigrated to America and a week later immigrated back home again.
“I was in debt to the eyeballs going and it was worse coming back. I had nothing else going for me, didn’t have any job, so I got on the phone and rang up a pile of pubs and fill the diary. That’s how I became a professional comedian. I’m still waiting on a job 25 years later!”
He rarely if ever suffers from nerves and takes a lot of pleasure out of making people laugh.
“I love watching people’s faces when you’re coming near the end of a gag and they don’t know what’s coming at the end but you do, and you know that in three seconds time, they’ll all be laughing. It has to be the most unusual occupation I know. As someone said to me one time years ago, it’s like driving your car to the edge of a cliff every night and just before she goes over, you jump out and hope you make it.”
He says that in the past it’s been difficult to get a foothold in this part of the country.
“I’ve done Glór a few times, not that regularly. You’re always trying to broaden the horizons, a couple of times we were there and it was quietish and you think maybe it doesn’t work down here but you decide to give it another go.”
This time out, he says the advance ticket sales have been very strong and he feels the TV exposure he has over the last few years is telling.
“I got a bit of profile on TG4 because they gave me a 13-part series, although they put it on at 1.30 in the morning. At the same time it was amazing how many people saw it. They told us afterwards that they had doubled the amount of viewers they had for that time slot, we were up around 50,000 a show, which wasn’t too bad. I had a Late Late appearance last year as well, which sort of boosted everything a wee bit.”
Becoming known as a comedian takes a lot of time, he feels.
“I remember one time we did a gig in Killarney, in the INEC and we spent a fortune, I’d hate to tell you how much, on the local radio station.
“I think we had 555 ads on the radio, it was serious saturation. We had a decent enough crowd but I thought we would have had more. But as someone pointed out, there wasn’t a person in Kerry who didn’t know I was in the INEC but most people didn’t know who you were. That sort of brought it home to me.”


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