Ireland may have been the land that saved western civilization, ((À la Thomas Cahill, How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe.)) and certainly enjoyed a period of setting priests alongside agricultural products as the major export, but that’s not to say that nothing good came out of the experience. Their perhaps unique relationship with the Catholic church has put Irish comedians in a wonderful position, and combined with a deep love/hate relationship with the English, provides a rich source of material for us all to enjoy. Republicans, Catholics, Patriots, Atheists: here are some of my favourites of Ireland’s sons.

Tommy Tiernan

Perhaps one of the most controversial of Ireland’s homegrowns in the last couple of decades, this Donegal born son is also far and away one of the most successful. He holds the Guinness World Record for the longest stand-up comedy show by an individual. He’s also been accused of blasphemy by the Irish Senate, of killing Father Ted by Ardal O’Hanlon, and provoked quite an uproar recently with some jokes on the Holocaust. And he’s great!

Dara Ó Briain

I’m not a religious man, I don’t even believe in God. But I’m still Catholic, of course. Catholicism has a much broader reach than just the religion. I’m ethnically Catholic, it’s the box you have to tick on the census form: ‘Don’t believe in God, but I do still hate Rangers.’ The fact is that it’s a shared hinterland between me and every other Irish person, a collection of references that we all understand, stories we all know…  Once you’ve started Catholic, frankly, there’s no really way to stop being Catholic… It’s like a huge club you can’t ever leave. ((Courtesy of An Odyssey of Quotes.))

Ó Briain is certainly the more presentable face of Irish comedy, as his common appearance on the BBC attests. The worst criticism he has to contend with is a bit of sexism in his role as moderator of weekly satire program Mock the Week. Irish speaking he might be, at least he’s from The Pale!

Dave Allen

Tallaght’s most famous son? At least for me—I’m sure Mick McCarthy would have another candidate. ((Robbie Keane is another.)) Dave Allen’s laid back, intimate style of show, with stories regaled over a smoke and a glass of whiskey interspersed with various sketches was certainly an inspiration for many who followed him. The world’s most dedicated practicing atheist will be sorely missed.