‘I can’t believe I said that!’
The roar of rubber on tarmac via Bluetooth loudspeaker makes Kerry comedian Bernard Casey sound like he’s just blasted off from Houston Space Centre.
Thankfully, the sketch-slinger’s razor-sharp Munster timbre can cut through all sounds known to man. He’s just left the drama class he teaches and is headed home.
First off, Bernard doesn’t mind doing interviews but he says he’s always more comfortable when he’s embodying one of his characters like the Local Gossip or the Nephew.
Bernard, who has amassed over ten million views from his sketches online and is one of Ireland’s most exciting live performers, is gearing up for a massive show in Cork Opera House next month. It will be his first restriction-free show in a long time and he says he’s looking forward to standing in front of a Cork audience again.
“They love the banter between Cork and Kerry. If you bring up football, the Cork crowd would be very quick to bring up hurling,” says Bernard.
During the lockdown, the Kerryman – now living happily in Cork – says he has taken time to perfect and get to know his characters on a profound level, something that his audiences will soon experience first-hand whether they like it or not.
The show is a mix of Bernard’s own brand of stand-up, combined with a host of hilarious and toothy Irish characters that are so close to the bone that any true Irish person would struggle not to recognise a version of them in their own lives.
“I got a huge amount of practice over lockdown with the characters, so I really know them inside out. Improv with the characters and the audience will be far more prominent than it was before lockdown. Now, it's kind of a no holds barred, anything can happen, anyone can be talked to and the show can go in any direction.”
Having enjoyed success in both his online and live endeavours, Bernard says he enjoys both, although live stand-up is probably still closest to his heart.
“I really love doing live shows because that's what I started doing. I was always a stand-up comedian and then I started doing videos. I started the videos so people would come and see my stand-up comedy and then, with the characters, they really got people to come to the show, and then the challenge was to incorporate the characters into the show.”
Like many creative minds, Bernard says that a point comes when the character he has created takes on a certain life of its own.
“Yeah, particularly with the Gossip. He could say or do anything. You'd find yourself going, 'Jeez, I can't believe I said that!'. You do get away with it because they know it's the character and that you're in full flow. Often, the mannerisms and the flow of speech is almost more important than what you say because you want people to buy into the character. You always want people to see that this is an actual person.”
When it comes to writing material, Bernard says he will always ask himself: “Would I find this funny?”.
“You can easily fall into a trap of, let's just write something that's relevant and that people might find funny, but I don't want it to be just for the sake of a few likes. You want it to be good. You ask yourself, 'I was to watch this with a clean pair of eyes, would I find it funny?'.”
When he watches other comedians, he says he enjoys good comedic timing and the use of good wordplay, naming Leeside’s own Chris Kent as one of his favourites.
“Chris Kent is a great comedian, he has such a fantastic manner of delivering jokes. He could read you a menu and make it funny. It’s his tone like and his speech and he makes it all work. There’s great thought put into that.”
At the moment, Bernard says his favourite Irish comic is Dublin’s well-known stand-up and street performer David McSavage, probably best known for his hit Irish TV sketch show ‘The Savage Eye’.
“He's got a fearlessness that people are so attracted to. A lot of people wouldn't dare do what he does but he does it in a way that allows him to get away with it and it's fantastic.
“I always loved Dylan Moran too. Again, it looks effortless, but there's fantastic thought put into it. He kind of paints a picture in your head as he's talking. He said once, ‘What's Catholicism? It's walking into a room that could be on fire and full of naked clowns killing each other with crossbows but all you see is a plate of biscuits and you think, oh yes, I'm going to eat them’.”
Transitioning ‘up’ from Cork to Kerry hasn’t been too difficult for Bernard but he says there were a few expressions that took him off guard at the beginning.
“I was teaching in Dripsey (add to dictionary) and I walked into the staff room after getting a haircut and a teacher says, ‘you got yourself a bazzer,’ and I was like ‘what?’. I didn't know what the hell she was talking about,” laughs Bernard.
Asked what is the Kerry equivalent to a bazzer, he simply replies: “A haircut.”
Bernard Casey will play Cork Opera House on 18 February. For bookings, visit corkoperahouse.ie.