Lately, I've been teaching kids acting and it struck me how much work some people put into being outsiders. It's way more effort than going with the flow.
And it doesn't matter how odd your company is -
Father Ted is a bunch of weirdy freaks vying for the position of the oddest in the room. Every scene is a battle between awkward, outlandish and dangerous behaviour. Fr. Jack is shockingly aggressive, Dougal - the happy idiot, Ted - the voice of reason but guilty of crimes yet to be discovered and Mrs Doyle - motherly to the point of suffocation. When the other priests turn up - it's a free for all. Dancing priests, Nazi sympathizers, horny milkmen, vindictive bishops, mind-numbing bores, the list is deliciously endless.
The kid that impressed me most this week was George. He was to skip about in a circle of 20 to that joyful type of folk music black people pity us for. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, looked at his shoes and plodded twice round the stage. It was a sublime demonstration of rebellion. I know I'm going to meet him further down the line. He'll probably be the one that tells me I have to leave the care home as my Direct Debit has been returned unpaid.
Cork Town Hall circa 1966 - Who we were and what we became.
This is my outsider picture (top right). My first gig - aged about 8. We'd moved from Dublin where I was a popular kid with friends, to Cork where I was reviled and ostracized. This happened overnight. The picture depicts the moment I realised the power of the outsider. From the back corner, you can see every compliant asshole in the room. That's the snipers POV.
The four years I lived there were awful and to this day I hate Cork. My comedy mentor Philippe Gaulier said 'It is a great thing when you can point to somewhere on a map and say that everything you hate is in one place.'
I've returned just twice in the last 50 years. The last time I walked out onto the stage after the audience had gone, spat at the empty seats and screamed all the four-letter words I could think of. Partly because a guy broke into my dressing room and stole everything while I was onstage and partly because I hate everything about the place for another 100 good reasons (a blog yet to be written). And before you get arsey with me, my mum was from Cork - I'm a Dub/Cork mongrel, I'm allowed to say it's a shithole.
Some of my favourite outsiders include Malcome Hardee - a comedy provocateur who drowned when he fell off his boat into the Thames. He ran the Tunnel Palladium comedy club in London where he frequently showed people his bollocks. Then there's Neil Mullarkey - one of the Comedy Store Players. These people are on a mission to create moments of shock and comedy awe. If Neil Mullarkey abseiled past the hotel bar window to impress his mates or not doesn't matter because the anecdote exists.
Did Malcome Hardee vomit into the font at a baptism? Unimportant. Did Arthur Smith shit himself in a lift at the BBC? Who cares.
These activists remind us that outsiders don't want your help. Their objective is to embed themselves in our memory. Make something happen. These people are not passive. They risk everything, and occasionally fail. Michael Barrimore, Kenny Everett, Freddy Star are on that list too. The risks are high but a good joke remembered is a smile waiting for you to unwrap.
So, hats off to George. You go for it son, you have more courage than I have. Stomp about looking miserable - hold center stage and spit at your audience - before they head home! Go on. Your life will change, I guarantee it.
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