By Austin Kaiser
Nick Daly begins “The Truth about Debbie: An Irish Wake” by singing an Irish folk song about a man accepting death, which claimed his father and has finally come for him. It’s an exhilarating introduction to Mr. Daly’s tale about his Irish‑American family at the funeral of one of their clan.
Mr. Daly broadly discusses his family history, full of colorful characters. He impressively imitates many shades of the Irish accent, differentiating between second- and third-generation immigrants. When his Aunt Debbie passes away, Mr. Daly, together with his father and brother, follow the hearse to the cemetery after the wake. Dad is upset because Debbie died from an opioid overdose, yet everyone, including the priest, avoids the subject. Dad vows to announce the truth to the family. Having arrived, he makes his way to the priest and the coffin, and makes his proclamation. Mr. Daly and his brother laugh as they realize they followed the wrong hearse and arrived at the wrong funeral. Mr. Daly comically reenacts the shades of expression that melt across his father’s face as he realizes his mistake. The three men leave the funeral and go to a diner to laugh about how absurd the day has been.
This entertaining story, essentially one long anecdote, is one you might hear told at a bar by someone perched on a stool, holding court. In fact, a framing device of Mr. Daly recounting the events to a bartender would have been welcome, especially if the bartender gave him the hurry-up eyes during prolonged family-history digressions. These sometimes distracted from the main story in this thirty-minute show, which might benefit from a cleaner structure. The skeleton is there. Let’s put it on a treadmill and watch the muscles grow.
I liked Uncle Lou, a character who sometimes figured in Mr. Daly’s comic, Irish-flavored tangents. Lou is loveable, quick-talking, and relentlessly behaves however he wants. In one story, Uncle Lou offers to watch young Nick and his brother for the day. Mr. Daly’s mother agrees if Lou promises not to drink. He says, “Not a drop will touch these lips.” Okay, Uncle Lou will get drunk through a straw, then, I predict. Or he intends to use the kids for some scheme. But no. He takes them to the beach, gets drunk, and on the bus ride back home, smokes a cigar. When another passenger asks Lou to put it out, Lou whispers something in the bus driver’s ear, and the driver throws the other man off. I can’t say this long anecdote warranted the digression from the funeral narrative. We never find out what Lou said to the driver, and the many details— the drinking, the beach and the babysitting—don’t quite lead to enough of a payoff or punchline.
I love old NYC family stories, and give Mr. Daly a lot of credit. I hope he continues to develop this performance into something that leaves the audience with a shaken feeling they can carry out into the night. Mr. Daly’s show is equal parts comedy and drama, all sincere, all true. That means there is guaranteed gold where he is digging. Have at it.
“The Truth about Debbie: An Irish Wake”
Written and Performed by Nick Daly
Nov. 2 at 7:30pm
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
AUSTIN KAISER is a writer with an expertise in art and the creative process. His writing is about improving your imagination and exercising your empathy muscle. Kaiser is currently writing a book called, “100 Questions Every Artist Should Have The Answers To.” His other book, “How To Go Viral & Put Wings On Ideas: A Book For Content Creators & Young Artists,” explains how ideas travel and which ideas travel best. More at www.medium.com/@KaiserMane.