Comedian Colm O’Regan has found success in a thoroughly modern way – on Twitter, if you don’t mind. Creator of the Irish Mammies Twitter account, he watched as the page reached over 22,000 followers in just four months. It’s easy to see why – Irish Mammies is Ireland in a nutshell. Who hasn’t heard the choice phrases below at one time or another?
“Sure you might as well be talking to the wall.”
“I don’t get ANY ‘funny taste’ off it. Eat it up now. If you were out in Somalia you’d be glad of it.”
Fair enough, says you. But how did the Irish Mammy end up on Twitter?
“It wasn’t set up with the intention of working,” says Colm. “I was writing a web TV thing for a crowd called Kildare TV. I figured one of the segments would be for emigrants, a feature called “A Tweet From Mammy”. I was there with my PhotoShop trying to draw up something to look like a tweet when I decided: why not set up a Twitter account, just to make it look real? I followed all the people I followed on Twitter and put up a couple of tweets. All of a sudden I started getting responses – within about an hour, I had 100 followers.”
Why does he think it resonates with so many people? “The big thing is that everybody thinks their own family is mental, and that their experience growing up was unique,” he says. “Then I’d tweet things that I heard my mother or other mothers I knew saying, and I’d get people saying ‘It’s like my mother talking to me.’ It’s that odd feeling when you realise you’re just the same as everyone else.”
Growing up in the remote county Cork village of Dripsey, Colm developed the love for Irish rural life that greatly influences his comedy. “I love the Irish rural life, it hints at dark secrets. There’s an anarchic behaviour that stems, I think, from being a colonized people – there’s always an undercurrent of slight humorous rebellion. There’s very low tolerance for bullshit in rural Ireland. Dripsey gave me a good grounding in that.”
The Irish Mammies Twitter account is what happens when this old world and the new social media-driven world collide. Colm is a big fan of social media, but notes that every cloud has a silver lining: “I think the best thing about social networking is that it has removed barriers to allow the likes of me to reach people. The worst thing about it is that I get nothing done when I’m on Twitter, Wikipedia, Youtube, Reddit – it’s just a disaster. I can trace the moment when I knew I would not be President from when Broadband came in. I applaud the reasons for which social networking was invented, not the reasons for which I use it.”
Colm is also fascinated by Internet memes, which he says are “democratic” form of comedy. “[Memes are] subversive. They’re voted for by the people. A company can’t start a meme. They’re very – I hate this word in this context but I sort of have to use it – they’re very organic. Cells multiplying in the right conditions, and not being grown in a lab.” You could say that Irish Mammies itself is an example of this. Twenty-two thousand people can’t be wrong, right? Apparently so. According to Colm, the page gets very little abuse. “Well, are you going to swear at your mammy?” he laughs.
Irish Mammies, for all the humour and nostalgia value, is also a snapshot of Irish culture. Our mothers speak the same way as their mothers, who speak the same way as their mothers. Will the Irish Mammy always be the same? “They will change. Ten per cent of the population were not born in Ireland so there will be a new generation of Irish Mammies. But the culture is so strong and complex; it’s not like they’re all on their knees clutching rosary beads and moaning. It’s an evolving thing.”
O’Regan has no plans to let Irish Mammies rest on Twitter – Ireland’s Got Mammies, premiering at the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival on June 2nd, will bring the online phenomenon to life. There are also plans for a book. All well and good, but just how do you turn a Twitter account into a live show? Colm is playing his cards close to his chest on this one. “Well, watch this space – basically, the tweet is like the tip of the iceberg. Anything you see on Twitter is for free, the ticket price is the extra stuff. I’ve tested out a few bits at my comedy club in Kilmainham and it seems to go well, so I think it’ll be a good show.”
Sure, where else would you be going?
Follow Irish Mammies on @irishmammies and Colm himself on @colmoregan. Tickets for Ireland’s Got Mammies are on sale now at http://www.thecatlaughs.com.