Dara O'Briain

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

Last year, Dara O'Briain put together what he considered a poignant, deep and, most importantly, critic-friendly show covering the death of his grandmother, a former Irish freedom fighter.

But all the reviewers said was that he was bear-like - or ursine if they were from the posh papers.

And that's the thing with O'Brian. He's so good at being the jovial, friendly Irishman that it's easy to ignore the remarkably intelligent material just beneath that veneer.

He'll undermine the conventions of stand-up with a mocking bit of banter, flirt with political issues, then mention a Homeric odyssey in the same breath as a knob gag. But because he doesn't brandish his intellect as ostentatiously as some of his more studenty colleagues, it barely warrants a mention.

But the fact that he doesn't wear his smarts on his sleeve is just part of his faultless technique. Yes, he talks fast, rattling out so many words a minute his routine could be used as an advanced Teeline exam, but he never does less than command a room.

And this with no gimmick other than a microphone - and possibly his loud jacket lining. Even the structure's loose - the train of thought often seems as sturdy as a Connex suburban - which so often spells disaster for an hour-long show. Yet here it all comes together impeccably well.

He wafts through subjects such as swimming with dolphins, his shady past as a kids' TV host, or the folly of taking balloon safaris. Admittedly that sounds like a tedious 'what I did in my holidays' essay, but belted out with such passion and wit that you really feel involved. And any show that contains the line, "Fuck off, he's my dwarf," has to come with a hearty recommendation.

With this year's offering, O'Briain has again proved he is simply one of the finest, no-nonsense comics to grace Britain's comedy stages. If you're not in awe of his talent, you can't be a fan of comedy.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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