Joanne McNally, Bit Me, London, TotalNtertainment, Comedy, Vault Festival

10 Questions with… Joanne Mcnally

“Aussies like their comedy dirty so while I was over there my set got dirtier and dirtier and dirtier! Then I did the same set in London and they sat staring at me like what the hell is she talking about?”

Joanne Mcnally is one of Ireland’s funniest comedians so ahead of her trip to the UK this week to perform her “Wine Tamer” show, we spoke to Joanne.

1. Thanks for your time Jo. Just going back to the start, you started in comedy in 2014, what were you doing before that and what led you into comedy?
“Well, I was working in public relations before that and I had an eating disorder which meant I ended up being an outpatient in a treatment centre. I knew something was amiss. Someone I knew who is now a friend was putting on a show called Singlehood which was all about being single or being in love. She asked if I’d like to do it and I said I would as I always liked performing as a kid even though I never came from a family of performers and it was never considered to be a viable job. I did the show and it did well. From that I started to talk about a recent break-up with a bald guy and an Irish comic said to me that I should do stand up. I said no! He came back to me and invited me on tour so I went out and did ten or so minutes a night.”

“The tour opened up in this big arse venue which meant my route into stand up was different than the usual open mic nights. From that I got a job presenting a comedy sketch show called Republic of Telly. It was never something that had crossed my radar, I knew I couldn’t go back into public relations as I wanted to do something more exciting. I thought about acting or writing but I ended up as a stand-up comic and, well, here we are!”

2. What do you think was the most important lesson you learned when starting out?
“PJ, the comedian who took me on tour really taught me everything. I was very clueless when I got into stand up and I had to learn fast. One of the most important things you can get as a stand up is stage time and he gave me that. He taught everything from stage stuff to how to handle good gigs and bad gigs and how to carry myself and how to not get bogged down in the social side of comedy sitting in clubs for hours afterwards drinking. All that stuff. I was lucky to have him. The biggest thing he said to me was to not be identified as a female comic, you’re a comic. I was so apologetic to myself for coming in as I didn’t think it would be my full time job almost straight away.”

3. How challenging was it coming into stand up comedy as a female?
“It was kind of a weird one because when I started out there was a lot more women getting into comedy so I came in at a healthy time and, the person I was replacing on Republic of Telly was female so when I started, in a way, being a woman was a great advantage. For me, I didn’t feel like I’d missed out of anything. I have to say that, so far, I don’t think it’s going against me being a female in comedy.”

4. You’re touring your “Gleebag” show at the moment, what’s a gleebag?
“Oh right [laughs]. The show that I’m doing in London is called “Wine Tamer” but the Irish show is Gleebag. A glee is another word for vag**a, so a gleebag is like a female d**khead. I called the show Gleebag as a play on the show Glee but I had to change the name for England as people kept asking me what the hell a glee was.”

5. What can you tell us about the show and what inspired it?
“It’s just a stand up show – it’s just fun. There’s no lessons it’s about how I was living at my Mum’s and I broke up with that bald guy and me taking great offence. I talk about how I’m probably drinking too much and how everyone seems to be getting botox and should I have a baby. I guess just life really.”

6. What can you tell us about the Irish comedy circuit in 2019?
“It’s difficult for me to say really as I’m not there now but there are some that I really enjoy like Fiona Frawley, Geraoid Farrelly although he’s more established now and he’s hilarious. Alison Spittle is also amazing, there’s loads and they’ll all end up coming over to the UK as the Irish circuit, although it is great, it’s quite small. To take it to the next level, I think, you need to come over to the UK because you can get more stage time as there are more clubs. That’s what I think anyway although there are plenty of Irish comedians who have never left Ireland and done really well.”

7. You’ve recently done The Adelaide Fringe. How was that and how was the rest of your trip to Australia?
“It was fantastic although I’ve never sweated as much in my life. The Aussies like dirt so my set got dirtier and dirtier and they loved it then I came back to London and did the same set and they were just staring at me wondering what the hell I was talking about. It went really well and I’m looking at working with an agent over there so I can move into the Melbourne comedy festival, that’s my hope anyway. They were mad for it.”

8. So, what do you get out of standing up on stage and making people laugh?
“Some sort of sick pleasure [laughs]. It’s nice and I kind of feel like comedy found me which I know makes me sound like a bit of a gleebag but I do think that and I was quite mad when I started. I think comedy saved me as I was going through treatment and I think that, if I had gone back into public relations, I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting better. Comedy gave me something to work towards and helped me back into the real world. I wouldn’t do anything else.”

9. Curveball question time. If you could be any animal in the world what would you be and why?
“I’d be a cat because they have great independence and they’re very loved and admired. They’re very mysterious characters and they have their own entrance in and out of the house. You’re not like a dog who has to wait to be let in and out. A cat can come and go as they please. What cat owners don’t know is that their cat has a whole other life with another family who think they are their cat. They’ll never get found out and they have nine lives. They can be jerks as well but people still admire them.”

10. Thanks for your time, just to finish off, what does the rest of the year have in store for you?
“Writing my Edinburgh show which I haven’t started yet so I have a lot to do on that. I’m also finishing up my Irish tour and I’ll be headlining Vicar Street in April. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet which is, for me, something I always wanted to do. Write my backside off then do Edinburgh then die for a week then start all over again!”

Get more details on Joanne’s upcoming shows here.