By Rick Coates
According to folklore, the long tradition of Irish humor is rooted in the
tragedy, despair and tough times the Irish have faced through the years.
It is believed that comedy and prayer is what got many an Irish through
the bleakest hours of their history. Comedian Derek Richards of the Irish
Comedy Tour believes there is a simpler theory.
The Irish just are a lot more funnier than Germans, Polish or any other
ethnic group, said Derek Richards, a former Detroit native. Now, I am
just joking, I dont want to offend any of our fellow European immigrants.
Actually, he continues, one thing I get asked by people who have not
been to our show is, if I am not Irish will I find it funny? What we
find time and again is people, regardless of their ethnicity, connect with
our stories. I get people saying I am Italian, German, Polish or whatever
and I had a grandpa just like yours. So no need to be Irish to enjoy the
The Irish Comedy Tour returns to Traverse City this Saturday, March 11 at
the City Opera House. Last years concert sold out and the troupe looks
forward to their return.
We had a great time last year, the town rolled out the green carpet for
us. Put us in their Hibernian St. Patricks Parade, though I was a little
worried we wouldnt be invited back because they gave us some Irish beads
to toss out and this gal was waving at me and I tossed some at her pretty
hard but missed and hit the old lady next to her in the coconut, said
The City Opera House is awesome and we cant wait to get back on that
stage. I grew up in Detroit and spent a lot of time in Traverse City. We
love Northern Michigan.
The Irish Comedy Tour will not be a part of the parade activities this
year, but not because they were not invited.
We wanted to be in the parade again but we are filming our Traverse City
performance for either Comedy Central, Showtime or HBO. The production
company needs us in the afternoon to do some work prior to the show, said
Derek Richards got his start in comedy via radio.
I grew up in Detroit and when I was nine our front window took a few
bullets and my father moved us to Romeo. And the answer to the next
question is yes, I know Kid Rock; he might not know me, but I know him. I
graduated from high school with his sister, said Richards. After high
school I went to Specs Howard School of Broadcasting. After that I did a
tour of various Michigan radio stations. I made my last stop in Kalamazoo
and I sensed radio was becoming more corporate and less local. I was on a
rock station and we couldnt be funny -- we were reading scripts -- so it
was a mutual departure back in 1993. I guess when your boss finds your
resume on the copier your days are numbered.
Richards decided to give stand-up comedy a try after losing his radio gig.
I was always a fan of comedy, but it was never a life-long dream of mine
to be a comedian, said Richards. So after I was fired from the radio
station I started hosting a comedy night at the Quality Inn in Kalamazoo.
After my first night on stage I didnt bring the house down but no one
threw any shit at me so I figured hey -- this is all right -- lets keep
Richards toured the country on the comedy club circuit and eventually put
together the Irish Comedy Tour by accident nearly five years ago.
I was based out of a club in Florida and it was close to St. Patricks
Day and they asked if I could put together something Irish themed for
them. So I agreed and the place was packed, said Richards. I got to
thinking that I had something here and I fine-tuned it by adding a
The Irish Comedy Tour recreates an Irish pub feel.
We put an Irish pub scene and comedy show in a food processor and hit the
power button. Keith Aherne is right off the boat and is an Irish pub
musician and serves as the MC of the show. He mixes some Irish drinking
songs with his own comedic routine, said Richards. Then he brings me up,
then Keith comes back up, then Mike McCarthy from Boston who is a tornado
of energy and laughter comes up, and then all three of us come up together
to close out the show.
In these sensitive times we live in, Richards doesnt worry about crossing
the lines with his comedy.
Look, this is not ala carte where you choose. Someone once told me that
comedy is all about taking turns. So if you are going to laugh at A, B and
C and then when D comes around and you are part of that group you better
damn well laugh and not be offended, said Richards. So when you start
line item things and say that comedian was funny but when he said this I
got mad. If you are going to get mad when you are at a comedy club just
The Irish Comedy Tour apparently
hasnt been pissing off too many people. They remain in demand year round
and will even tour Ireland later this year. They will perform Saturday
March 12 at the City Opera House in Traverse City. To get a taste of their
show check out videos on YouTube or at their website
www.irishcomedytour.com to purchase tickets go to www.cityoperahouse.org
or call the box office at 231.941.8082.