Billy Magra: Pioneer of the Irish comedy scene returns after 40 years

Billy McGrath with Bob Geldof

BILLY Magra, a pioneer of the comedy circuit, makes a return to the stage after four decades.
After managing bands Stagalee (Tralee) and The Atrix (Dublin), in the early 1980s Billy McGrath ran a successful PR agency with clients U2, The Chieftains, Rory Gallagher and Christy Moore to name a few.
At night he was treading the boards as stand-up Billy Magra and in 1983 The Sunday World hailed him as ‘Ireland’s best comedian’ and among one of the pioneers of the live stand-up circuit in the country.
With the legendary Gay Byrne as key support, Billy performed on the Late Late Show and blazed a trail for others as he opened new clubs; promoted national tours, festivals and developed new talent Kevin McAleer, Michael Redmond, Ardal O’Hanlon, Dylan Moran and Limerick’s D’Unbelievables.
After all that, Billy made the move to London and as producer/director created TV/Film projects with U2; The Pogues; Clannad and Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. Billy produced and directed the feature length film Citizens of Boomtown – the story of The Boomtown Rats.
Billy told Limerick Post that he is returning to comedy after four decades.
“After directing a film in 2020 with The Boomtown Rats I decided to take the plunge back into live comedy and more than 40 years after my last solo show.”
Now McGrath has a one-man show called GUSTO playing at St John’s Theatre, Listowel at 8pm this Friday December 2.
“In the mid-1970s, I was sharing a house with Bob Geldof and promoting The Boomtown Rats’ 1st ever-Irish tour. The Falling Asunder Rock Revue played at The Glentworth Hotel in Limerick in July 1976 and a few months later I returned and opened up a weekly rock gig at The Glentworth on Sunday nights.
“I went on to manage Stagalee, They were in fact the first band to play the Glentworth and packed the place. I opened another live music gig night in Galway – helped by current Limerick arts activist and DJ Tom Prendergast and that begat a national rock circuit. That experience kick-started for me a career in music, TV, and film.”