A Friendly Chat With Joanne McNally

Joanne McNally is one of the best Irish standups around, that’s just a fact. She’s playing the Bray Comedy Festival this week so we got Rebecca Keane to ask her some tough questions. Real tough questions. The toughest. 

Hello Joanne! What a lovely and unusual name. My friend is called Sarah-Anne because her ma wanted to call her Sarah and her da wanted to call her Anne so they just threw the two together because love is all about COMPROMISE. Did your parents name you in the same fashion?

HELLO REBECCA! Well actually, you’re not a million miles off. My mom’s two sisters are called Joan and Ann so she thought Joanne was a nice nod to them both. It was a compromise between sisters, not sure my dad’s opinion was taken into consideration at all. It was Joanne or Catherine, I would have been an awful Catherine, so while I’m not mad about my name, it was the lesser of two evils.

Joanne, I’m not sure if you’re aware but you’ve a lovely head of hair. What’s your secret? Or indeed, is your hair full of all your secrets?

Why thank you Rebecca! My hair was always a talking point because I had so much of it (until I lost half of it in a dye job in Vietnam) and because I’m adopted, no-one knew where it came from. It was a big hairy mystery. Till I recently saw a pic of my biological father when he was 21 and he has the biggest fro I’ve ever seen on a white man. All my mates wet themselves laughing when I showed them, I’m actually lucky I lost half of it because at least now I can do more with it and I don’t constantly look like I escaped from somewhere.

If you had to be one member of Coronation Street, who would it be and why?

A very tricky question.  I think I would be one of Gail Plait’s kids so that I could confront her about her constantly sending me upstairs to wash my hands. Like, unless they’ve been digging graves with their fingers, their hands can not  need that much washing. It’s not right. My mom used to be MAD for the soaps, so growing up I’d know exactly what was happening in all of them through general osmosis, but she gave them up there recently. She felt they were deducting from her life. Fair play to her because they’re more addictive than crème eggs which have been proven to be the most additive thing in Spar.

After watching an interview with James Kavanagh, I learnt that you two worked together. Approximately how gas was the office atmosphere with two of the funniest people in Ireland in close proximity?

We’re honoured at the title, thank you. James and I worked in PR together, back in the day. The agency was one of those amazing young cool places that allowed us to be as loud and odd as we liked and both of us took full advantage of that. He has a brilliantly creative and gas mind and we laughed our asses off a lot. I always knew James was going to be very successful in whatever he decided to do, and now he owns Snapchat, which is mad impressive.

A little birdy told us you’re playing the Bray Comedy Festival. I can’t tell you which birdy because to be quite frank, I was off my tits at the time and I can’t remember. Are you excited to be performing at such a prestigious festival?

YEAH! It’s in its second year now and I know it’s grown from last year. The people that run it have big plans for it. It’s only going to keep getting bigger and better. I’m from out that way so it’s deadly to see a big comedy event grow and grow out there. The audiences last year were so up for it, it was brilliant! Bray crowds have an extra touch of madness to them. I did one of my first ever gigs in Bray and it was one of the best nights of my life.

I went to Bray before, looking forward to going to the beach but there was no sand, the beach consisted of nearly all stones and then just the sea. Do you prefer a sandy beach or stony one? 

Sandy. What kind of fruit loop would prefer a stony beach!? I hate those beaches where you have to wear shoes in the sea so you don’t slice your foot off on a rock. NO! I’d rather just have a bath.

After swimming in the sea in Bray, I have a massive rash on my arm. Do you think you could take a look? What is the McNally family go-to cure for rashes and spots?

My mom’s a retired nurse & nurses are the worst. You’d have to come home with no head to get any sympathy. Anything less than that she saw as a vast improvement on what the children in the hospital were going through. I do remember once, in primary school, I got a stickle back stuck in my eye and my eye felt like I had a shard of glass stuck in it for days. Eventually she brought me to the hospital but on the drive down she kept saying ‘there BETTER be something seriously wrong with your eye young lady’ so when it turned out there was I was so relieved. What was the question? Oh! Rashes and spots! Toothpaste, it’ll dry out anything with a head.

From browsing your Instagram, I noticed you’re friends with Clodagh O’Hagan, formerly of Blink PR and the holy grail, FADE STREET FAME. Approximately how many times a day does she say “awesome!”? Honestly, I don’t think she said it enough on Fade Street & would be more than happy to download it as a ringtone.

Clodagh got a job over in LA doing voiceovers. Last I heard she was driving a golf cart up Hollywood Boulevard wearing the face off Keanu Reeves.

If you were to write a biography, what would you call it?

I bloody love autobiographies. They’re all I read so I would take the naming of one / mine, very very seriously. Mine would be called Ginning, Grinning & Grinding, a nod to my three fav things to do.

I really admired your feature for The Irish Times, The Death of Louis Walsh, My Eating Disorder last year. Are there any certain rituals or things you do to get yourself into a serious mood for writing?

Thank you! No not really, I don’t particularly enjoy the process of writing but I love having done it. I find it quite taxing because I’m particular about it. I never think it’s right. You’ve such a particular vision in your head of the scene you’re writing that it’s difficult to get it all across without over doing it. I can’t sit there and write for hours on end. I don’t have the attention span for it. I need to keep stepping away from it and then coming back to it. I write for an hour then leave it, come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Usually I’ll find that I’ve over written it and take loads out. With stand up I have a tendency to slip off into the surreal which doesn’t usually work for me on stage so again, I’m usually scribbling out the last four lines of every gag because it’s gone a bit odd and the first four lines are enough. Like, I’m not the Mighty Boosh.

I recently conquered my worst fear, getting up to do stand-up comedy for the first time last year. In the 7 minutes I was up there, my hand shook the entire time, my mouth went dry and to be honest, I think a little bit of pee came out… And that was just while waiting for a drink at the bar. Do you have any tips for dealing with nerves before a set?

Well done! It’s all part of it, the more gigs you do the less nervous you become but if you weren’t nervous at all it would be odd. It would mean you don’t care and an audience can sense that and then they stop caring as well. Your nerves are telling you you’re about to do something interesting. Just remember that your audience are just normal people like you and me, you’re not performing for Richard Pryor (yet) so just being up there means that you clearly have ability so embrace that! Your stage, your house, your rules. Oh and maybe gig with a catheter.

If you could meet any comedian, alive or dead, for a coffee, who would it be?

Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh…… Tina Fey, she doesn’t do stand up but she’s an amazing comedian and I love her stuff. Plus she clearly has a large business mind. I don’t have one of those. I’d love to pick her brain, drill into all her opinions on the important stuff like writing and the comedy business and Lindsey Lohan. I’d also love to meet Kevin Bridges, he was the first comedian I ever got into, metaphorically like, although I’d probably score him. I can be laughed into the sack very easily. They could have a head like a monster munch but if they’re funny, I’m in.

The Bray Comedy Festival takes place from February 22nd-26th in a variety of venues across Bray. You can see Joanne McNally on Wed 22nd and Sat 25th. Check out the full lineup here
Joanne was also on two podcasts on the HeadStuff Podcast Network; The Alison Spittle Show and Reviewables. Check them out below:

Joanne McNally on the Alison Spittle Show comedy podcast, HPN - HeadStuff.orgJoanne McNally on The Alison Spittle Show

Reviewable Joanne McNally - HeadStuff.orgEpisode #10: Man Bun Union with Joanne McNally

Main Image via rte.ie