You walk up the side stairs of the International Bar.
On Wicklow Street.
You stroll into a dark room.
You pay a fiver.
You instantly hear laughter.
You’ve just made the smart move to go the Dublin Comedy Improv.
Going since 1992, DCI is a true institution, a little gem in the city.
Kicking off at 9pm, it’s been up there adding big grins to grim Mondays for 25 years.
I’ve seen a lot of lesser acts labelled ‘cult’ over the years.
But this crew earn the accolade.
Looking at these dudes you can get a brief history of modern Irish comedy from the sublime to the ridiculous – these faces have cracked gags in everything from Father Ted to the Republic of Telly.
There are nine in the troupe.
But they don’t all turn up at every show.
Tonight we got four.
But, hey, that’s no cause for complaint.
Michelle Read, Kevin Gildea, Ian Coppinger, Danny Keogh.
With audience prompt and suggestion, they do a pretty perfect job at kicking up a joyous, anarchic racket.
(And the crew that are missing are just as good as those present: Paul Tylak, Joe Rooney, Dermot Whelan, Tara Flynn & Sharon Mannion).
Something has got to explain the 25 years.
Then there’s the fact DCI have taken the gig around the globe.
And RTE even gave them a couple of runs on the wireless.
But seriously all messing aside – a tall order in this joint – what you are dealing with in an intimate if not elegant setting are some of Ireland’s top comics and comedic minds going spare, acting the eejit, acting the marvellous maggot. All right in front of you.
Professionals, in peak talent territory, and they are out there having a laugh.
Cos not alone is that what they are singularly good at, it is screamingly obvious that it is what they really enjoy doing too.
They are hitting 50. I notice they are all drinking water. And there’s maybe 40 people at a fiver a pop. So they are not getting rich.
So what has them here?
And it’s palpable.
The only problem they faced all night was the struggle not to fall out of character and collapse into wild laughter.
Michelle Read and Kevin Gildea say it’s that sense of “play” that motivates.
Johnny Rotten may have gone on about ‘anger’ being an energy.
But this crew make a compelling counter-argument for ‘fun’.
Kevin Gildea mentions that a lot of the group do stand-up as a profession.
And he says that being out there alone on the stage can be very rewarding but it can also be exhausting.
So Kevin says he really enjoys this chance to mess with others.
As the name says it’s improvisation.
The audience throws up ludicrous ideas, odd phrases and bizarre roles at the comics who run with, enhance or undermine them.
As I walked in the comics were being challenged to provide an Appalachian opera about a lost platypus. Or something to that effect.
Half-way through an aria to the duck-billed platypus, you get interrupted by breaking news.
“Cheese Cures Cancer”.
The hillbilly tenor then has to stop pining for his platypus and tell the viewers how cheese cures cancer.
In the manner of…Oscar Wilde.
You get the picture.
And as I say they’re a funny crew.
You can get 100 years of combined experience up there.
And they are still sharp as shit.
It’s all good goofy fun.
Apparently there are never really any hecklers.
“I think it’s because the audience feels they are a part of the show,” Ian Coppinger says.
“They’re the fifth Beatle,” he adds.
The goofy good humour seems to translate well despite the speed of the wit.
Malinka from Albania said he understood the gig. No problem. “Very funny.”
As did the Peruvian guy outside at the break.
He was ecstatic. He thought the show was hilarious.
Then there was the well groomed Irish guy in late 40s.
He was having a ball.
He said he just got over cancer.
Now he was sizing up a promise he had made when ill.
That he would get up on stage and try doing stand-up himself.
Kevin Gildea encouraged him.
“Soon,” he said.
Upstairs. The International bar, Wicklow St.
9pm. A fiver.
You’d be a dummy not to.