'People say I'm moaning, but I'm not moaning, I'm just
('Moan' - The
Many of you moan that
we at SOTCAA spend far too much time wallowing in the comedy of the
past rather than championing the contemporary circuit. If comedy is
dead, they ask, where exactly are these amusing corpses to whom you
So, in a short occasional series (well, an article
about Saturday Night Jack is also being prepared, put it that
way), SOTCAA would like to offer its support to a current comedy act
who we believe are genuinely worth celebrating. And to kick off, we
sing the praises of The Nualas. Yes, The Nualas. They've got a
video out, you know. Isn't that GREAT?
They're that all-girl singing trio from
Ireland. You know, the ones with the sparkly dresses and geeky
glazzies. They crop up on Edinburgh Nights
and The Stand Up Show
- or at least they used to. They had a superb eponymous
Radio 4 series a couple of years ago, which no fucker appreciated.
But they're a bit of a mystery, to be honest. Who are they,
and where did they come from? If we were tedious and insisted on
playing along with the joke (like a journalist reviewing
) we would say the current line-up features Nuala, Nuala and Nuala -
hence the name. However, we're SOTCAA, so here's some
The Nualas were formed in 1995 and comprised lapsed
convent girls Susan Collins, Anne Gildea (sister of stand-up
comedian Kevin Gildea, who's now married to Collins) and Karen
Egan. All three sang, but Egan also played guitar - and bloody good
she was too. Crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe lapped up their 1997
show Hello We're The
, and a six-part radio series ensued in August
1998. For reasons undisclosed (ie, nobody ever seems to ask them),
Egan left shortly afterwards to be replaced by Suzannah DeWrixon.
For this line-up, a session pianist was used for most numbers. A New
Year Special, How Are Ya? We're The
broadcast as part of Radio 4's
Double In Dublin
, showcased this revised
line-up. They played a sell-out season at London's Drill
Hall in 1999, after which DeWrixon left (again without explanation)
and was replaced by Tara Flynn. However, Flynn appears to have
departed since - the line-up currently wowing crowds on their
Big Shiny Dress Tour
features another new recruit - Josephine O'Reilly. And
she's ace. They all are. Their TV and radio appearances
are always done in character, but SOTCAA (who saw them out
of character in a theatre foyer once) can reveal that none of them
wear glasses in real life, and that Anne Gildea is a salt 'n' vinegar
crisps / bottle of Beck's kind of a
The Nualas, eh? Fecking great.
They're great because they're genuinely
original. The specs and frocks may play up to a kind of kitsch,
'you can file us under Huge Lesbian Following'
shorthand, but they're worth much more than that. As a music
act, their songs are better than anybody else's on the
'serious' music scene. As a comedy act, they're
funnier than anybody else on the circuit. And as a music and comedy
act combined, they piss over Supergirly from a great height.
The problem with describing The Nualas is that
comedy reviewer clichés seem all too appropriate. They are,
for example, 'dark'. No question about that.
They're also 'sharp' and 'surreal'.
But they're dark, sharp and surreal in the true sense of all
Take 'dark'. Most shit comedians
think that being dark simply means talking about death a lot,
throwing blood around onstage, and talking very slowly in a scary
voice. But not The Nualas. They realise that the first rule with
dark comedy is not to wear your darkness on your sleeve - instead,
they play everything for laughs, appearing likeable, cute
'n' frothy, but secretly planting disturbing stuff in
your brain while your mouth's wide open. And 'sharp' - they
are sharp, in that their act satirises brilliantly and precisely the
hypocrisy and self-importance of the rock industry, but with
affectionate, velvet glove subtlety. Their radio series featured
plenty of icy allusions to pop's corporate jungle - the band
depicted as naïve, easily-pleased eejits in the company of
their useless manager Seamus. And they're surreal. Not in the
'fish + bicycle = funny' sense, but in terms of
skewed storytelling - their sympathy with boat terrorist 'Lorcan'
Nualas Songbook) being an obvious case in point.
They're also, to use the comedy
reviewer's most bathetically meaningless cliché,
. God, are they funny. But they don't bother with lazy,
crowd-pleasing references: the timbre of their humour is completely
their own, and trips effortlessly off their tongues. In true Joyce
Grenfell style, their deceptive cosiness disguises a razor wit which
refuses to suffer wankers gladly.
Their effortlessness, of course, is another
illusion. Like graceful swans, they have to work furiously to appear
so laid back. Their harmonies are meticulously arranged, their
choreography sponsored by Accurist. It's all their own stuff
too, and they can do proper ad libs with the audience. What's
more, they have the balls to recognise how fantastic they are,
toying with the modesty/arrogance interface with a delightful
ambiguousness. 'Thanks a million'
they say casually
after each song, knowing full well they could have the audience and
Like most wondrous acts, however,
the support they have from fans is not matched by support from the
industry. A Nualas TV transfer was rejected by BBC2, for no particular reason.
A second radio series also never appeared, the official BBC bollocks
reason being that the show 'wasn't ready in time'.
When quizzed on the real story behind the latter, insiders simply
give a heavy sigh and say it's a 'long story'.
In reality, the blokey hinterland of the comedy circuit industry simply
can't deal with talent that comes from strange angles -
in the lairy, boozy, goatee-bearded, Red Bull press-release culture that
smothers the current media, producers can't handle the
idea that singing girlies could be anything other than obviously
twee and awful. Asked what he thought of The Nualas, one (very
well-respected) comedy actor was heard to scoff 'Naaaaw, isn't
their act just loads of anti-men stuff?', his view presumably
based on little more than a cursory glance at their poster.
Elsewhere, Funny Talk
editor and Radio 4 producer Danny
Wallace used his BBC page to
publically express his dismay at their then-imminent return to Radio 4 - a
dirty trick, considering his obvious interest in keeping superior
radio comedy shows at bay in order to fuel his own projects. As one
SOTCAA reader recently observed, promoters are more likely to book
the likes of Supergirly, because simply changing the lyrics to
famous pop songs is an obvious, what-you-see-is-what-you-get gimmick
in contrast to The Nualas' far stranger world.
So the fact that a video of The Nualas can be
released in the current comedy climate is not only fantastic,
it's actually unbelievable. And its existence proves that
talent and creativity (clichés again, but we're using
them in their true sense) can survive against PR, puff and
unjustified self-promotion. Go to your video store now.
Anyway, that's it from our nice column. Hope
you enjoyed it.
NEXT MONTH: Simon Pegg