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How Pat Shortt made a comedy about emigration and 1916

“I think it’s a great thing in a comedy – that you can be serious about ourselves and look at ourselves.”

Image: Brian McEvoy

YOU KNOW WHO Pat Shortt is.

He’s Tom from Father Ted, one half of D’Unbelievables and the star of Killinaskully.

He’s also a film actor, comedian and chart-topping singer.

But what he represents is a quintessentially Irish brand of humour and satire. He is the Irishman’s Irishman.

Shortt’s new film The Flag, which was released in cinemas on Friday, tells a very Irish story which weaves emigration, Irish identity and 1916 together in a caper comedy.

Shortt plays Harry Hambridge, a man from a small town now living in London. After coming home for his finds out that not only did his grandfather raise the Irish flag above the GPO, but the British are keeping it in an army barracks.

With a fill of porter, Harry decides he’s getting it back and a heist plan is put in place.

While the film takes plenty of shots at the British establishment, it is essentially an examination of Irishness, something Shortt has also been seen doing on the small screen in TV3′s excellent Small Town.

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Sitting in a Dublin hotel, Shortt says that the comedy can easily be used to pose questions.

“When you play Irish characters, even from a comic point of view, you have to analyse them and think about them and the impact different things have had.

“(You have to think about) how they react to it, whether it’s religion, religion, whatever or in the case of The Flag that pride in being Irish.”

The Flag’s closing scenes see Harry at this year’s 1916 commemorations asking about Ireland as a nation – where we are and whether we actually honour the ideals of the 1916 dead.

“It’s a great part of the movie.

“I think it’s a great thing in a comedy – that you can be serious about ourselves and look at ourselves.”

Our world

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Looking at Irish people is something Shortt has plenty of experience with.

But he says that the Irishness of his output is rooted in an affection for Irish life – and the confidence we have in ourselves.

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“For a very small nation of people, our large world is the little world around us.

“So the guy who’s living in a rural village in Ireland – his world is as important as London or New York. And I think that’s a great confidence thing.

“That innocent kind of look at the world.”

He says his own character in the film – complete with Italia 90 jersey and Irish vinyl – “is in London, but may as well be in Ireland”.

And what’s next for him?

“I don’t want to do anything only keep working,” he laughs.

“I have a new live show that I’m looking forward to touring around the country with and taking to America and Australia.”

Indeed, Shortt’s popularity abroad shows that Irishness doesn’t end at the borders.

The Flag is in cinemas now.

Read: Trailer Watch: Which movie should you go see this weekend?

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