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Top 10 Moments in Irish Television

There’s nothing quite like a comical comeback to keep you on your toes when you’re watching the telly, and when it comes to snappy retorts – the Irish tend to get the best lines.

No matter how serious the situation, if a film or programme is truly Irish there’s always going to be a quip of two nestling in amongst the drama, just waiting to make you spit out your tea in favour of a good chuckle.

I’ve collated a few of my favourite “laugh out loud” quotes that, in my opinion, truly pinpoint Ireland’s playful way with words.

After the Sunset

While this American “cops and robbers” action comedy wasn’t exactly a commercial success, the sharp wit of Ireland’s smoothest criminal (and occasional British Secret Service agent) Pierce Brosnan is certainly a highlight. You might be forgiven for forgetting his Irish roots due to his iconic role as 007, but it wouldn’t be his character of Max Burdett that would be doing the forgiving…

Stan Lloyd: “It's okay to be happy to see me. Just because you're English doesn't mean you need to hide your emotions.”
Max Burdett: “I'm Irish. We let people know how we feel. Now f*ck off.”

Father Ted

Careful now! I don’t want you running away with the idea that the Irish rely on vulgar language to express ourselves. Quite the opposite in fact, as excellently phrased by the offended sensibilities of the good Mrs Doyle:

Mrs Doyle: “Oh she writes such filth, Father. It’s always ‘Feck this’ and ‘Feck that’ – and sometimes she even uses the F-word!”

Of course, with all the wit flying about the show it would be remiss to allow Mrs Doyle to have the last word, and as much as I love Dougal – he was never the sharpest crucifix in the priesthood. So instead I’ll opt for Father Jack – a man of few words – but those he uses certainly don’t beat around the burning bush:

Mrs Doyle: “Now come on Father, what would you say to a nice cup of tea?”

Father Jack: “FECK OFF CUP!”

Calvary

Of course, Father Ted is a constant stream of funny jokes and hilarious capers but delivering a light-hearted chortle amidst a dark setting is another situation entirely. However, the job is managed quite admirably by a priest of quite a different nature in John McDonagh’s black comedy “Calvary” in which Father James tends to the needs of his eclectic Parish while contemplating his own impending death. Perhaps the whole “this could be my last day on earth” thing made him slightly snippy though…

Milo Herlihy: “The war on terror has no borders.”

Father James Lavelle: “I don't think Sligo is too high on Al-Quaeda's agenda, Milo, do you?”

The Guard

While Brendan Gleeson’s character in Calvary used his clever control of language to get others to see the bigger picture, the words of Sergeant Gerry Boyle were tuned to a more observational humour, for which he made no apologies:

Aidan McBride : [entering the pub] Little early for a drink. You're still on duty. You've been gone all afternoon.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle : [playing a video game] You gonna continue to make a series of declarative statements, or are you gonna f*ckin' tell me something?

While not entirely polite, he’s not entirely incorrect either…

In Bruges

Of course, Brendan Gleeson can’t be allowed to hog the limelight entirely when it comes to snappy comebacks and In Bruges, as well as being an outstanding film in its own right, is a constant battle over which character gets the best line.

Unfortunately, the majority of them are unrepeatable in polite company, but Colin Farrell manages to (cleanly) sum up the polarity between his and Gleeson’s characters with this bleakly honest stream of consciousness:

Ray: “I used to hate history didn’t you? It’s just a load of stuff that’s already happened.”

My Left Foot

While on the subject of history, ‘My Left Foot’ is the theatrical account of the real life of Christy Brown. It is a story of uplifting perseverance, in which a young man overcomes the limitations set upon him by disability and financial struggles to become an artist, author and poet.

As inspirational as the tale is, without a dollop of sarcasm here and there it just wouldn’t be properly Irish, as illustrated perfectly in this exchange:

Mary Carr: “And you typed all of it with your left foot?”

Christy Brown: “I didn't do it with me nose.”

The sardonic responses from Christy Brown don’t always make him a sympathetic character, which is their greatest achievement – his words allow us to discover his full personality as opposed to merely pitying his plight.

Leap Year

While the truly heart-warming Leap Year ticks all the right boxes for a good romantic comedy, it can’t QUITE be called an Irish film, due to the majority of the cast and production team hailing from the USA.

However, the surroundings in which it is set accurately displays the very best of the Emerald Isle – and I include the local patter as part of this authentic atmosphere:

Anna: “Hi! I'd like a ticket to Cork, please.”

Agent: “Ferry's cancelled.”

Anna: “What is wrong with this country?”

Agent: “I usually blame the government, but this one's the weather.”

Derry Girls

The much-loved Derry Girls however, is entirely faithful to what it was really like to grow up in Northern Ireland in the nineties, and there are so many rib cracking exchanges between the gang and their long-suffering guardians that they could fill an entire blog entirely to themselves.

Of all the personalities though, Sister Michael stands out as the master of the one-liners. While the other character’s comedy mostly comes from bouncing off one another – the no-nonsense nun needs no introduction to deliver her devastatingly hilarious putdowns, like this zinger from the girls’ school assembly:

Sister Michael: "I know how daunting resit examinations can be, so if anyone is feeling anxious or worried or even if you just want to chat, please, please, do not come crying to me."

 

Eurovision

The only thing funnier than watching a character respond to a hilariously cutting comment, is having them carry on completely oblivious to uproarious remarks, and there-in lies the absolute beauty of the Irish commentary of Eurovision.

Both Terry Wogan and Graham Norton possessed the sharp mind and casual delivery required to turn the annual talent contest into a side-splitting display of observational comedy. Their gentle disdain and charismatic personalities found humour from the very beginning:

Terry Wogan: (Introducing the 2007 broadcast) “Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually I do, I’ve seen the rehearsals.”

With hysterical updates to make you appreciate alternative angles of the performing acts:

Graham Norton: “Oh, and in case you are wondering, there hasn’t been a stage invader. She is a fully trained dancer. She is meant to be there.”

And of course, a few well-placed showstoppers, in case you had any intention of taking the show seriously:

Graham Norton: (After a technical glitch) “I liked the bit when she stopped the music.”

I could go on forever, but I’ll stop here for fear of rattling off half the scripts in Irish television. Is there an Irish quote that you remember being particularly chucklesome? Post it in the comments below so we can all share a laugh!

2 comments

  • Thank you for sharing “all things Irish”….I love hearing and seeing it all!

    Patricia Harrell CHRENKA
  • Mrs Brown’s Boys is my favorite show. I can’t get enough of Mrs brown.

    Jessica Canty

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