Friday, July 02, 2010

The Nature of Barry Murphy's Genius

Is Barry Murphy the funniest man Ireland has ever produced? Twelve years and four World Cups from their debut, Après Match continues to get better and better. Risteard Cooper and Gary Cooke are good players, but Barry Murphy is a great player, the shining light of them all that elevates the sketches from funny to inspired.

Murphy's greatest gift as a mimic is to find a trait in someone that nobody noticed before, expose it and have the nation realise that it's been there all along. If that's not genius, what is?

Dogs might have heard that tiny whine in Liam Brady's voice before but no human being did until Barry Murphy made it an integral part of Brady's Après Match character. Now you realise it's been there all the time, and informs that determined streak of curmudgeon that is so much a part of Brady as his being the best ever Irish player, a heart-on-his-sleeve patriot and an excellent TV analyst.

Murphy's Vincent Browne has been the revelation of this World Cup's Après Match, where Murphy captures Browne's particular brand of passive aggression. Browne's abrasiveness has been famous throughout his career - John Waters' memorably describes how difficult Browne was to work for in Jiving at the Crossroads - but again Murphy identifies that defining characteristic that's overlooked.

It's the fact that Browne, for all the bluster, is supremely indifferent to whatever anyone says to him. As far as Vincent is concerned, it's all a game that exists for his exasperated amusement. Browne is often angry, but never moved. He seems to consider most things beneath contempt, and holds everyone at arm's length, like Raymond Chandler's famous gardener sneering at a weed. Here's Barry/Vincent running the rule over Enda Kenny and Leo Varadkar. Superb.