Free Comedy Combats Recession with Laughter and Positive Action
Ireland’s financial woes are no laughing matter. But in the midst of the gloom and emigration, comedians, Aidan Killian and Abie Philbin Bowman, bring Stand Up Against the Bankers, their country-wide tour of free comedy to Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover on Friday 22nd June 2012, (kick off 8.30pm) in an effort to combat the recession with humour, optimism and positive action.
Stand-Up Against the Banks is the duo’s brainchild. Aidan Killian, a former banker, with the once prestigious (now disgraced) Bear Stearns, saw the writing on the wall in 2007 and decided to do something he believed in. He left the job, still carrying a huge mortgage for a house in Florida he has never seen. With his understanding of how banks had cheated the system, Aidan turned the tables, and forced the bank to accept their liability for the property. This story forms a key part of his comedy set.
Abie Philbin Bowman took the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe by storm with his debut, “Jesus: The Guantanamo Years”. Abie’s one-man comedies have since toured from London’s West End to Hollywood, LA to Lahore, Pakistan (during a State of Emergency). His jokes have been taken seriously by the Ku Klux Klan, Al Qaeda & were even boycotted by Ian Paisley’s DUP.
Aidan and Abie are part of a generation caught between emigration and negative equity. Abie spent the Celtic Tiger era pursuing his comedy dreams. He couldn’t afford to buy or rent a house, so remained living at home with his parents. He recalls the day the financial crisis broke, listening to the radio.
“It was awful: people were in negative equity, losing their jobs, facing repossession… At some point, I realised: ‘Hang on. I don’t own a house. So I’m not in negative equity and nobody can outsource my job to China.’ Somehow, I had gone to bed, a textbook loser… and woken up, an economic genius.”
Despite their lucky escapes, both comedians are still affected by the financial crisis. “For one thing,” Abie notes “a lot of our audience has emigrated.” The two stand-ups travelled to last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival with solo shows tackling Ireland’s financial crisis. They got a string of rave reviews. They wanted to tour Ireland, but realised the country was broke; “The financial crisis makes us all feel powerless,” explains Abie. “Every time we spend money, we’re paying tax, which is used to bail out the banks and pay off the Troika. But the Troika can’t tax barter, or generosity, or laughter.”
So the two comics decided to put their trust in the Irish people, and devised a new way of touring, without supporting the bailout. “It’s a revolution in comedy,” explains Aidan “‘Stand-Up Against the Bankers’ is 100% free to the public. If you haven’t got any spare cash, you’re still welcome to come and enjoy the show.”
“But we haven’t booked any hotel rooms, and we’ve no money for food. So the tour can only keep going for as long as people are enjoying it and want to support it.” The lads will pass a hat at the end of the night to accept tax-free donations. But these don’t have to be in cash. “We’re hoping that some audience members can offer us a spare bed to sleep in or a hot meal. Or maybe they can help us publicise the tour, or find our next venue.”
The lads can only keep touring for as long as this support allows. ” Don’t get me wrong,” Abie explains, “money is damn useful. But the more of our working and leisure time we monetise, the more power we hand over to bankers and advertisers.
Doing things based on barter, generosity and goodwill, is a declaration of independence from the financial system. If the IMF wants to repossess 90% of my happiness, they’re welcome to try.”
“Touring like this creates a different kind of relationship with the audience. We’re not asking them to buy a ticket in advance” Aidan explains. “And we better make sure our jokes are damn funny. Otherwise, we’ll end up sleeping in the car, eating nettle soup.”
The omens are good. The day before the Irish Fiscal Treaty Referendum, Abie & Aidan were featured on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight, hosted by Jeremy Paxman. And earlier this year, fortune smiled on Abie when he had a chance to prank former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis. Abie got himself photographed beside Bertie, wearing a T-shirt which declared: “I marched on The Dáil and all I got was this Lousy Taoiseach”. It was reported nationwide.
On the night the lads barter their stand-up act in lieu of up-keep, Campbell’s Tavern in association with Solstice Arts Group launches HEAVY MEITHEAL a community barter club which aims to offer a fair exchange of local goods, skills & services in keeping with the recessionary spirit of our times.
MC for the evening is locally-based Kiwi comedian, Danny Dowling taking some respite, hot off the heels from his hectic touring, after wowing the nation in TV3’s Come Dine With Me.
Solstice Arts Group aspires to promote collective community involvement in the Arts, by providing a platform for local men, women & children to engage in a wide variety of artistic events in an effort to make the Arts more accessible to the wider community through innovative and inclusive means. The group meets regularly and is based out of Campbell’s Tavern.
The duo play another Gig in The Hop Inn, Athenry on June 23rd.