To cheer you up: Irish comedy group

Anybody heard of Foil Arms and Hog?

They are an Irish comedy group with a Youtube channel full of sketches and who also do live shows (I went to see them in May, and they were brilliant). I think one reason I personally enjoy them so much is because there’s almost always something distinctly Irish about their videos. For example, in the recent “Last Minute Holiday Panic“, the family wanting to bring a suitcase full of Irish sausages abroad. They’re also often relevant, making videos this year related to the European football championships and the Olympic boxing controversy  as these events were on-going. During the Irish general election a few months ago, I found “Election Time in Ireland” and “New Irish Government” delightful.

As an Irish person, I love to see the Irish language used. I watched the series “Ceol agus Ól” a fair bit while preparing for Irish orals this year.

Finally, these comedians are clever and (99% of the time) don’t need to rely on stereotypes or dirty jokes to get a laugh. Their humour is based around the characters being played as opposed to e.g. the gender of the character. They are also very skilled at dancing along the line between making a statement, and going a little too far, without ever really crossing it (and while being hilarious). See “How not to Offend People“, or the recent, glorious and all-too-relevant “The World is F**ked“.

Okay, back to the good bits: Besides the ones I’ve just mentioned, my favourites include “How to Speak Dublin“, “A Kerryman Gives Direction” and “The Ryanair Song” – relevant lines of this one will echo through your head as you’re booking a flight or rushing to catch your plane.

Books of the summer: mini-ish reviews :)

These are some of the prettiest books I read this summer. 🙂

Ruth Frances Long, A Crack in Everything: I love books involving mythology, and I love books involving Dublin, so this was perfect, really. Based on Irish legends, this story involves the fae world Dubh Linn running alongside our own. Protagonist Izzy stumbles right into it. I liked the insights into Dublin itself (the description of Smithfield, for example, was especially interesting). A dark and twisty tale.

Claire Hennessy, Nothing Tastes as Good: This book is narrated by a teenage girl (Annabel) who has died of heart failure due to anorexia, but been assigned as a spirit helper to one of her classmates (Julia). This narration device is genius in that deals with extremely difficult topics while making the reader laugh – Annabel’s irritation over her own death, and her snarky, sarcastic humour mean that, on a page-to-page basis, the book is darkly funny more often than sad. I’m not going to say too much on this one because I don’t feel like I have the authority to comment on the eating disorder-related parts (this is an excellent, informed review which covers those aspects). However some things I especially loved were 1) How Annabel having access to the thoughts of everybody gave depth to the minor characters, e.g. we see the motivations and merits of the bitchy character, not just her mean side. 2) The pleasing feminism throughout.

Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: This may be the gorgeous-est love story I’ve ever read. So so good and so readable. Also has really insightful things on e.g. what it means to “come out”, and how the rest of the school might react to that – as in, yes, there will be some people who are awful, but there will also be more than a few who are not. Simon is blessed in that coming out won’t put him in any danger necessarily or lose him any friends, but it’s still something that people need to get their heads around and adjust to. This book did a great job of demonstrating how people can be unsure how to react or behave while still meaning well and doing their very best to be supportive. (Only thing that bugged me: At one point Simon ditches one of his friends, then basically gets annoyed with her for being annoyed, and eventually she forgives him. That is not an acceptable way to treat your friends. Just saying.)

Robyn Schneider, Extraordinary Means: Ahhh, so lovely. I generally prefer books that have an interesting premise. A story set in an isolated sanatorium (to treat total-drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is fictional, though multi-drug-resistant TB is not) was entirely new to me. This book feels like a depiction of what that experience would actually be like, if it were a real thing and it happened to you. Looking at your old Facebook account, having an ex-girlfriend who essentially wrote your obituary for her college application, trying to talk to your parents on the phone, having healthy teachers who are a little scared of you, having rule-breakers who deal in biscuits from the outside world instead of in drugs…It all feels accurate, so that it wasn’t until the author’s note at the end of the book that I was completely, 100% sure the concept was fiction at all. What was more, the big-old-house-in-the-woods setting gives a lovely boarding-school vibe. There’s lots of humour and banter between the friends. And also the writing is just really good, really atmospheric with plenty of interesting observations and pretty metaphors. The main thing that made this book work for me, however, was the main characters, Lane and Sadie. Lane is determined upon arrival not to let this illness obstruct his life plans, and Sadie has already been there for so long that the mere idea of living in the real world scares her. They are both complex and beautifully constructed, and I could relate to both of them in different ways – this was some of the loveliest characterisation I’ve come across in a long time. (Two small things – warning, SPOILERS: 1. It goes almost without saying that a book with this premise is going to get pretty sad. 2. I was a little wary of the treatment of the character Nick. Diversity is always good, but it seems a liiiittle dodgy when the main character of colour turns out to be one of the story’s main assholes.)