- 15 Apr 20
No.5 in a series. Interview: Shamim Malekmian
Before a novel contagion turned live comedy into a whisper, 29-year-old comedian, Michael Rice, was thriving. He’d often relay the story of an Indian man stumbling out of a pub in Dublin and straight into an anti-abortion rally. Enthused by the chants, and unaware of their context, he joins in with the refrain: “Life”.
Rice, whose energy on stage is at times unnerving, blueprints the moment into his set. He throws his hand in the air, put on his best Indian accent and yells “Life”. The punchline is that there is magic in the oblivious celebration of life in a foreign twang. “And it needs to be an Indian accent,” he’d say.
The comic honed his skills in Chicago but later moved back to his family farm in Kilkenny where his father, an old farmer, “one of the founding fathers of sadness in Ireland, haunts our house.” Last year, he was a finalist at an RTÉ comedy contest ‘Stand-up and Be Funny’. Earlier this month, his recent relocation to London coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Having spent just 10 days in The Big Smoke, Michael was forced back to the Kilkenny farm.
Tell us about the impact of lockdown on your plans…
I had just moved to London for career purposes. I had moved with my girlfriend, and then – more or less as soon I got there – all of the gigs that I had lined up were cancelled. I was going to work as a tour guide there, and that was also cancelled. So, I moved back to my family home after only 10 days in London.
How were you finding London?
Good. I mean, your first few gigs would always have this feeling that you are in a big city where you don’t know many people. As a comedian, I was starting from scratch because I’m not known there. Like, I started my comedy in Chicago, built myself up for two years, and then came back to Ireland and started from scratch here. And I was going to go back to square one and do the same thing in London. I was hoping this time it’d have been different and quicker, because I think I’m good now.
How are you finding life indoors?
It’s grand. I’m speaking from a privileged position, because I have a home to go to and a family. Me and my girlfriend have a room in my parents’ home. And it’s really not too bad. I love reading and writing. Maybe it’s too early, though. Maybe if you checked with me in two weeks, I’d be singing a different tune then (laughs)!
What do you miss most about normal life?
Just the excitement of going out and meeting people. Funnily enough, I don’t miss performing so much. Writing is my favourite part of comedy; I don’t enjoy performing it so much. You know what I mean?
Is the live comedy scene going to be changed by the pandemic?
Well, everything has gone online now, and a lot of people seem to produce a lot of online content. That is the quickest way to create a live fanbase during the lockdown. They are setting up Patreon accounts, so that people can contribute to their livelihood as a comic – which is good. If you can make money like that, and people are willing to pay, great! That’s Capitalism.
* Michael Rice has a weekly podcast called The Mike Rice Show on Spotify. He is also on Instagram @MikeRiceComedy*