Hold onto your sides... The Cat Laughs is back

AS IF the stunning weather were not good news enough, Kilkenny had another reason to celebrate this week as the annual Cat Laughs comedy festival was launched on Monday with the appropriate fanfare.

AS IF the stunning weather were not good news enough, Kilkenny had another reason to celebrate this week as the annual Cat Laughs comedy festival was launched on Monday with the appropriate fanfare.

This time, Ivan Sheridan’s famous black and amber road train was called in to transport the merry-making comedians and festival organisers on the Parade outside Kilkenny Castle. Gearoid Farrelly, Eric Lalor and Chris Kent were providing the laughs, as the Marble City gets ready for the 19th annual Cat Laughs festival on the May/June bank holiday weekend.

The programme of events is lighter this year, but the prices are lower and the quality of the performers is still first class. Artistic director Rebecca Austin insists that the festival has as much entertainment for your euro as it ever has.

“We are very much affected by the fact that we don’t have corporate sponsorship,” she says.

“But it is an excellent line up, it’s quality over quanitity. We’ve dropped the price of our tickets too - events start from as little as €12.”

The number of venues has also been reduced, but stalwarts like Langtons, the Ormonde Hotel, Hotel Kilkenny and the Rivercourt Hotel are ll there.

This year, a number of special events will be running alongside the normal standup programme.

“One of the most interesting events will be ‘Ireland’s Got Mammies’ with Colm O’ Regan,” she says.

“It started off as a Twitter thing, and it’s taking a life view of a certain demographic of ‘Irish Mammy’. It’s absolutely hilarious; everyone can relate to it in some way.”

Other ‘special events’ include ‘Service With a Smile - in which a variety of comedians talk about their everyday jobs before the glamorous world of comedy came a-calling, and ‘Standup and Answers - a table quiz and comedy sketch affair with Jarlath Regan and friends.

Returning punters and serial festival-goers have come to expect high standards from Ireland’s favourite comedy festival, and this year is surely to be no different. The programme is filled with plenty of well-known names from the who’s who of comedy - both Irish and international acts - as well as a litany of fresh faces with a bright future ahead of them.

The likes of Jack Dee, Simon Amstell, Josh Widdecombe and ‘pub landlord’ Al Murray are sure to attract serious interest, and tickets will certainly be in high demand. In terms of Irish big hitters, Neil Delamere is a guarenteed venue-filler, while others such as Jason Byrne and David O’ Doherty are hugely popular on the international circuit.

Comedian Gearoid said he was already looking forward to performing at this year’s festival (his third), and seeing other performers like Adam Hill and Doc Brown.

“It’s the start of the summer, I love it,” he said.

“It’s kind of the Christmas party for comedians - not too far to travel and everybody’s enjoying themselves, you get to know people.”

And of course, for those who have not had their fill of comedy by the last evening, there is always the annual Ireland versus the World football match to look forward to.

As usual, there will be no shortage of people looking to work at the various events. Ms Austin says anyone interested in volunteering for the festival should keep an eye on the website, as the call will go out in April.

Tickets to the 2012 Cat Laughs comedy festival go on sale today at www.thecatlaughs.com, and a box office in Kilkenny will open later this spring.

The festival’s organisers are also offering a recession-beating incentive whereby people who book online before Easter Monday will avoid the transaction fees.