Killing Leprechauns: Irish satirist exploits British ignorance in comedy podcast | Ireland

Ohen Oliver Cromwell’s forces sacked the Irish town of Drogheda in 1649 and massacred its inhabitants, the comedic potential seemed limited. Thousands perished and it was only the start of a military campaign that wiped out much of the Irish population before Cromwell returned to England.

Four centuries later, however, these dark events and other landmarks in Irish history have been exploited for humor – and the joke is on the Brits.

Oliver Callan, an Irish satirist, quizzed British comedians on their knowledge of Ireland and discovered a seemingly deep well of ignorance. For Killing Leprechauns, a six-part BBC podcast which will launch on Saturday, Callan interviewed a dozen young comedians about Irish stereotypes, history and current affairs. The general answer: unconsciousness.

It validated the old joke that the Irish never forget their history and the British never remember theirs, Callan said in an interview. “It was much worse than I expected.”

Comedians seemed unaware that Britain’s closest neighbor had a young population and a tech-driven economy, he said. “Their view is that it’s still an old place, the mass is going, the Catholic church still has a grip, we’re still behind; it is a foggy and old-fashioned country that is addicted to drink.

Comedians tend to consume a lot of media and focus on what the audience finds familiar, Callan said. “So if British comedians don’t know about Ireland and don’t talk about Irishness, that indicates that their audiences don’t know either and that’s because their media and their establishment aren’t paying attention to it. “

Oliver Callan, center, with Josh Jones and Sophie Duker participating in the podcast.

In the series, Callan pokes fun at the Irish, suggesting that they were created when a red-haired rabbit copulated with a long streak of misery that was floating in upper Cavan. But after prompting his guests to recount Irish tropes, like drunkenness, he responded with facts and stats that challenged stereotypes.

The comedians, who include Rhys James, Glenn Moore, Ana Magliano, Josh Weller and Sophie Duker, took tests on their “ignorance of Mick”, regarding Irish culture, and a segment titled “Britain or hatred of Britain” who asked them how aspects of Britishness are viewed in Ireland.

Few people were aware of Cromwell’s record in Ireland, although James remembers learning at school that the Puritan leader had invaded and annoyed the natives with “cosmic ways”. When told of the massacres and the governor of Drogheda being beaten to death with his wooden leg, James replied ironically: “Now you told me I’m mad about it, mate. If you’re listening in Ireland, I’m livid on this subject.”

Knowledge of the Great Famine was scarce, but Callan said the Irish extracted some kind of revenge when the resulting tide of emigrants to Britain produced an infamous descendant, Piers Morgan. “So things have a way of coming out at night.”

British comedians were confused about Éamon de Valera, who dominated Irish politics for much of the 20th century, but noted his name’s resemblance to “devil” and Cruella de Vil.

Questions about Ireland’s taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and his predecessor Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay and mixed-race leader, have come up short. The comedians were surprised to learn that Joe Biden, John F Kennedy and other US presidents were celebrating their Irish roots and that Ireland had become a liberal, secular state.

Callan, who hosts radio and TV shows in Ireland including Callan’s Kicks, an RTÉ podcast that imitates and excoriates politicians, said Ireland has a “dad complex” with Britain. The Irish followed British television, British sport, British politics, but the British showed little awareness or interest in Ireland. “Our intense focus on UK issues is not even reciprocated on a micro level.”

The British had little reason to share Irish obsessions with navel-gazing such as Biden’s Irish heritage, but it was a shame they hadn’t followed the example of King Charles, his late mother and other members. of the royal family who have visited and engaged with Ireland, Callan said.

The satirist said the Irish have their own blinders, such as ignorance of Northern Ireland and aspects of Britain, particularly its geography. “We couldn’t put many cities on a map.” Brexit has allowed Irish people to create their own stereotypes, he said. “We’ve exploited a lot to portray Britain as narrow-minded.” Even so, the Irish yearned for attention. “We just want the Brits to notice us.”

Killing Leprechauns is available on BBC Sounds.