Writer and Director: Joe Rooney
Joe Rooney’s Celebration of Father Ted is a little difficult to categorise, perhaps a variety show, perhaps a stand upplus, but without any doubt it’s a crowd pleaser. Rooney has put together an ode to the show for which he is most remembered, with plenty of throw backs and nods to, but he’s also using the opportunity to showcase some of his own material and original songs, all of which is well received by the audience.
Before the show starts the stage is set; the screen has a repeating sequence of images of famous movie posters Father Tedified, the music of the early nineties blasts through the speakers, to the right of the stage there’s a guitar, and to the left what looks like a picnic party ready to go. Rooney strides on in his priest’s get up and immediately gets to work on the crowd, he puts a lot of effort into building a rapport with the audience and he really succeeds in creating a relaxed atmosphere for the evening. You may know him, as most people seem to, from his one episode run on Father Ted as Father Damo, Dougal’s churlish Dublin pal. It’s a great episode, and for those who don’t remember it too well there’s no need to worry, he pops on a truncated version on the big screen to jog the memory. However, it becomes clear over the course of the evening that there is a fair bit more to Rooney than this one character, although you can forgive him for milking the association; there’s a lot of material there to be mined and a very loyal fan base.
As noted at the get go it’s a difficult show to describe, rarely do you get to go to a comedy special that features a viewing of an episode of a TV show, a quiz, some stand up, some comedy songs, and not one but two separate audience participation contests. Yet it somehow works. Rooney keeps the audience on side for the whole set, with his affable personality and a sense of humour reminiscent of the Father Ted era he keeps the crowd laughing along and joining in; he’s got great stage presence and a very pleasant sounding guitar. The tinge of self-deprecation to the humour is spot on and it’s difficult to pick fault in the show, whatever the show is! At two hours with a 15 minute interval it really flies; the pacing is solid, as is the writing and the tone, the songs are clever and funny, and the energy level is consistent. Although it’s easy to imagine that the link to Father Ted is a crowd drawer, I for one would be happy to see Joe Rooney take to the stage simply as himself in the future. Thoroughly, thoroughly, enjoyable show.
Reviewed on May 23rd 2023.