I remember running into Jeremy Hardy after a gig in Róisín Dubh a few years ago. Having been a serious fan of his work for over twenty years, I gave him a nod of recognition. Having never heard of me in his entire life, he returned the greeting. That was the kind of guy he was – warm, open, maybe a little short-sighted.
Alas, I didn’t get a chance to chat with him. But what would I have said? Probably something embarrassing like how, in one of those weird and deeply meaningful coincidences, our parents had the same first names. I’d have a looked like an idiot, and for good reason. But what can you say to someone you genuinely regard as a hero?
If I could have found the words, I would have said he was the most insightful, important, and consistently funny comedian I knew. Which would be true, but also wrong. In a lot of ways he wasn’t a comedian, primarily. Comedy was the means, but the aim was to change the world for the better. His seemingly unstoppable comic inventiveness was employed to spread a passionate message of tolerance, sanity, kindness. And he succeeded in that aim. The world will be a less kind, less sane place now he is gone.
Britain in particular will miss him sorely. Recently he seemed almost the last voice of sanity left in that benighted place. He was certainly one of the very few British comics who understood Ireland. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of his sudden departure is that we needed him today more than ever.
All these things I would have wanted to say, now it’s too late. And there would never have been a way to say them anyway.