Just throwing shit at the wall... | Marissa Burgess interviews Dara O Briain

Just throwing shit at the wall...

Marissa Burgess interviews Dara O Briain

Dara O Briain appears quite pleased with the way the interview is going. ‘This is a lot better than, “What was it like recording your DVD?” Which is the question I’ve had to answer four fucking hundred times,’ he exclaims.

‘You try to go, “The magic of a night like that! It is a roll of the dice, a crazy lottery, it’s the roulette of laughter,’ as opposed to, “I just did the show I’ve done 103 times and that night was more brightly lit than other nights.”’

It’s been a long couple of days for O Briain, publicising his DVD launch; and anyone who has ever been in a stand-up show that’s being recorded will know that it’s, well… not a lot different from any other night.

But O Briain is being modest in suggesting it’s the same show he’s performed more than 100 times. No show is exactly the same with him, as he’s one of the most inventive comedians around, taking great delight in engaging his often reluctant front row in conversation, and seeing where it leads him.

‘One night in Bridlington a man who fires chickens into an aircraft engine for Rolls-Royce was in, and that was just joy. He wasn’t even the best. The best was where we had a man whose wife was kidnapped, actual quote, “My wife was kidnapped by a limo driver near some famous lighthouse for four hours.”,

‘I said, “Why?” He said, “I don’t know, I never thought to ask.” Who would not ask! That makes up for the fact that every other night it’s a man who works in finance or a man who works in IT.’

So what did make it on to the DVD in the end?

‘The major themes of the show are crime, community and bad science and ranting about that, and being unforgiving and quite violent towards the homeopath. Other than that it’s the usual - just throwing shit at the wall as all my shows are, see what you like and what you don’t like.

‘A cobbler became a part of the show, yeah and a man who looked for oil in Reading though that’s not exactly what he did but I entirely misrepresented him,’ he chuckles.

Given his love of improvising and throwing himself at the mercy of the audience and their professions it’s perhaps unsurprising then that O Briain’s interest in stand-up was piqued while on the debating team at University College, Dublin.

‘It amazed me the first time I did it, I remember being impressed with the public speaking part of debate and then in the very first speech cracking a joke at the start and getting a round of applause and a laugh. I was genuinely, “Whoa! What the fuck was that?”

‘By the end of university I would see 300 people sitting in a lecture hall at 10 o’clock in the morning, just waiting for psychology or something, and think, “That is a crowd and I bet I can make that crowd laugh.” I would have a lot of fun doing that.’

One of the first places he began to hone his art off-campus was at Dublin’s infamous Comedy Cellar, founded in 1987 by, among others, Ardal O’Hanlon, Barry Murphy and Kevin Gildea.

‘I would have done my third gig in Ireland in the Comedy Cellar,’ he says. ‘I did my first Comedy Cellar gig on the same day Jason Byrne did his and he was much better than me. It would have been 1995, a beautiful summer, not just weather-wise but also comedically. Dylan [Moran] had just left there, Tommy [Tiernan] was just starting as well that summer. There was a pub where we’d all meet after our various gigs and we’d end up just talking and dissecting the night.’

He drifts further into his reverie. ‘It’s a great gig, you’ve reminded me of the happiest… it’s like my Rosebud moment, I remember how great that was, never ever be as innocent again,’ he smiles, referencing Citizen Kane.

‘Thanks for bringing that up, I’m staying in an amazingly fancy hotel in London but am I happy? Happy as back then when I was playing the Comedy Cellar for £38, maybe, if there were a lot of people in, am I? Actually yes, it turns out I am...’

Published: 25 Nov 2008

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