07 March 2012

'Write it down; it's a good one!'

I think that there must be a special place in heaven for those who have the gift of making people laugh and leaving them with happy memories. In 1990 I was buying a stamp in the post office in Turramurra, near Sydney, where the Columbans had a seminary before. When I opened my mouth the woman serving me broke into a big smile and told me of her visit to Ireland and of attending a show starring Hal Roach, a comedian who died in Ireland on 28 February at the age of 84. As it happened, on my flight from Manila to Sydney I got chatting with one of the cabin crew, an Irishman named Frank Kennedy. He told me that he wrote scripts for Hal.

Hal starred in a cabaret in Jury's Hotel, Dublin, for 26 summer seasons. I attended one of his shows there many years ago with two American Franciscan Sisters who worked in a hospital in New York City. They enjoyed themselves immensely. Hal targetted in particular American tourists, laying on the 'Blarney' thickly. I remember one of his jokes from that evening: 'We had the President of Egypt here last week. After the show this guy came up and said to me, " If you're a comedian . . ."'

As it happened, Hal died only six days after another Irish comedian, Frank Carson, who was 85. Blessed John Paul II had made Frank a Knight of St Gregory in 1987 for his work for charity. One of his gags was, 'I don't think my wife likes me. when I had a heart attack she wrote for an ambulance'. In reality, Frank Carson had a heart attack in 1976 and he was buried from the church in Belfast where he had married Ruth, his wife of 60 years, who survives him.

In the 1960s Hal Roach appeared in a number of fundraising shows for the Columbans in the New England area of the USA. His humour was always directed at family audiences and a friend who knew him told me that his humour offstage was the same.

In the video above, in which Hal tells stories about children, he is presuming that his audience were familiar with the Bible and with Catholicism. I'm not sure that younger Irish comedians would or could make that presumption or that they and audiences would be so familiar with what Hal Roach took for granted.

I know from a number of sources that Hal was a very charitable person.

Hal Roach bore more than a passing resemblance to the late Kim Jong-Il of North Korea but 
I've no doubt as to which of them left the greater legacy. 
I wonder if Hal regaled St Peter at the Pearly Gates with some of his stories and used his 
catch-phrase, 'Write it down; it's a good one!'
Kim Jong-Il

1 comment:

Fr John Abberton said...

Thanks for this. I love Hal and I loved Frank.