Patrick Kielty/Fred MacAualy
The Happyness Comedy Festival
ONE of the strengths of stand-up is its topicality.
So it was slightly disappointing that Fred MacAulay devoted so much of his opening set to Glasgow Airport’s have-a-go-hero John "Smeato" Smeaton, someone who has pretty much disappeared from the public consciousness by now.
Still, he was bang up to date with his comic spin on the end of roadwork delays on the Kessock Bridge, proving himself to be one of the few visiting comedians at the Happyness Comedy Festival who knows where Muir of Ord is.
He also, without coming down on either side, found comedy in the independence referendum.
The Yes campaign’s apparent obsession with turning Scotland into a new Scandinavian state proved fertile ground for MacAulay (or the Son of Olaf, to give the Norse version), pointing out that his Viking ancestors had left Norway for a better life — on the Isle of Harris.
The independence debate also cropped up in Kielty’s set, with the Irishman giving his tongue-in-cheek backing to a Yes vote.
"Go for it!" he declared.
"Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland went their separate ways in 1922 and it’s been a bed of roses ever since."
While MacAulay’s set was polished and professional, it lacked the vitality of Kielty’s fast paced set as the comedian bounced around the stage and from topic to topic addressing subjects and using language he might just not get away with on Radio 2.
Quickly building up a rapport with the audience, perhaps helped by dishing out free glasses of wine, he found a lot to talk about from the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal to how post-Troubles Northern Ireland is re-inventing itself as tourist destination, the keystone of which is the multi-million pound Titanic Museum.
"We’re distracting tourists from the fact that we used to shoot people by reminding them we used to drown people instead," he cried in mock despair.
"They sell Titanic whiskey in there. A drink that goes best with ice and water. We haven’t thought this through!"
However, it was when he got personal that he made the most impact, berating himself as a hypocrite, a man who makes jokes about paedophile priests and does not believe in God, yet still got married in a Catholic church, a Prince’s Trust representative who disapproves of royalty.
Yet he still wants to be a good guy, especially when it comes to his recent marriage to presenter Cat Deeley.
Provoking "awws" to go with the "oohs" of his racier gags when he revealed how he had won over Miss Deeley by flying from Ireland to LA for a birthday lunch date, Kielty is only too aware of the pitfalls of celebrity marriage, but at the same time is fully signed up to the idea of "‘til death us do part".
Which is where the audience came in as Kielty dished out pens and paper along with a plea for advice.
It made for a cosy ending to the evening, comedian and audience becoming naughty co-conspirators with Kielty giving more consideration to the cheeky answers than the sentimental ones.
But I’m not convinced this shows the way ahead for marriage guidance.