During the 1990’s, the ‘Westmeath Topic’ ran a weekly slot entitled, “Under the Spotlight”. As the title suggests, somebody was interviewed and asked some pertinent questions that the paper’s readers might find interesting. One week I was ‘it’. The journalist asked the same questions of each interviewee. One of the questions was; ‘What quality do you admire most in others?’ ‘Honesty’ was nearly always the standard reply. When it came to my turn and I was asked for the quality I admired most in others, I had no hesitation in answering, ‘The ability to make me laugh.’
Down through the years and to this present day, I retain the warmest feelings for those who gave me a good old belly-laugh. This includes my friends, acquaintances and professional entertainers. Anytime I meet ‘blasts from the past’ and we start reminiscing and telling funny episodes (generally at each other’s expense!) I am reminded over and over that ‘laughter really is the best medicine.
Then there are the professional ‘laugh makers.’ This is different, but the end result is still the same. Laughter reduces stress hormone levels and dispatches anxiety. It also improves cardiac health and lowers blood pressure. So you see, laughter really is the best medicine and we owe a lot to those who ‘treat’ us.
Engaging entertainers like Paddy Cole, Tommy Tiernan and Noel V Ginnity are paid to make us happy – and do they ever! Columnists such as Michael Harding, Billy Keane and Paul Howard (Ross O’Carroll-Kelly) make us buy newspapers – for a laugh!
I am sad today though and I cannot stop thinking about the loss of Ireland’s greatest laugh manufacturer. We are all the poorer for the passing of Brendan Grace. There will be no encore this time. Brendan has ‘exited stage left’ for the last time. The king is dead …
There is more to humour than telling funny jokes. In the written word we can paint the picture in our mind, but on stage or TV the guy has to have something special. Timing of delivery, body language and above all, facial expressions make or break the performer.
Brendan told funny stories alright. He told some of the same ones over a lifetime. There are very few comedians who can make you laugh as heartily on hearing a repeated gag, but Brendan could. The guy just ‘had it.’
Brendan Grace was the star of an amazing range and types of shows on both sides of the Atlantic. His role in ‘Father Ted’ won him a whole new generation of fans, but for me, it is his well-worn short sketches that are his greatest legacy. Off stage he never stopped being funny – nor simply being just a nice guy. A friend of mine met him in a hotel lobby as he was crossing with a pint of beer in each hand. “Now, that’s what I call a balanced diet”, quipped Brendan
‘Bottler’ never grew up – and thankfully never got sophistication or ‘sense’. Brendan knew his ‘Bottler’ character better than anything else he ever did. As I once heard him say in a radio interview; ‘Bottler’ was just an exaggerated version of my own school days.’
It is not easy to be loved and appreciated by your own parishioners. Joe Doan had that quality, for example. Brendan Grace had it with some to spare. He never forgot his roots and the people of inner-Dublin just loved him. What a send-off his own people gave him!
Like thousands of other devotees, my favourite piece of all was Brendan doing the speech by the inebriated ‘Father of the Bride.’ I never tired of that one – and on this one more than anything else, it was the pose, the eyes darting around the guests, and the facial expression, from his opening slurred line of; ‘I want to thank you all for coming here at such short notice’, that kept us all in ‘stitches’. Many funny men will try to do that one in the future, but they should leave it be, because there only was one ‘father of the bride.’
The first time I heard Brendan Grace he was billed as a singer (and a very good one he was too). That was a long time ago. In the intervening years I attended many of his shows and watched them all on TV. Brendan never had an ‘off-night.’ Perhaps the greatest tribute he can be paid, is that he never resorted to bad language or smutty jokes. A lot of comedians I know could learn that one.
‘Bottlers’ school cap and blazer will never again come into focus under a spotlight. They may well finish up in a glass case in some museum. ‘Bottler’ himself will have to go out in the grown-up world and get by as an ordinary man in the street.
The rest of us will remember all the laughter … and try hard to laugh again…
Happiness is a healthy mental attitude, a grateful spirit, a clear conscience, and a heart full of love.
*Author, entrepreneur and newspaper columnist, Bernie Comaskey, now spends most of his time on a farm in Ireland; but he retains his strong links with the Costa Blanca.
Bernie has published four books; If Ever a Man Suffered, The Best of Bernie, The Team, and Just Between Ourselves. Bernies books are available at half price, on sale from The Leader. Call 637 227 385 for info.