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So you’ve got an Irish passport because of Brexit. Here’s a guide to your new identity

-Mary Bourke


As Brits dig out their grandparents’ birth certificates and apply to the passport service en masse, here are some tips to fitting in from drinking tea to Ed Sheeran

  • Mary Bourke is a comic and playwright
   ‘Are you one of the 100,000 Brits who’s been issued with an Irish passport?’ Photograph: Alamy

 ‘Are you one of the 100,000 Brits who’s been issued with an Irish passport?’ Photograph: Alamy

Demand for Irish passports in the UK has jumped by 50% since Britain voted for Brexit, according to figures just released. Are you one of the 100,000 Brits who’s been issued with one? Do you desperately want to fit in? Here is my guide to being authentically Irish. (Under no circumstances must you attempt an Irish accent: you may be tempted to unleash your inner Mrs Doyle. Please don’t!)

Know about Galway Girl

 
 

State emphatically that there are no actual bars on Grafton Street and that Ed Sheeran is a culture-appropriating English prick and that no one in the history of the Irish state has ever stood on a stool and sung Carrickfergus, as it’s a dreary buzzkill of a song and doesn’t have the “Gaeltacht banger” appeal of something like An Poc Ar Buile (The Mad Puck Goat). You might also wonder why Sheeran thinks a bag of Doritos is an appropriate end to an evening when a spice bag would have been more authentic.

Be fluent in Flann O’Brien

  Watch the delight as you recite Flann O’Brien Photograph: The Irish Times

Watch the delight as you recite Flann O’Brien Photograph: The Irish Times

Learn by heart the poem The Workman’s Friend by Flann O’Brien. Watch the delight as you recite “A pint of plain is your only man”. Your effort to embrace Irish culture will be warmly appreciated. You could also sing a couple of verses of Come Out Ye Black and Tans to demonstrate your desire for complete immersion, although this is not advisable.

Understand the subtleties

If you ask an Irish person to do something and they reply, “I will, yeah” with a downward inflection this is their polite way of saying “No”. Irish people never say what they mean because we always need a latex membrane of euphemism between us and the truth. This isn’t lying; it’s called being charming. Practise this particular phrase until you can say it with absolute sincerity. The same principle applies to the word “grand”. It doesn’t mean “amazing” or “stunning”. It just means “fine” or “OK” or “It’ll do”. Every interaction you have with another Irish human must include that particular word at least once.

Learn the language

The Irish language is a joyous thing. It exists to take the boring and mundane and sprinkle it with poetry and magic. How could you not love a language in which the words for escalator is “staighre beo” which means “living stairs”? Learn off by heart a couple of phrases to show willing. Never mind “craic”. Instead throw in “rírá agus ruaille buaille” to describe a raucous night and you’ll be grand.

It’s Derry, not Londonderry

  ‘Londonderry slash Derry’ is an acceptable alternative as it acknowledges the presence of both sectarian communities Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

‘Londonderry slash Derry’ is an acceptable alternative as it acknowledges the presence of both sectarian communities Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

When the BBC radio news says Londonderry instead of Derry you must shout: “It’s Derry, it’s Derry, it’s always been Derry, it’ll always be Derry! Derry! Derry!” even though you’re completely alone in your own car. The phrase “Londonderry slash Derry” is an acceptable alternative as it acknowledges the presence of both sectarian communities.

Change your name

Why not change your name to something from Celtic mythology, such as Ardal, Caimh, Oisín, Níamh or Gráinne? Yes, you’ll spend most of your adult life explaining to your British friends that Caimh is pronounced “Queeve” and that Níamh sounds “Neeve”. And just think of the fun you’ll have reciting the phonetic alphabet to baffled call centre employees in Manila.

Opine on Mrs Brown’s Boys

  The Irish have a number of opinions on Mrs Brown’s Boys. All are correct. Photograph: Graeme Hunter/BBC

The Irish have a number of opinions on Mrs Brown’s Boys. All are correct. Photograph: Graeme Hunter/BBC

As an Irish passport holder, what are your thoughts on this particular sitcom?

a) It’s a war crime and should be on trial at the Hague.

b) It’s as funny as polio.

c) It’s comedy for people who clap when the plane lands. If you’re astonished by gravity and aerodynamics, wait until you see a man in a dress who does pratfalls and says “feck” a lot!

d) It’s very popular, but so is herpes. And I’m not interested in that either

All the above are correct.

Know when to take tea

Getting a cup of tea is a dance of seduction so please understand the precise etiquette. You will be asked three times so you must refuse twice and accept on the third. Never accept the first time as it makes you over-eager and needy. And worst of all British.

Be culturally sensitive

Aldi does a range of spirits that include something called Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin. Demand to see the manager and ask why they are selling “genocide gin”. They’ll probably give you the email address of head office but at least you’ve made your point. Now that you’re an Irish passport holder, Cromwell is not a revolutionary hero but a genocidal war criminal.

• Mary Bourke’s I Want An Irish Passport runs as part of the Edinburgh fringe festival from 4-27 August

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Meet the housewife taking aim at the 'smug mums of Mumsnet'


Self-styled 'housewife comedian' Mary Bourke may look sweet in her flowery tea-dress, but her humour pulls no punches - especially when it comes to entitled women. Méabh Ritchie tentatively pulls up a chair

  Comidienne Mary Bourke

Comidienne Mary Bourke


By Meabh Ritchie

11:00AM BST 30 Sep 2015

It is with some trepidation that I arrange to meet the comic Mary Bourke. An unsuspecting journalist recently found himself in her line of fire during her latest routine. His crime? Asking stupid questions and looking at his phone during the interview (fair enough). He also had the temerity to wear a hipster trilby hat. Enough said really.

Before our encounter, I email promising not to do either of the above and receive a swift a reply warning me not to talk about “women and comedy”. Luckily, this turns out to be an ironic joke. But you’re never quite sure with this acerbic comic, who delivers digs harsh enough to make you gasp - cleverly using the guise of a gentle introverted housewife.

Bourke first came on culture vultures' radars in 2013 when her show “Muffragette” was one of a handful of feminism-themed shows at the annual Edinburgh festival, along with Bridget Christie’s award-winning “A Bic for Her”. You see, this was the year that feminism was officially allowed to be funny.

 
 

More recently, the Irish-born, Buckinghamshire-based comic’s latest show “What would Dr Dre do?” has earned her plaudits. In it she showcases her encyclopedic knowledge of hiphop via her own version of Biggie’s (The Notorious B.I.G) 10 crack commandments, and peppers her set with take-downs of everything from Mumsnet forums to FemFresh advertisements. A favourite catchphrase is “Bitches be Trippin”.

It's the same gang of male writers, so the jokes sound the same as they always do Mary Bourke on British sketch show

It’s not what you might expect from a 45-year-old 'self-proclaimed housewife' wearing a flowery tea-dress. But that is exactly the point. “The way I dress on stage means I can say practically anything and get away with it,” she says,

"because people don’t expect cruelty from someone who dresses like a vicar’s wife, so it’s a really good misdirect.”

When we meet in London’s Southbank Centre after the summer festival set is done and dusted, the dress has been replaced by a hoody, jeans and trainers, and Bourke is careful and softly spoken. Yet she reveals that when she goes to 'new material nights' and does the same acerbic material but dressed more casually, "there’s a lot more pushback”.

 

'Mumsnet I took an aim at, because it’s incredibly smug '

Classic Bourke material includes making mockery of the patriarchy, advertising aimed at women, and entitlement, especially if it’s dressed up as feminism. A previous show entitled “The Revolution will be Accessorised” was a critique of the culture of women’s magazines and the fashion industry, and promted the Guardian to write glowingly: "Catch her act before she becomes a (complete and utter) cult". During her End of the Road festival set this year (see video above) - during which the audience (myself included) delighted in, after being taken unawares on a hungover Sunday afternoon - she took aim at the Chardonnay-swigging smug mums of Mumsnet’s “Am I being Unreasonable” forum who seek validation for their sometimes outrageous entitlement. (These are people she acknowledged were probably in the audience). Also in her sights was the '#blessed brigade of Instagram and Twitter', and its followers' catchphrase: “If you can’t accept me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best,” which she used to hilarious consequence.

So what is her specific problem with the proudly smug and self-righteous? “There’s quite a lot of narcissism out there - narcissism in the guise of empowerment” she says now. “It’s like; ‘Things are going great. Hashtag blessed’. The smugness, everyone’s really pleased with themselves. There seems to be a certain demographic out there. Mumsnet I took aim at, because it’s incredibly smug, although it has gotten better. They’re much more self aware now... I just write whatever I find funny."

  Comedienne Mary Bourke

Comedienne Mary Bourke

Bourke’s 2013 Muffragette show was quite different in tone. Her mother had recently died, and she was reflecting on the gap between her own life, and that of her mother and grandmother. “Their lives were so narrow… especially if you live in Ireland, because it’s such a patriarchal society”. It was a very emotional routine, she says, adding that she won’t be doing that again any time soon: “I prefer the comfort of jokes."

But to go from women’s rights, to old school hip-hop seems a bit of an extreme turnaround. This is a genre notorious for its sexist lyrics and violence; where women are 'bitches and hoes'. In just April this year, Ice Cube defended using these terms in a Rolling Stone magazine interview while promoting the new film Straight Outta Compton about his collective, NWA.

Bourke got herself into the likes of Tupac and Biggie while growing up in Ireland, where hip hop wasn’t exactly mainstream, and says the lyrics and language generally are “signifiers” rather than explicit terms of misogyny: it is “bull-shitting for an audience”.

“It’s understood by the audience that that’s a persona, it’s not you,” she says, “whereas if you look on the surface level, yeah it does look horrible.”

But she adds: “Everything is misogynistic. Comedy is misogynistic - comedy probably more so…. You can go into any little garden and find something you don’t like”

 

'The audience won’t let you get too dark if you’re a woman'

After seeing Bourke’s set, you get the feeling that there is more lurking under the surface. In person, she acknowledges that she had to learn not to go too dark - and says that point is reached much sooner by female comics, than men. “The audience won’t let you get too dark if you’re a woman. The men get away with a lot more than we do - it doesn’t matter how many flowery dresses you wear,” she says.

Being married to a comedian (whose name she doesn’t want to publish) doesn’t help. “We’re jaded with jokes, so we go darker and darker to make each other laugh,” she says. “But the things that make us laugh in the kitchen are maybe a bit too dark for outside consumption.”

The American comic Maria Bamford who does a routine based on her experience of being on sectioned, is someone Bourke admires for daring to go where few people can. She is also a big fan of Amy Schumer’s widely lauded sketch show, and the team of writers who put it together.

It is no coincidence that neither are British based, she adds, and once again, we're back to talking about sexism: Bourke says there is a lack of willingness in Britain to look outside the same pool of writers for television and radio. “It (Schumer’s sketch show) does sound like someone in their late 20s, early 30s: an authentic voice," she says. "Whereas over here, if we’d done the same sketch show, they’d have gone to the same gang of middle-aged writers they always do, so the same gang of men, so the jokes sound the same as they always do.”

If this sounds bitter, it's not how it comes across in person. Her criticism is cutting, but all delievered in Bourke's very matter of fact tone. And then that's it. We're done.

By this point, I had hoped to have had an inkling by now as to whether I'll be ridiculed in her of her next routines. But when it comes to this comedienne, you're never quite sure where the persona ends, and the real Mary Bourke begins.

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