Comedy show looks to ‘monumental and missed’ moments in NI’s past

Peter Dickson, X-Factor's voiceover whizz, presenter Jarred Christmas and Christine Bleakley
Peter Dickson, X-Factor's voiceover whizz, presenter Jarred Christmas and Christine Bleakley

JOANNE SAVAGE talks to Kiwi stand-up Jarred Christmas about fronting a panel show looking at all that is bizarre about Northern Ireland and the traits of our local sense of humour

Monumental, the comedy panel show celebrating everything that is brilliant and bizarre about Northern Ireland is back with a new host, Kiwi comic Jarred Christmas, and the return of team captains Jimeoin and Andrew Maxwell, alongside local comedians Michael Smiley and Micky Bartlett.

Throughout the seven part series the teams compete during rounds based on little known facts about Northern Ireland and offer hopefully funny opinions on things from our past that they see as “monumental and missed”. Special guests appearing on the show include Christine Bleakley, Gerry Armstrong, Hugo Duncan, Jackie Fullerton, Dana, Eammon Holmes, The X-Factor’s voiceover man Peter Dickson, and Belfast comedian and actress Nuala McKeever - among numerous others.

My first question on chatting to presenter Jarred is whether he was in fact born with a surname such as Christmas or did he change it by deed poll because of its suggestions of cheer, sherry, happiness and presents?

“No, that is my actual name,” he assures me. “And it is a lot of pressure living up to this name.

“Making Monumental was a lot of fun - you would have to have something wrong with you not to have a lot of fun sitting next to people like Jimeoin, Mickey Bartlett and Andrew Maxwell - all of our regular comics are very funny and witty people.”

Jarred, a stand-up for 14 years, got the job to present the comedy panel show when he affirmed that he was in fact well equipped to read from an autocue.

“They called me one day and asked me if I could read autocue and I lied and said yes ‘I’ve done loads of that’, because how hard could it be?

“All the spontaneity, like on any panel show, comes from the guests and the comics riffing off each other and we had a really great time filming this.”

Did he learn anything about Northern Irish culture that surprised him, like how backward it can sometimes be, I ask him jokingly?

“I’m from New Zealand, c’mon!” he laughs. “Things are so backward in New Zealand that you wouldn’t believe. I think maybe it’s something that can happen on isolated islands,” he laughs.

“One thing I also learned about was the Northern Irish vegetable roll, which has no vegetables in it whatsoever. And then the fact that you guys weirdly have a store called Mace which is the name of a self-defence spray.

“One round we had which was very funny was asking the teams to vote for who should be made an honorary Northern Irish person.

“Apparently Spider-Man should be Northern Irish for reasons I can’t quite recall and Eammon Holmes mounted quite a sophisticated argument as to why he wanted John Wayne to be Northern Irish. His point was that over here you guys love a cowboy when it comes to getting DIY jobs done!”

Does Jarred feel he got a sense of a particularly Northern Irish sense of humour?

“I think humour is pretty universal but every country has their own take on things and in that sense their own trends in what they find funny.

“As someone from New Zealand I really find a lot of what you guys say very poetic. The one thing that cracked me up all the time was the way people would keep saying to me ‘Is that you, is it?’ And I’d be like of course it’s me, I’ve just said it’s me, who else would it be?”

And what of the New Zealand sense of humour?

“We have a lot of annoying neighbours and we have a sense of the underdog vibe about us.

“I mean I have Australian friends, but we just don’t talk about it.”

Catch the first episode of Monumental on BBC One Northern Ireland, February 7 at 10.35pm.