If comedy often rises out of adversity, could this help explain how Northern Ireland has proved such fertile ground over the years — from Frank Carson and Roy Walker to Patrick Kielty and Jimeoin? It’s safe to say that two new additions to the list of Northern Irish comics must surely be Ruaidhri Ward and Micky Bartlett. They are both relaxed and engaging performers; indeed, the pair share a confident, relaxed delivery along with an ability to easily deflect hecklers when required. Their material is sharp.
While referencing the Troubles — after all, it was part of the world they grew up in — both men’s comedy focuses on more all-embracing subjects, including family and, most notably, the foibles and foolish things straight men do. That said, they’re far from identikit; Ward is more multimedia, with a ‘not quite a Powerpoint demonstration’ that includes online game Draw Something. Ward then progresses on to a tour of Northern Ireland’s famous sectarian murals which, bizarrely enough, now feature significantly in Northern Ireland’s tourism industry. Making the most out of what they’ve been given — it’s certainly a lesson Ward and Bartlett have picked up on.
Performing separately, Bartlett is definitely more self-deprecatory than Ward, not least when he focuses on his teenage experiences of drugs, alcohol and sleepwalking — leading to, shall we say, some pretty close encounters of the paternal kind. There’s also the no-small-matter of why he hasn’t had a girlfriend for ages, which constitutes a large part of this particular set, much to the pleasure of the audience, it must be said. Nor is he one to ignore where he’s performing; while riffing off the fact that he’s recently put on a few pounds, he grounds himself with a salute to Edinburgh’s obese inhabitants who, logically, must be consuming loads of calories in order to stay so fat despite having to walk up the numerous hills in the Scottish capital.
It’s fair to say that Ward and Bartlett are already stretching to the limit the venue allocated to them on the Free Fringe. Here’s hoping greater comedy success comes their way very soon.