This review contains spoilers for the first season of LOL: Last One Laughing Ireland.
I think we can all agree that Ireland is having a moment.
From the country’s unwavering support of the Palestinian people to the scrumptious success of Paul Mescal, Andrew Scott, and Cillian Murphy to the mistaken yet correct absorption of Ayo Edebiri into Irish culture… Ireland is certified hot.
But, the question remains, is Ireland funny? To find out, I slabbed some Kerrygold butter onto my father’s homemade Irish Soda Bread, poured myself a glass of whiskey, and binge watched LOL: Last One Laughing Ireland.
I’d like to preface this review by saying I am not a reality TV guy. I don’t even watch Drag Race and I am very, very gay and trans. I am, however, a big comedy guy, otherwise known as a comedian. And I’m Irish! I may only be half Irish, but I’m also only about half funny, so it feels appropriate. Disclaimer over.
LOL: Last One Laughing Ireland traps 10 comedians in a room and gives them two tasks: Make others laugh and don’t laugh yourself. A bunch of comedians desperately trying to get people to laugh while also not laughing themselves? They should have just filmed a Brooklyn open mic.
Contestants are allowed to bring their own props with them to set and there’s even a rule that if you ring the cowbell, you can put on a performance and everyone else has to watch you. Outside of the performances, contestants have to do their best to make the others laugh by singling them out.
The elimination system in place is not dissimilar to that of soccer, or football, I should say. Your first laugh earns you a yellow card; laugh again you get a red card and are eliminated from the game. Eliminated contestants spend the remainder of the competition in the control room with Graham Norton, which feels more like a reward than it does a punishment. Oh, and by the way, smiling counts as laughing.
As a general rule of thumb, I avoid straight white male comedy at all costs. Mostly because it’s bad or stolen from women or queer comics or written at my expense. So, to make it through three hours of really bad prop comedy, including an all-too-revealing green screen suit, I focused on the reason I was watching in the first place: the lesbian comedian in a pantsuit and hoop earrings.
Catherine Bohart is an Irish comedian, actress, podcaster, writer, and, in my opinion, the winner of LOL: Last One Laughing Ireland. In true lesbian fashion, Bohart became nervous when a beautiful woman, older than her and wearing a blazer, walked into the room. There’s just something about seeing representation on television that makes me emotional, you know?
She may not have won in the traditional sense of “successfully completing the objective” but she did win, in my eyes, for not actually laughing at anything anyone was doing. Instead, she received her yellow card for half-laughing at something Graham Norton said to her on the game telephone (valid, understandable, queer kinship) and her red card for slightly smiling while hollering for an on-stage cat performance (valid, understandable, lesbian behavior).
Bohart and I both managed to get through the 6 hours without laughing at anything and that feels correct and gay. As a queer comic myself, I often find myself in rooms with straight comics who could not physically tickle a laugh out of me let alone get one with a punchline. That’s not to say that Bohart does not respect and admire her peers as I’m sure she does, but it was all too delicious to watch her bypass any desperate attempts at a laugh. Instead she just kind of… hangs out?
Since the show has no rewards for getting laughs and only dishes out penalties for laughing, I’d say she played the game like an expert. When she did mine for laughs, it was through a polished demonstration of vaginal anatomy, forcing other contestants to “Pin the Tail on the Pussy,” which, again, is so gay. Bohart’s other gag was to exchange the hoops she started the game with for much larger hoops in the dressing room and re-enter the game as if nothing had happened.
Meanwhile, the white men in the game are putting on latex, strapping sausages to their faces, filling their pockets with beans, wearing a dick-nose on their face, and rolling around on the ground in desperate attempt to get the laughs they have grown accustomed to getting from other straight, white men. It was almost cathartic to watch them scramble for laughs and quite literally not get any. Could the next LOL be filmed at a Manhattan comedy club? Please?
LOL: Last One Laughing Ireland proves that the only time reality TV and comedy should mix is when masc comedians date femme reality stars. Am I just sour that the one lesbian on the show didn’t win? Maybe. But I’m mostly upset that the show took comedians who are otherwise funny, I’m sure, and put them in an environment where it’s impossible to be funny. My girlfriend, who is also a comedian, caught a glimpse of one of the episodes where a contestant is using a hand puppet to try (and fail) to get a laugh, and said, “If I was doing ventriloquism at someone and they weren’t laughing, I’d kill myself.”
She’s not wrong. To be fair, the contestants were given an impossible task. As comedians, it’s incredibly demoralizing to perform to a crowd that is not allowed to laugh. In fact, I think most comedians I know would rather be on a show that encourages heckling than a show that prohibits laughter. It’s also so incredibly frustrating when your planned, written material doesn’t hit but something you improvise or do by accident does well. Overall, it seems as though LOL tortures its comics as much as it does the audience, leaving the question, “Who is this for?”
Because the nature of the show doesn’t allow contestants to really tap into their skill sets, I found it frustrating to watch as a comedian. LOL might be more for fans of comedy rather than comedy fans… you know? I think LOL is perfect for folks who are not entirely plugged into comedy or, more specifically, stand up comedy, but do enjoy a laugh. The funniest parts of the show took place when production brought in big names like the musical duo Jedward, journalist Anne Doyle, broadcaster Ray D’Arcy, and musician Chris De Burgh to get the contestants to crack.
I’m curious what appearing on the show does for a contestant’s career. I wonder if it gains them new, unindoctrinated fans or if the opposite happens and viewers only see and judge them in the context of the competition. I hope it’s the former and that the show serves as an introduction to each comedian rather than a representation of their skills. If the latter is true, I’m afraid that going on Last One Laughing is a net-negative to a comedian’s career.
But one thing I know for sure is Catherine Bohart has gained at least one new follower and fan.
LOL: Last One Laughing Ireland is now streaming on Prime.