The Crowman is on his way
Jon Kenny is looking forward to returning to Wexford where he performed his last stand-up comedy show, writes Brendan Keane
While he is known throughout Ireland and abroad for being one half of the comedy duo, D'Unbelievables, Jon Kenny is far more than just a stand up comedian and all round funnyman.
His new play, Crowman, which was written by Katie Holly, sees him take on the roles of numerous characters with the main focus of attention being placed on a character named Dan, a man in his 50s who is living alone.
Although it is a dark comedy there is something about the story that is also poignant and thought-provoking.
Ahead of his appearance at Wexford Arts Centre, on Friday, May 24, and the Presentation Centre in Enniscorthy, the following night, Saturday, May 25, he spoke to this newspaper about the play and said he is looking forward to returning to Wexford as his model county appearances have produced some of his most memorable on-stage performances.
'The play is very funny in places but I suppose really it's a roller coaster of emotions,' he said, of Crowman.
'I think there's a bit of Dan in all of us.' he added.
The collaboration with writer, Katie Holly, came about after the two of them worked together on a production of John B Keane's, 'The Field'.
'She was doing some music as well,' he said.
'She is a very good songwriter and I did some tracks for her album so we knew one another anyway,' he added.
'This is actually her third play.'
When the writer asked Kenny if he would like to play the role of Dan he jumped at the chance.
'I'm at that stage where I can choose what I want to do and I've definitely taken it easier in the last few years,' he said.
'However, I said I'd definitely like to do one of her pieces and it took about a year-and-a-half to get it on the road.'
While he has acted in numerous film roles he said his love of theatre always trumps everything else.
'I think it's the energy from a live audience that can't be replaced,' he said.
'I like working on film but it's nothing like working on stage in front of people.'
He also relished the challenge of playing a lot of different characters in the one play: 'I loved the idea of playing numerous people; around 25 different characters.'
Kenny also lamented the fact that many great works of theatre go under the radar because they don't get TV exposure.
'Some people never get to see them because they're not on TV,' he said.
One of his proudest moments of theatre to-date was his involvement in a production of Dylan Thomas', 'Under Milk Wood', which he said was one of favourite pieces.
'There are a lot of things you would be proud of but that's among my favourites,' he said.
Kenny also admits to being uncomfortable looking at himself on screen and said that's probably one of the reasons why he prefers theatre to TV work.
'I've never had a real leading role in a film but I just don't like it,' he said.
'I also don't watch stuff that I am in,' he added.
'I turn down parts even if I am available. I don't like the process of waiting around off camera.'
He said the role of a director is to be the eyes of an actor on stage.
'The director is supposed to be your eyes in theatre and some people have a set idea of how something should be done,' he added.
Kenny also believes that honesty between a director and actors is of paramount importance to ensure something is successful.
He took a break from stand-up routines for a long period of time and with regard to his old comrade in arms Pat Shortt he thought: 'Well let him off because he was doing his own thing and he was doing what he wanted to and I didn't want to take part in it because then people would think I was just copying him.'
'I have not done comedy in about four or five years and I enjoyed taking a break from stand-up,' he said.
'Actually, the comedy festival in Wexford town was the last time I did stand-up,' he added.
However, he does hope to return to stand up next year but at the moment he has 'a lot of stuff going on'.
While he has had a long and very successful career he says he still gets the same buzz from being onstage.
'I'm 62 but it's still the same feeling when I go onstage.'
Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2000, his battle with cancer gave him a new perspective on life.
'I took a step back from it [working],' he said, with reference to when he was diagnosed.
'I used to be on work overload but not I take it easy and choose my parts,' he said.
'It doesn't' bother me if I lay on my belly for a few hours in the afternoon now,' he added.
He admitted it's a change from the days when he and Pat Shortt embraced their success and lived working life at a frantic pace.
However, it was his infectious, positive approach to life that helped him get through his health issues but he admits it taught him something too.
'It gives you a perspective that maybe you didn't have before.'
Kenny also feels mobile gadgets, while they have their uses, should be banned in certain places.
'People sit there with their heads down,' he said.
'People spend all their time on apparatuses; they should be banned because they're addictive.'
'Everyone has something on Facebook now but it's ridiculous because people are not really talking.'