- 01 May 20
No. 11 in a series. Interview by Shamim Malekmian
Sinéad Quinlan is an accidental stand-up. Discovered while speaking at a health and fitness event in Cork by comedian Stephen Kelly of The Hardy Bucks, Quinlan had never imagined a life built on strangers’ laughter.
There she was, however, a few months later, opening for The Hardy Bucks. Even then, she wasn’t taking the funny business seriously. One day, her father was reading the news and spotted an ad about an RTÉ comedy contest. He had filmed her daughter’s set, one night in Cork. They send it. One month later, Quinlan was wearing her lucky, yellow hat, doing stand-up on national TV. An hour later she was crowned Queen of Comedy.
Quinlan is not in full lockdown. As a social worker with Cork’s Simon Community, she is a frontline worker, hoping to keep the homeless safe from a pandemic that affects most, those who can least afford it. It’s an emotional time, she tells Hot Press.
In so many ways…
Did your life as a comedian change after lockdown?
I felt like my stand-up comedy career was really just taking off. I was gigging at least once a week and my diary was almost full right up until the end of summer. So, to go from all that to absolutely nothing was really surreal. I still find it weird looking at my diary on days where I had something planned. Instead of gigging, I'm just chilling at home like everyone else. I’ve decided to embrace it as best I can. I’ve been recording loads of short sketches which has been a lot of fun, and I’ve loads of time to do some writing as well.
Does sense of humour help you to stay positive as a frontline worker?
It’s an emotional time for everyone, and you can almost feel peoples’ anxiety when you are around them. Comedy and laughing have always been a great release. That’s vital now, more than ever, because trapped negative emotions will also run down your immune system. Whenever you have a good laugh, you almost always feel ten times better after it. There is always room for laughter no matter how difficult things may seem – and we will have better days again in the future.
Is there something that you miss most about normal life?
It’s funny because I don’t think I ever had a normal life to begin with (laughs). I always did things a bit different and becoming a stand-up comedian is definitely not normal (laughs). I guess I miss going to coffee shops: it was my favourite thing to do by myself. A good coffee and a book, and I would be so happy! Of course, I miss seeing my family and friends too. Hi mum, if you’re reading this (laughs).
Were there things you took for granted before lockdown?
My freedom. Freedom to make my own choices, and go wherever I wanted. I mean I still couldn't afford to go travelling the world, but I enjoyed having the choice to do it (laughs). I also didn’t realise how much I loved hugs.
Will live comedy change once the pandemic passes?
It’s actually common for comedians to be quite anti-social, so I think they're all probably doing ok right now (laughs). Firstly, we’re all going to have so much new material, and will be so excited to get back up on stage. I think it will probably take a while for people to be comfortable going out again, but in time, we should be back in business. Hopefully more people will start going to comedy clubs, as people will want to do everything once this is over (laughs). It’s hard to know if this will change things forever – only time will tell – but laughing and the need for laughter will always exist no matter what!