Made in China, Ireland and America

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How it’s New York: Des Bishop is from Flushing, Queens and his show, “Made in China”, is playing at Barrow Street Theatre in the village.
How it’s Irish: Irish American Des moved to Ireland when he was 14, and currently lives and works there.

A high energy Des Bishop burst onto the stage on Sunday at the Barrow Street theater to a fairly sedate 5pm crowd. The mixed group, we soon found out, hailed from faraway places like Ireland, Hong Kong and Flushing (his neighbors from Queens occupied a few seats in the front rows and seemed delighted to see their boy return.)

He’s famous in Ireland he told us, but later admitted when I joked with him about it, that he was only ‘a bit’ famous, but he did sell out gigs and was a regular on RTE, when I lived back there in the late noughties, so I’d say he can carry the title. “Made in China” combines Bishop’s skill for seeing deeply into another culture and using his humor to raise questions on things that are not seen by the local myopic eye. Having left his own culture at age 14, he has earned the chops of the outsider to do so.

Des Bishop and Philomena Connors

Des Bishop and Philomena Connors

The show kicked off with him documenting his life to date for those who didnt know him – which on Sunday were the non-Irish and non-Queens people – but the bulk of the evening covers his two-year experience in China learning the language and getting himself to a level in which he could achieve his dream and perform comedy there. Footage from the trip acts as a pre-show warm up, before he lands onstage to perform a rap song in mandarin.

Some of his best material covers his experiences as a gauche western man in China, like his attempts to keep his hair colored brown in a country where the only hair color is black. When his mother’s care packages of Men’s No. 5 Medium Brown hair color don’t arrive, he likens himself to a drug lord trying to get his delivery, and in the end is forced to go to a local hair salon where he is justifiably skeptical of their attempts to mix a brown color for him.

Further escapades there included him appearing on a dating TV show where he is asked to perform a song for the five million plus audience. He tells the host he will sing a typical Irish folk song and chose “Come out ye Black and Tans” (for those who don’t know, it is one of our more explosive (ahem), lambasting-of-the-British songs.)

The Irish in the audience need not worry about being neglected. A young couple from Co. Down whom he decided had questionable visa status provided fodder for him and amusement for the audience. He riffed about the phrase, ‘he’d do anything!’, which he claimed is great praise to bestow on someone in Ireland, whereas in other countries it might be translated as, ‘he is a bit unstable and unable to settle into normal life, choosing instead to act out constantly’. He has the credentials to rib the Irish, he has lived there for more of his life than elsewhere, and his socially acute observations are delivered with a warmth he clearly feels for his adopted nation.

He has the credentials to rib the Irish, he has lived there for more of his life than elsewhere, and his socially acute observations are delivered with a warmth he clearly feels for his adopted nation.

The show sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, go see it before it does so here. It closes on Sunday. And anyway, He’s great craic, and he’d say anything …

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Copyright 2015 New York Irish Arts