Comedy hero

Ardal O'Hanlon on Thermoman, stand-up, and disappointing his parents...

Ardal O'Hanlon has always been the unlikeliest of superheroes. And when he arrives for our interview to promote the next series of My Hero, his distinct limp hardly helps the image.

It turns out the injury is the result of helping a friend with his broken-down car. "Two of us attempted to push it," he admits. "It didn't move an inch but my vertebrae did ­ I was in agony for days."

ThermoMan would have lifted the car up with one finger, of course, even in the more mundane domestic life of his alter-ego George ­ who, in this new series, has to cope with new baby, Ollie, and his nascent superpowers, not least of which is the ability to talk like a wisecracking adult.

"The introduction of the baby adds a whole new dimension to the series," Ardal explains. "Because not only do you have the tensions of keeping George's alter-ego secret, but you also have the additional issue of a baby ­ and an out-of-control one at that."

"There are some great comedy moments which focus on the strain of keeping a secret and trying to behave normally in front of other people when, in reality, the situation is anything but."

Ardal says he's glad to be back on the show because "the scripts are high quality and I like working with the team" but he isn't be so enthusiastic to be reunited with his Lycra suit.

"It's a bugger to get on and off. You'd think I'd be used to it after all this time but it still takes me ten minutes just to get my arms in. It's also difficult when I'm wearing the visor because I can't actually see anything except a few dark shapes.

"Trying to play off other actors becomes impossible ­ I bet Sir Larry never had these kind of problems!"

When asked if he feels embarrassed about wearing the suit, Ardal is dismissive: "Oh, who cares? I'm used to looking and behaving like an idiot ­ and I can't complain because I've made a career out of it."

Given Ardal's background, it's surprising he began a career in show business at all. Born in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Ardal is the third of six children.

His parents are "staunchly normal". His father is a doctor and politician and his mother a teacher. When Ardal announced that he was going into show business because he couldn't face a career in medicine or accountancy, they were less than happy - but luckily it turned out OK.

"Yes, they've no longer disowned me," he says, " but it was touch and go for a while."

Ardal, who lives in Dublin with his wife and children, shot to fame as Father Dougal in Father Ted after a career on the comedy circuit in both Britain and Ireland, where he was one of the founding fathers of Dublin's Comedy Cellar.

He says stand-up is his first love, and is still a familiar face on the circuit.

"Nothing beats the buzz of performing in front of a live audience and knowing that this could be the night that it all goes wrong and you get found out ­ it's amazingly invigorating."

"There is really nothing better than performing live. I am a lucky, lucky man."

My Hero returns to BBC1 on May 31. Interview by Jo Waters for the BBC.

First published: May 13, 2002

Published: 22 Mar 2009

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.