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Brian Joyce wants people in Boston to laugh at the Irish, or at least with them.

And so they have thanks to Joyce’s company, Off the Boat Comedy, which has been bringing top Irish comedians to Boston, where they have played to sell-out audiences and helped to establish a beachhead for a new wave of Irish comedy in America.

Joyce grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts, a second generation Irish American. His grandparents were born and raised in Leenane, Co. Galway - Joyce country. He moved to Ireland in 2004 and stayed for a couple of years with his fiancé, who is from Dublin, and began doing his comedy routine there.

“I performed at all the major comedy venues: Vicar St. in Dublin, the Laughter Lounge, Cuba in Galway, the Craic House in Cork, and a few venues in London,” he says. “I did the Comedy on Tap Festival in Letterkenny in 2006 and the Edinburgh Fringe Fest in Scotland.”

When Joyce returned to Boston, he launched Off the Boat Comedy as a way of bringing Irish comics to the states. Ardal O’Hanlon, Colin Murphy, Tommy Tiernan and Ed Byrne have all played well in Boston.

There’s a new brand of comedy sweeping Ireland, Joyce says. “Irish comedy is very conversational, so they enjoy comedians who can work that style. It’s sharp, observational humor that is universally funny. Today’s Irish comics have the confidence and wit to make fun of everybody, including themselves!”

Boston, of course, has its share of Irish-American comedians: Denis Leary, Conan O’Brien, Steve Sweeney, Lenny Clarke, and Bill Burr. Which leads to the question: Is there a particular brand of local comedy that you could characterize as Irish-American humor?

“All those guys definitely have that sarcastic swagger that you see in the working class neighborhoods of Boston,” Joyce says. “The audience can recognize the Boston attitude straight away. It comes from our upbringing. My grandfather had a big, deep laugh like the Joker from Batman, and as soon as we came through the door, he would start messing around with us. My father was the same way - he had a wise guy remark about everything. That sharp sense of humor is unique to the Irish.”

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by Michael P. Quinlin

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