Catherine Bohart is one of Ireland's finest stand-up comedians and writers, but she still finds inspiration from her peers.
"Whenever I feel lost as to where I’m going in comedy," says Bohart. "I watch Joanne McNally, Sara Pascoe, Maria Bamford, Desiree Burch or Felicity Ward – and I remember that I’m so lucky to get to gig with comedy wizards."
The gigging is going OK: Bohart has just finished her UK and Ireland tour and is now bringing her critically acclaimed show This Isn’t For You to Edinburgh Festival.
She's come a long way from debating the ethics of sheep cloning at the school library. Enjoy her five formative gigs…
Lunch Time Debating
People always ask comedians if they were the class clown. I was not. I would lean into the class clown and say things like, “Some of us are trying to learn.” Funnily enough, not hugely popular but wonderfully, didn’t care. Or thought I didn’t. The only obstacle in school was filling the lunch break when you didn’t have friends.
So, I was the school’s only volunteer student librarian, I ate lunch with my business studies teacher and then, I found debating. Thirty other girls of varying ages desperate to not eat lunch alone would pile into a small classroom and watch me speak about whether or not it was right to clone sheep. Thrilling. A performer was born.
Irish Therapist of a Wednesday
I went through a depressive period in University and was sent to a University counsellor for therapy. I was struggling with coming out.
I walked in and realised it was Ash Wednesday because the woman I was going to ask for help coming out to my Catholic parents was sat in front of me with a large black cross etched on her forehead in ash asking me what she could help me with.
I laughed until she asked me to leave. Fodder, heaven.
I came to London to train as an actor. I had no idea how to become an actor. I became a very sullen office assistant instead. Soon, I was in the marketing department and they suggested that they were going to run an industry event for women. The entertainment would be cocktails and manicures. I ranted about how gross that was, they said, “fine, do something better”. I stropped and then ran a comedy night.
The comedians there asked if I was as gobby when I was sober. I said yes, I was Irish. They sent me to a comedy course. It ended with a night where everyone had to perform and the real comedians came to see me. No doubt I was awful, they made me feel like I’d played Wembley.
Just as I felt secure in comedy, like I could make a consistent living out of it, lockdown happened. I got a part time job and wondered if I’d ever get to do it in the same way again. Then, I realised, I needed to, paid or not.
So I set up an online gig called Gigless and watched comedians make hundreds of people laugh from their bedrooms, in the hardest of times. I was so proud of them all, it made me sure what we do helps people, in a small way.
Finding inspiration rather than competition in other comedians’ work. Whenever I feel lost as to where I’m going in comedy, I watch Joanne McNally, Sara Pascoe, Maria Bamford, Desiree Burch or Felicity Ward and I remember that I’m so lucky to get to gig with comedy wizards and then I keep on trying to be half as good as them.
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This Isn’t For You is on at Monkey Barrel 1 from 4th-28th August. Buy tickets here.