Owen O'Neill

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Owen O'Neill
BornCookstown, Northern Ireland
MediumStand up, television, film, theatre
NationalityNorthern Irish
Years active1985-present
GenresObservational comedy, Black comedy, Character comedy

Owen O'Neill is a Northern Irish writer, actor, director, and comedian.

Early life[edit]

O'Neill was born in Cookstown, Northern Ireland.[1] He has drawn on his upbringing in Cookstown for some of his more colourful characters in his standup and theatre work. Early comic influences included W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, and particularly Richard Pryor: "It was also poignant and heartfelt and I realised then that stand-up could be an art-form".[2] He briefly attended Queen’s University in Belfast studying English, but dropped out and worked various menial jobs in Italy, Amsterdam, and finally London at age 21.[2]


O'Neill cites his career as beginning in poetry.[2] In 1981 he entered and won a poetry competition for BBC Radio 4[3] and his stand-up evolved out of his poetry readings.[2] He debuted on television in 1985 on Saturday Live.[3] As an actor, he has appeared in the films Michael Collins and The General.[1]

O'Neill is a veteran of the Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, having performed stand-up or theatre gigs there for over twenty years. He was nominated for the 1994 Perrier Award with his show "It's a Bit Like This", and won a Fringe First in 1999 with Sean Hughes for the theatre show "Dehydrated and Travellin' Light".[4] Theatre sets have included 12 Angry Men, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and The Odd Couple. Stand-up has included "Off My Face" and "It Was Henry Fonda's Fault".

As a writer, his debut feature film Arise and Go Now was screened by BBC2 and was directed by Danny Boyle and starred Ian Bannen.[5] He has adapted a number of his works of short fictions to be plays or films.

His short film The Basket Case won the best Irish short at the 2008 Boston Irish Film Festival, where judges described it as "a beautiful and memorable film",[6] and best International short at The 2010 Fantaspoa film festival in Brazil.[7]

O'Neill's play Absolution performed on Off Broadway in 2010 to good reviews. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times praised the effective writing and O'Neill's performance as "hold[ing] the attention fast with its understated, almost offhand intensity.".[8] He won best actor at the Irish Theatre Festival Awards for the role.[9]

Awards and honours[edit]

Year Award Category For Result
1993 Cork Film Festival Best Irish Short Shooting to Stardom Won
Chicago International Film Festival Best Short Film[10] Won
1994 Perrier Comedy Awards[11] "It's A Bit Like This" Nominated
1998 LWT Writing Award Off My Face Won
1999 Fringe First[4] "Dehydrated & Travellin' Light" (with Sean Hughes), "Dead Meat" Won
2008 Boston Irish Film Festival[6] Best Irish Short The Basket Case Won
Brazilian Santa Posa Best Short Won
2010 First Irish Theatre Festival Awards Best Actor Absolution Won



  • Michael Collins (Rory O’Connor) (1998)
  • "Arise and Go Now" (writer) (1991)
  • The Basket Case (writer) (2008)


  • Shooting to Stardom (writer) (1993)
  • The Bill (George Rayburn) (2000)
  • The Fitz (writer) (2000)
  • DNA (writer) (2000)
  • Saints and Scholars (presenter) 2000-02


  • Much Ado About Nothing (Dogberry) (1998)
  • Off My Face (1998)
  • 12 Angry Men (2003)
  • One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Dale Harding) (2006)
  • The Odd Couple (Roy)(2005)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (2009)[12][13]
  • Absolution (Nathan, also playwright)(2010)


  • WB Yeats and Me (short story)
  • The Basket Case (short story)
  • Volcano Dancing (2006)


  1. ^ a b O'Neill, Emma (5 September 2009). "Owen O'Neill is Cookstown's Comedy King". CultureNorthernIreland. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Ginger Gene Returns". Belfast Telegraph. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Owen O'Neill". Comedy CV. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Sean Hughes Wins Fringe First". 31 August 1999. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Arise and Go Now". IMDB. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Irish Short The Basket Case Wins Award at Boston Irish Film Festival". Irish Film Board/Bord Scannán na hÉireann. 20 November 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  7. ^ "'The Basket Case' Wins Award". Film Ireland. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  8. ^ Isherwood, Charles (15 September 2010). "One Man's Wrathful Vengeance". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Owen O'Neill". Knight Hall Agency.
  10. ^ "Awards for Shooting to Stardom". IMDB. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Past Winners". Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Show. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  12. ^ Moffatt, Michael (17 May 2009). "Actors Who Have Served Their Time Bring Jail Hell Alive; THEATRE". Irish Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 30 October 2014.  – via Questia (subscription required)
  13. ^ Moffatt, Michael (24 May 2009). "A Little Escapism in King's Grim Classic; THEATRE". Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 30 October 2014.  – via Questia (subscription required)

External links[edit]

Owen O'Neill on IMDb