Focus on: Gráinne Maguire

The Irish comedian talks politics, periods and celebrity page-turners

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Gráinne Maguire
Published 16 Jul 2016

If nothing else, the past weeks of national self-immolation have at least made political forecasting a bit more fun. Where the rules of the game once guarded against outlandish invention, the new politics playbook imposes no such restrictions. So it seems a shame not to go with the flow.

Irish comedian Gráinne Maguire is game. “So I predict, in a twist, Ed Miliband returns and the [Labour] party is united once again. He gives this amazing speech that’s so incredible that the whole nation just unites around him. And then in a nice knowing twist he makes a joke about eating a bacon sandwich, and everyone laughs and realises how shallow they were. And then he rides away from the speech on a motorbike.”

It’s a prediction which, with maybe a couple of tweaks, wouldn’t sit uncomfortably coming from a Question Time panellist – or a Daily Politics couch occupant, or a Panorama pundit. Which isn’t really a coincidence, because Maguire has been there already. Chances are, in fact, you’ll have heard tell of Maguire as the lady who pulled off one particularly audacious piece of political campaigning: last year, by way of venting her frustration at Ireland’s medieval abortion laws, Maguire hit upon the idea of live tweeting her period to the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“Hey @EndaKennyTD just so you know, I got my period two days ago. Pretty heavy flow at first but now just occasional spotting #repealthe8th,” it began. And then, what felt like the rest of Ireland’s women got involved, providing their own menstrual updates.

“It was just taking Irish law at face value. The Irish state thinks that it’s up to them to decide whether they can have abortions or not. So the Irish state has invited itself into my vagina, so all I was doing was letting the state know how things were – like, daily vagina admin."

And yet, Maguire insists, she’s not a political comedian. “When I talk about politics I’m not like, ‘This is what’s bad about TTIP’ or something like that. Because, what the fuck do I know about TTIP? I’m more interested from a cultural point of view, or what it says about human nature. I’m really interested in how we feel about politics. What does that tell us about ourselves? Plus, I’m not very high status. I’m very happy to admit my gleeful ignorance about things.”

Her protesting seems genuine. In fact, to focus on Maguire’s political gesticulating is to unfairly pigeonhole a performer who ranges from highbrow to the very low. She has, for instance, an unabashed enthusiasm for celebrity autobiography – Cheryl Cole’s page-turner, Cheryl: My Story being a runaway favourite. “It’s genuinely one of the funniest books I’ve read in my whole life,” she laughs, without a hint of disingenuousness.

I suggest celebrity ghost-writing as a career option. In fact, Maguire has more than enough writing work for radio and TV on her plate. 2016 marks her return to performing at the Fringe, with two shows in the final stages of preparation. Why, I wonder, does she retain an urge to slog it out on the live circuit?

“You’ve got to have more skin in the game. Writing jokes for other people is all head. If someone spends an hour at your show, they want to connect with you, so you have to have a bit of blood, sweat and spunk in your hour.”