Abie Bowman completed a masters focusing on 'comedy as a weapon of protest'.
Ireland's financial woes are no laughing matter. But in the midst of the doom, gloom and emigration, two Irish comedians have found a revolutionary new way to tour the country - absolutely free.
Their aim is to fight the recession with humour, optimism and positive action, and they'll be in the Lantern, Navan, on Friday night, 6th July.
'Stand-Up Against the Bankers' is the brainchild of Aidan Killian and Abie Philbin Bowman.
Aidan is a former banker, with the once prestigious (now disgraced) Bear Stearns. In 2007, Aidan saw the writing on the wall, and decided to do something he believed in. He left his banking job, still carrying a huge mortgage for a house in Florida he has never seen.
With his understanding of how banks had cheated the system, Aidan turned the tables, and forced the bank to accept their liability for the property. This story forms a key part of his comedy set.
Comedian Abie Philbin Bowman took the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe by storm with his debut, 'Jesus: The Guantanamo Years'. Abie's one-man shows have since toured from London's West End to Hollywood, LA to Lahore, Pakistan (during a State of Emergency). His jokes have been taken seriously by the Ku Klux Klan, Al Qaeda and were even boycotted by Ian Paisley's DUP.
Abie also completed a Masters, focussing on 'comedy as a weapon of protest'. He explains: "Comedy is a great way to express ideas. It cuts through spin and can spread like wildfire - especially on Twitter and Facebook". As if to illustrate the point, earlier this year Abie had a chance encounter with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Abie managed to get himself photographed with Bertie, while wearing a T-shirt, which declared, "I marched on The Dail and all I got was this Lousy Taoiseach". The photo was picked up by several national newspapers.
Aidan and Abie are part of a generation caught between emigration and negative equity. Abie spent the Celtic Tiger era pursuing his comedy dreams.
He couldn't afford to buy or rent a house, so remained living at home with his parents. He recalls the day the financial crisis broke, listening to the radio.
"It was awful: people were in negative equity, losing their jobs, facing repossession... At some point, I realised: 'Hang on. I don't own a house. So I'm not in negative equity. And nobody can outsource my job to China'. Somehow, I had gone to bed, a textbook loser ... and woken up, an economic genius."
The two comics decided to put their trust in the Irish people, and devised a new way of touring, without supporting the bailout. "It's a revolution in comedy," explains Aidan "'Stand-Up Against the Bankers' is 100 per cent free to the public. If you haven't got any spare cash, you're still welcome to come and enjoy the show."
"But we haven't booked any hotel rooms, and we've no money for food. So the tour can only keep going for as long as people are enjoying it and want to support it." The lads will pass a hat at the end of the night to accept tax-free donations. But these don't have to be in cash.
"We're hoping that some audience members can offer us a spare bed to sleep in or a hot meal.
"Or maybe they can help us publicise the tour, or find our next venue."
The lads can only keep touring for as long as this support allows. "Don't get me wrong," Abie explains, "money is damn useful. But the more of our working and leisure time we monetise, the more power we hand over to bankers and advertisers. Doing things based on barter, generosity and goodwill, is a declaration of independence from the financial system. If the IMF wants to repossess 90 per cent of my happiness, they're welcome to try."
The lads insist that early omens are good. The day before the Irish Fiscal Treaty Referendum, they were featured on the BBC's flagship current affairs programme 'Newsnight', hosted by Jeremy Paxman. "Touring like this creates a different kind of relationship with the audience. We're not asking them to buy a ticket in advance" Aidan explains. "And we better make sure our jokes are damn funny. Otherwise, we'll end up sleeping in the car, eating nettle soup."