Ryan McDonnell has never quite fitted in. Whether it was his bright ginger hair, his Catholic upbringing, his inability to grow suave stubble à la Jack Whitehall – a principal culprit of the stupid hair and skinny jeans fad – McDonnell has always been a bit of an odd one out. Having said that, haven’t we all?
What is so great about McDonnell is his ability to explore universal pitfalls of human experience through the lens of extremely unique and personal anecdotes. For example, when recollecting a near-gay experience in Acapulco after dinner, dance, a moonlit walk and a nightcap, McDonnell elegantly tapped into that dreaded feeling when you realise that you have inadvertently gone on a date. Such a nice guy is Ryan McDonnell that he felt like he owed it to this man to follow it through. Ridiculous things we do out of misplaced guilt, it turns out, have infinite comedic potential.
It is not just bust-ups and binges that McDonnell recounts, though; he also confronts Ireland’s Troubles head on. In a rather inspired move, he uses amusing stories such as post-nightclub shortcuts as a springboard for an insightful commentary on the divided nature of Belfast. Even though he claims that religion and politics aren’t really his ‘thing’, that doesn’t stop him from shedding light on the absurdity of the catch-all explanation that is The Troubles.
Despite his supreme likeability, there were a couple of jokes that were a bit crass for my taste. I have to say that the rather graphic and extended descriptions of his nether regions were slightly lazy and wince-inducing. Plenty of comedians fare well with this sort of lad-banter, but McDonnell is a cut above the rest; he doesn’t need to talk about ginger pubes to get the crowd on side.
However, McDonnell’s geeky appeal was endearing throughout, and his modest self-awareness, coupled with a smart eye for observation, was a winning formula. Part of the free fringe, Stupid Hair and Skinny Jeans is a must-see show; I think it is fair to say that McDonnell has finally found his thing.