Ahead of the Vodafone Comedy Festival, we spoke with comedian Aoife O'Connor about Dublin's queer comedy scene and how she ended up opening for American stand-up Jim Gaffigan.
"It blew my expectations out of the water," says comedian Aoife O'Connor, describing her debut Vodafone Comedy Festival appearance last year. "All my favorite comedy people were there and I was also there for some reason?" she laughed.
Speaking on this year's line-up, the 22- year-old says she's particularly excited to rub shoulders with some of the international acts which include Jim Gaffigan (Bob's Burgers), White House correspondents' dinner comic Michelle Wolf, Josh Wolf (My Name is Earl), Dan Soder (Billions), and Catherine Cohen (Broad City).
"You get to see American comedians who you idolised suddenly standing in the Iveagh Gardens," Aoife explained. "It's a weird line-up that you wouldn't see anywhere else and I get really excited about the big names, Michelle Wolf is the person I'm most excited to see."
Having started her career just three years ago, the Donegal-raised stand-up has quickly found her niche in Ireland's comedy scene; running a monthly comedy night in Dublin's City Centre and hosting a pop-culture infused podcast called I Don't Know Her.
However, she insists it hasn't been an easy climb. "Starting in Donegal in places where people aren't necessarily showing up to see comedy - they're expecting musicians or some sort of act - you're just looking for the right audience from the minute you start.
"Coming to Dublin and travelling around Ireland, especially in the smaller towns, you find those audiences in the most bizarre places. You could be on a bill with all sorts of comedians in Mayo and it won't work, but then you go to a church in Sligo that's been converted into a gig for 70-year-old women and they're into it," she laughed.
"It's so dependent on what people want to hear and getting the right crowd."
Finding success as a performer is no easy task, but Aoife insists that the comedic community in Ireland is particularly supportive with some comedy clubs offering spots to new acts on a weekly basis.
"It's a really supportive community and not to toot the horn of the women, but women in comedy are the nicest group of people. There's always a few mates who will show up to your gigs and will hang back for drinks afterward."
As a queer woman, Aoife says she has noticed a progressive change in audiences when it comes to the stand-ups they expect to see on stage and the material they're willing to open up to.
"The change has been happening for years but it's been happening naturally in a low key way, people are becoming more accepting and more open to the opinions of diverse comedians. You have people like me coming in and our whole 'thing' isn't that we're gay but, sure, it can shape our jokes."
Not only is Aoife a part of a diverse Dublin line-up, but she's creating one along with fellow queer comedian Ruth Hunter with their comedy night Crash Comedy which takes place on the third Sunday of every month in The Workman's Club.
"We want to put that diverse line up out there for people so that they don't just come in and see six guys who are all telling the same kind of jokes about the same kind of things to the same kind of reactions. We want to put some other voices out there."
Inbetween festivals, gigs, and podcast recordings, Aoife managed to land herself a casual spot opening for comedy giant and American actor Jim Gaffigan - as you do.
"It's nuts. I was like, are you sure? I know other people, I can get you other people," she laughed. "It's exciting to back home to Donegal for that, I think I started in the worst ways possible in Donegal and now I'm going back to play the biggest venue they have.
"I think they were looking for someone who would know the crowd and, boy, do I know the crowd. I think my whole family and my old teachers and everyone I know will be there. Poor Jim Gaffigan is coming out to a crowd of my relatives."
For full details of the Vodafone Comedy Festival, visit www.vodafonecomedy.com.