Patrick Kielty’s famous balaclava and glamorous new wife Cat Deeley made a surprise appearance as Northern Ireland’s top comic made a triumphant return to Belfast’s Empire Comedy Club on Tuesday night (November 6.
The Dundrum lad received a rapturous reception from a capacity crowd, who paid 1992 prices – just £3.50 – to witness his return to the stage where he made his name as a fresh faced Queen’s student 20 years ago.
Kielty’s current show is called ‘Home’ and Paddy told an ecstatic audience that the Empire Laughs Back Comedy Club, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, would always be his stage.
As he poured his wife a glass of red wine at the end of his act, he said: “I’m happy to say to I’m home. This for sure is my comedy home.”
Jackie Hamilton from Moondog Productions, who manages the weekly comedy club, said: “This was a vintage show with Paddy in prime form. His comedy hallmark of both unsettling an audience with his astute political observations and making them laugh out loud within a beat was still as sharp as it was 20 years ago.”
A lot has happened since he last tread the boards at the Botanic Avenue venue in 1996 and Kielty’s routine was a whistle-stop tour of the past 16 crazy years. His years of celebrity melted away as Kielty immediately connected with the crowd in his inimitable, hyper- active style.
Subjects included the Titanic celebrations, NI 2012, being slagged off by chuckle brother Martin McGuinness, clerical sex abuse, Rory McIlroy, his plan for renaming Northern Ireland ‘The People’s Republic of Britain’ and Rihanna taking her clothes off in that field.
Some of the audience weren’t even born when Kielty hosted The Empire Laughs Back Comedy Club in the dark days of the early 90’s and he joked that he didn’t care how the act was received as they had only paid a tenth of the price of his recent show at the Odyssey Arena.
He needn’t have worried as the routine received a thunderous ovation that shook the walls and ceiling of the world famous comedy venue.
Kielty divides his time between the US and Britain these days and he contrasted attitudes in California where everything is ‘good, very good or awesome’ to Northern Ireland where things are always ‘not too bad’.
He poked fun at the Titanic memorabilia and said that only Northern Ireland could have a tourist product such as Titanic Whiskey that goes down well with ice and water and Titanic crisps flavoured with sea salt.
He added that the only tourists in Belfast when he last played the Empire wore camouflage and spoke with English accents.
Kielty may be close friends with Rory McIlroy but the boy from Holywood didn’t escape his sharp wit when he said he hoped the young golfer never wins the US Masters.
“With his five foot eight inch height and his curly brown hair, wee Rory would look like a leprechaun in that green blazer,” he added.
In his Empire days, Kielty was famous for his ruthless satirising of politicians and paramilitaries but he said the tables were turned when Martin McGuinness mentioned him at the London launch of NI 2012 at St James Palace.
“Martin said he was happy to be in ‘Derry London’ and asked where Paddy Kielty was. Here was Martin McGuinness telling jokes and slagging me off from the stage!” he added.
As Kielty left the stage to a standing ovation, compere Colin Murphy called him back for an encore.
He returned with an old friend, his trademark black woollen balaclava, finishing the act as a Pavarotti Provo with a song from the old days about blowing up the Grand Opera House to the stirring strains of Nessun Dorma.
He also asked the crowd to be upstanding for the new ‘People’s Republic of Britain’s’ national anthem, ‘All You Need is Love’.
The Beatles had the Cavern Club; Van the Man had the Maritime Hotel. After this never to be forgotten performance, Paddy Kielty will always have the Empire Laughs Back Comedy Club.