Published on February 9th, 2012 | by Amanda0
The Comedy Interview: Fred Cooke
Fred Cooke. What can I say about Fred Cooke? He is a high octane, ball of energy and is always a joy to watch on stage. He’s back this year with a brand new show to entertain and amaze with and I caught up with him recently to discuss the gig and all things comedy-related.
So Fred, how did you wind up in comedy?
College. I was the auditor of the Comedy Society in college and when I left, Simon O’Keeffe took over, it only had 63 cent in the account! I ran it into the ground. I’m surprised it’s still running to be honest. He took it on and started a magazine and got sponsorship and everything. But that’s where it started from.
I remember seeing David O’Doherty in the student bar and not being able to get my head around the fact that it was happening, I knew about guys from the telly like Brendan Grace. I was funny with my mates in college though. Then there were the Law Society public business meetings. What I was supposed to do was read the letters that came in to the society that week but what it actually was, and still is to this day is telling jokes! I never thought I could make so many people laugh at the one time and I thought it was something I’d like to do. So when I finished college I started doing open mic slots and the rest is history. Starting off is very tough. I couldn’t start off all over again! It’s great craic though. I think it’s a gift to be able to get up on stage and perform for people.
You went to Edinburgh for the first time with your solo show last year. How was the experience?
I loved it. I’m going back again. It was tough though. At the end of the day you’ve got words, you’ve got people, fill the hour. I had a strange time – it was like Mass. I’d walk on stage and stage and say “Good morning everyone” and they would respond with “Good morning comedian” haha! I used a smoke machine one day, I couldn’t see the audience for the hour, it was like doing a gig in a cloud! It was me up against kids shows most days. There was one time when a mother asked if the show was suitable for her child and the front of house girl working that day completely messed up what I thought to be the worse joke in the show (it was about procreation) when telling her! This year will be interesting with the Olympics on for the first two weeks of the festival.
You have a unique style of comedy musical comedy mixed with stand up, is it difficult to blend the two together?
Eh no. I learn a lot from other acts like Dave McSavage and David O’Doherty. At the moment I’m writing songs but I don’t want to be too contrived. Sometimes if you are rhyming too much, you need to break it. That’s why I sing into some songs and talk for some of them. I get worried if it’s a diddle! It’s a fine line. Sometimes people can get over excited in the audience, I’ve had hen nights get very excited and start clapping away when it’s become a didli song! Some people don’t like musical comedy and that’s fine. Sarah Millican actually jokes about my guitar being my six string clapping machine!
What is your favourite joke to tell?
I heard this joke from a guy called Martin Shields at a competition. He won the competition and is one of my best mates now.
Three people die and meet St Peter at the gates in Heaven. St Peter says, it’s a bit suspicious you three arriving and looking to get in at the same time, what happened? The first guy says, well ok this is what happened: I came home from work and went up to my wife’s room and seen my wife messing around with another guy. He ran down the hallway, down the stairs and ran out the front door. I wasn’t going to let him get away and I got the fridge from the kitchen and threw it at him and I killed him. I couldn’t believe it, I never thought I’d kill someone and I couldn’t take the consequences of it and I took my own life. So that’s why I’m here. Peter says to the second guy, why are you here? He says ok, I was the guy messing about with his wife, you can actually see the fridge marks on the side of my head. I know I shouldn’t have been doing it, I know it was immoral; I didn’t think I would die though! Peter says right yeah it’s all making sense now. Then he turns to the last guy and he says how did you end up here and he says, look Peter there I was minding my own business, just sitting in a fridge…….!!!
Who are your biggest influences?
John Colleary is a massive influence on me. He is just brilliant at what he does. I once travelled to Cork with John and Colum McDonnell in a car for three hours and I spent the whole journey crying laughing! Tommy Tiernan is also a big influence on me as is Dave McSavage. I love some sitcoms too like Fr Ted, Curb your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development and I love South Park! I wish I could have knocked a bit more craic out of school like those lads do. Though there was a few moments in school where I cried laughing! I have my own version of secondary school now.
So your new show “Tilted” what can we expect?
Well a lot of it is to do with excitement in Ireland, defining excitement and how we channel the excitement. It’s about how brilliant we are at doing it and yet how horrific we are at the same time. (Seems a bit odd considering he is such a high octane performer I interject here) Ah I calm it down a bit for this show, it’s an hour show! I want everyone to have a great night and enjoy themselves. If I manage to make that happen, then I have done my job.
Where does the inspiration come from for your material?
At the moment I am just writing jokes, it’s not really about inspiration. When I write, I don’t have light bulb moments or Shakespearesque moments. At the moment I’m writing song lyrics and connecting things up, I love it. I put ideas and things that come into my head down in my phone (I witnessed the extensive list!), but I wouldn’t be tedious about it either. Pressure also makes you turn over new material too. There’s nothing like a new show to make you think of new material. One of the reasons I did the Whelan’s show last year was because I was getting caught up doing the same material again and again and needed to break out of it. I also get excited by watching music channels, this gives me inspiration too.
Describe the most embarrassing incident that has happened to you on stage?
I fell off the stage once in the International. It was dark. I was just back from Kilkenny. I was hungover. I had a joke, which I haven’t used again since obviously! But whatever way I turned around I slipped and fell, but this lady was sitting right at the front with a drink in her hand…. It was just messy!
What are your plans for the future?
This year I plan to do all the festivals again, also I am doing a later slot in Edinburgh this year so I can be a bit more mental. I also have some other stuff up my sleeve but you will just have to wait and see what that is.
Right Fred, as you are musically minded, your random question is, if you could join any band for one gig who would it be and why?
I’d love to do a gig with Madness; cos they look they are having great craic up there!
So there you have ladies and gents, we have learned that Fred Cooke is a one man ball of energy, knows his music, one piece of advice though…don’t sit too close to the stage at any of his gigs or you may have him sitting in your lap!
Tickets for the gig are available through Ticketmaster and the Whelans website and are priced at €15