By Patricia Devlin
IN just over a year Cookstown comedian Cormac ‘Cookie’ O’Donnell has taken the local comedy circuit by storm.
Supporting top acts such as Ardal O’Hanlon, Tim McGarry, Kevin McAleer and Colin Murphy, the 35 year-old dad-of-two appears on some of the best comedy festival line-ups across the country.
His online sketches focusing on Russian alter-ego Igor Bolshoirkirov, are huge hits, and have not only earned him a fan base the length and breadth of the country, but have caught the eye of TV producers keen to bring his tongue-in-cheek humour to the small screen.
It’s hard to believe the County Tyrone funny man was virtually unknown at the start of 2011, but a chance spotting at a charity fundraiser propelled him to local fame, and 2013 looks set to be his year.
“It’s a good feeling, it definitely is,” Cormac tells the MAIL.
“I am a regular at the Empire now as well, with my fourth gig of the year coming up. That’s great because you are lucky to get one in a year,” he said.
“Me and my brothers were always big into comedy, but I never ever tried it up until recently.
“It all really started when I dressed up as a foreigner in fancy dress. I stayed in character all night and then after that I decided to write a few jokes for it.
“Soon after I went to this fundraiser and the fella that was doing the photographs for it that night, he got talking to a guy that ran a comedy club in Newry and just happened to mention me to him. He rung me up a couple of weeks later and that’s where it started.”
Cormac’s first gig, an open mic session alongside Neil Dougan from The Blame Game, took place in at Newry ‘Laughter Sessions’.
The Belfast comedian described the Moneymore man’s open mic session was the best he’d ever seen.
Since then Cormac has never looked back
“I’ve got a good reaction from other comedians. It can be a bit bitchy on the circuit, there’s different clicks. I tend to stick around the same comedians.
“Myself and a couple of other comedians, including Paddy McDonnell, have pieced a few sketches together that we’ve thought of, with a meeting due to take place with BBC Scotland this week.
“I won’t be there myself but two of my friends will. We have done some comedy adverts as part of this. I’ve done a vodka advert with Igor, and Paddy’s done an aftershave ad for an IRA man.”
‘Igor’, Cormac’s Russian alter-ego who moved to Ireland from Russia to find a wife, has earned the comic the most laughs since he first took to the mic.
“He’s a lovable rogue. The character is really dark, you wouldn’t get away with some of the things he says in normal comedy, because I am in character it’s OK,” says Cormac,
“There’s a story behind him, he’s found a wife, she’s Catholic, she’s unfaithful to him.
“He has six children, three of them are black and three of them are white, so that’s one of the jokes. The character is stupid, he’s homophobic but he’s classed as a homosexual. It really works!”
Not only performing as ‘Igor’ Cormac’s comedy routines also involve reminiscing about growing up in Moneymore.
His online sketches include a comedy take on Northern Ireland culture, where he joins a group of local comics in taking part in an Orangeman’s version of a keep fit video ‘Lambegging’. Another tongue-in-cheek sketch shows the comedian bonding with his ‘pet’ Darius. His ‘comedy photos’ which he posts to his Facebook page, are also very popular, with the ‘Cookstown Memes’ page regularly taking funny twists on the images.
“I’m back in the Burnavon on 1st of December and have a new character coming out then,” adds Cormac.
“I don’t base my characters on anyone I’ve met, they are just stereotypes. The new one is very much a stereotype. I can’t say too much yet, but all will be revealed at the show.”
Not only playing Belfast’s Belly Laugh’s Comedy Festival this week, Cormac will play two sell out shows supporting Irish comedian Ardal O’Hanlon in Enniskillen and Newcastle, kickstarting this Saturday.
“I’m doing a lot of private stuff at the minute, but there isn’t really a circuit like there is in England. Last year I set up Cookies Comedy Club in the Old Town Inn, in Cookstown. It went very well but because I have so much on I am not able to do it this year.
“I’ve also applied for ‘Britain’s got Talent’, I’m just waiting on a date for that. So I’m hoping out of that I’ll get a bit of TV time and exposure.”
Cormac O’Donnell will play the Burnavon Theatre on December 1st, 2012. Box Office on 028 8676 9949.
For a FULL list of upcoming gigs, video sketches and comedy photos join Cormac on Facebook: www.facebook.com/cormaccookie.odonnell