Sign up to The American magazine's newsletters (below) to receive more regular news, articles and updates on America in the UK.
My Irish wife (and I mean Irish as in Irish Irish, born in Holles Street, Dublin, not ‘a quarter Irish’ like every other family in Philadelphia and New Jersey) says she thinks certain humor is ‘very Irish’.
She’s got a point. The Irish wit is dry. Bone dry. Context is all. Sarcasm cuts deep as a chasm and if you’re not Irish, you won’t get it. The fact is, my wife nearly gave up using humor with my family and friends at all.
She was worried that Foil, Arms and Hog, the Dublin based group that have been spreading the comedic word around the Emerald Isle and three other continents along with the vastness of the World Wide YouTube for the last eleven years, would also be ‘very Irish’ and that a London audience wouldn’t get it.
I think she underestimates the world’s fondness for a bit of ‘very Irish’ humor.
Either that, or this sharp Irish trio are adept at bringing out and universalising that Hibernian wit for the masses outside of the Republic. I vote the latter based on this week’s performance of their latest show Craicling at The Hammersmith Apollo.
Surprised initially at the absence of a warmup act, it didn’t take me long to realise that they needed no warming up, that these three lads had comic energy to burn and they began setting it alight with two out of the three, Arms and Hog, emerging from the audience and immersing themselves in the crowd while mic’ed, engaging in witty parley, embarrassing latecomers, gathering coats from a half dozen nearby attendees to pile on top of woman in the front row who ‘looked cold,’ and embarking on a nonsensical tour of the theatre only to end up on stage reenacting The Battle of Hastings. And this was all in the first ten minutes before the official beginning of the show.
What follows is approximately an hour and a half of sketches in short 3-5 minute segments that amount to sheet joy, repeated over and over again. This group’s observational humor is both perceptive and hints at the darker side of human weakness (our tendency to comment on everything online turns into a musical number called ‘I’m in Love with My Point of View’ and Foil leads in another number called ‘It’s funny when people fall’). Their storytelling is tightly magnificent (three young novitiates are surprised to find out how much fun being a monk is when they get drunk with the abbot on Buckfast and a one man play turns into meta farcical gleefully organised chaos) and their topics are wide enough to often land on the right side of poignant, as is the case with the Irishman competing for an American green card with the Russian who keeps getting the answers mysteriously delivered to his ear while the game show host’s attention is distracted.
I spent the evening with a foolish grin spread from ear to ear, and Foil, Arms and Hog were given a standing ovation by a very international crowd, while my wife confessed to a certain pride in seeing three boys from her neck of the woods doing so well. A marvellous night of clever, witty entertainment.
Foil, Arms and Hog return to the UK in May for the last leg of their British tour before heading back to their native Dublin. Seeing them in either place would be quite a treat.