25 June 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Inaugural Dublin International Comedy Festival kicks off this December 3rd & 4th
01 Dec 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Dublin International Comedy Festival
We talk to Maureen O’Connell about her new film festival in Dublin dedicated to comedy, which promises to offer up some much needed winter levity with an online programme of films and live stand-up acts.

The Dublin International Comedy Film Festival hits online screens from 3rd to 4th December with a jam-packed programme of comedy events including films, sketches, and web series from Ireland and around the globe. There’s also a terrific line-up of virtual live comedy acts, filmmaker Q&As, and an Awards Ceremony on Zoom to wrap up the two-day event.

A festival pass, which includes entry to all films and events, is great value at only €5. 

The festival is the brainchild of filmmaker and actor Maureen O’Connell, an award-winning actor, writer, director, and producer whose short films, wide-ranging comedies like Thespish to the 1916-themed Proclaim! The director’s debut comedy feature Spa Weekend has enjoyed a successful festival run at home and abroad, screening in British and Irish festivals, and last year winning the ‘She Is On Fire’ Award at the Female Filmmakers Festival in Berlin. 

With only a few days left to go, Maureen gave some insight into the final preparations and the overwhelming support she has received thus far. “It's exciting! All systems are go!! We are locking down final acts and giving the last pushes for the festival in the press! The reaction has been awesome! I never expected to get this type of positive feedback. People are really looking forward to it and I suppose it's a no-brainer! This has been one hell of a tough year for everyone and we all need a bit of craic!”

Maureen spotted an unusual gap in the market when it came to the representation of comedy at film festivals and couldn't quite get her head around the fact that there wasn't already a film festival in the Republic of Ireland dedicated to comedy. “You have to be braver to make a comedy because if your film screens at a festival and it doesn't make people laugh- that stings!” said Maureen. “So I want to celebrate those of us who are brave enough -or stupid enough- to try our hands at comedy!”

Although the festival will come as a welcome break from reality, once must beg the question as to how the decision to make the leap was taken during a global pandemic no less. “Well, people are weary right now with the pandemic, the winter weather is dark and is closing in on us; getting darker faster every single day,” said O’Connell. “Laughter brings us together. It is an expression of joy and sadness that we are able to express communally. We need that now more than ever before! We need that feeling of togetherness and that expression of release that laughter brings.”

“Although I have been thinking about this festival for a few years now, it kind of feels like now is the right time to do it,” O’Connell continued. “I've always found comedy very cathartic, very healing- and I think everyone could do with that at the moment. Laughter has therapeutic power. I love that about comedy. Its soulfulness. I find comedy deeply soulful”

In celebration of some of her favourite Irish and International comedians, Maureen has come up with aptly named awards such as the Deirdre O’Kane Award for Best Irish Short Film, the Seinfeld Award for Best International Short, and the Charlie Chaplin Award for Best Composer with many other legendary comedians being commemorated with awards.

The live comedy acts kick off at 7 pm each night with stand-up sets from Ireland’s smartest up and coming comedians including Emma Doran, Grace Mulvey, Stephen Ryan, and Taran O’Sullivan, as well as Killian Sundermann whose mock RTÉ Radio 1 news report went viral during the Summer lockdown. Audiences can also enjoy a Q&A with online sensation Michael Fry aka @BigDirtyFry who will share an exclusive new sketch!

Discussing the wide range on offer over the two-day festival, Maureen shared some personal favourites that she is looking forward to. “I suppose the Irish premiere of Bill Watterson's ‘Dave Made a Maze’; it’s a fantastic indie film from the USA,” said O’Connell. “There are also great Irish and International talents on show with shorts like ‘Rip to the Rescue!’, ‘Mother’, ‘Cash Stash,’ and ‘At Home with Nick Mullins’.”

“We will also have Q & A's with the filmmakers and we will be talking to Mick Egan from RADE (Recovery through the Arts and Drama) about their wonderful film entries and the amazing work that RADE does.”

Key to Maureen is to establish a festival where like-minded comedians and comedy creatives can congregate and network, while also providing great entertainment to regular festival-goers looking for a laugh. “My objective with the festival is to create a comedy hub of sorts for our comedy and film creatives; a place where they can go, to mingle, network, get organised, and create comedy films together.

“It is for the audience also,” O’Connell continued. “We want people to know where to go to have a laugh! And we want to champion the best and promote Irish comedy filmmaking talent and celebrate talent from abroad on our own shores.”

“I think Irish comedy punches above its own weight, but I also think it is not very well organised at the moment,” said Maureen. “I think we can do more to support Irish comedy and Dublin International Comedy Film Festival promises to do just that.”

Feature Films  

The festival will award its inaugural ‘Elaine May & Richard Pryor Award for Best of Fest’ to American indie debut feature Dave Made a Maze. This award-winning fantasy-adventure-comedy co-written and directed by Bill Watterson is a delightfully inventive and absurd comedy with a big heart and impressive practical effects.

Irish features screening include The Last Roll, the fourth feature by Dáire McNab is a comedic satire on struggling actors and the independent film industry. Also, screening is The Comeback, the last feature to be made as part of the feature film course with Filmbase. International features include Pretty Man (My Bittersweet Family) by Kim Jung Wook; a comedy-drama from Korea shot on an iPhone, horror mockumentary from the UK South African Spook Horror, and Canadian comedy Hotel Limbo.

Shorts ,Sketches, and Web Series

The selection of short films and comedy sketches consists of some excellent home-grown humour including Natasha Waugh’s surreal Mother starring Hilary Rose, an award-winning hilarious Sci-Fi Rip to the Rescue by Paudie Baggot starring Rosemary Henderson & Clare Monnelly, and Two Cats by John Morton (writer of RTE’s popular Victorian drama Dead Still). Life during the Covid-19 pandemic is documented with humour by Megan K Fox in her RTE short Love in the Time of Corona. Comedy sketches include Captain Tiny Hands written by Joe Rooney and Antoinette Scherer, and the dark irreverent humour of teenagers JILL & LILL by Keith Jordan.

In addition to the showcasing of Irish talent, audiences can expect a diverse assortment of side-splitting humour from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France and Denmark.

More info on the festival can be found on the website. Tickets for the full festival are a mere €5 and can be purchased here.

You can follow the Dublin International Comedy Festival on Facebook and Twitter and Insta.

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