Fred Cooke is a name that may be lost on a lot of people but come on – who could forget that face. Cooke rose to fame in the hugely successful Spar advertising campaign in which he played the hapless Fergal. Fred has since become a regular on national television and can be seen splitting sides on the Irish stand-up circuit on a weekly basis. He is slowly shaking the title of Ireland’s best kept comedy secret. Flux caught up with him just before he started the recording for a brand new comedy album in City Limits, Cork.
Fred’s work as a writer and performer can be seen scattered throughout a plethora of different RTE shows including Republic of Telly, The Savage Eye and The Café, where he plays that crazy chef. But does he prefer TV to stand up?
“I really love both. I think the relationship between stand-up and TV is symbiotic with material been used on the stage, then parlayed onto the screen. The Savage Eye was mighty fun to work on. I couldn’t hold a straight face for one scene with John Colleary and Patrick Mc Donnell. I’m desperate when it comes to awkward comical tension. I cry laughing. Even as a kid having Mass in my neighbour’s sitting room. The priest always thought I was off my head,” Fred told Flux.
“Well the Euro crunch offers, they’re so low they’ve eh…hit the floor?”- Fred’s famous line that kept people laughing through the ad breaks. Does he ever get annoyed by being recognized as “that eejit from the Spar ad”?
“I got an ad for McDonald’s but then the same advertising company put me in for the Spar job instead. At least, I think that’s what happened. I never get annoyed with notoriety. I find it quite funny when people ask me: “Sorry, are you yer man?” My natural answer can only be yes,” he said.
Fred is confident that it never gets in the way of his stand-up act. “It neither helps nor hinders my stand-up. I have too much stuff to joke about from the get go. Making the ads was a laugh – long intense days of filming for 30 second ads. Since I was in school until this very day, I always think “How much craic can I knock out of something?” Those ads were full of spontaneous craic,” said Fred.
Fred has shared the stage with some massive names in Irish comedy, from Tommy Tiernan to Dara O’Briain. Has he learned a lot from these experiences?
“Even sharing the stage with those acts gives you an unforced confidence as a performer. What always surprised me about these acts is the attention to detail in their work. Even with such a successful high profile, these acts never seem to rest on their laurels. Keeping your head fresh with new ideas creates longevity in your own head and your returning audience.”
Fred has previously been busy on the festival circuit and recently MC’d at the fantastic Vodafone Comedy Festival, where he used a lot of music in his act. But is music something he’s always used in his performances?
“For the first two years of stand-up, I never used music. I was a bit snobby about it, thinking it’s a crutch for actual jokes. But then I seen people like David McSavage and Tim Minchin incorporating music into their shows. I started to realize that it can give a different dimension to a show, without taking it away from the actual joke.”
Fred could only hint at a possible new TV venture to us, unfortunately keeping the details in the mist. However he is touring around Ireland at the moment with the brilliant Chris Kent and returns to one of his favourite venues in Dublin, The Workman’s Club, on December 18th. I’d highly recommend getting a ticket.
IMAGE CREDIT: jmcarthy99