Dara o Briain: Craic Dealer

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Dara O Briain is well aware that every show wants an epic ‘bang’ moment, wishing aloud that he had anything in his routine to rival last year’s Oban fireworks, when the night’s entire spectacle was accidentally unleashed in one 45-second blitz.

But performance pyrotechnics are not really his style; he’s the sort of comic who makes it look easy, just like having a chat.

That’s quite literally true in for much of Craic Dealer, especially the first half, where he invites plenty of interaction from the audience. There’s the usual ‘what do you do for a living?’ question - which he acknowledges is obvious, but still opens the door for a few running jokes, such as the Welsh hog roast owner/operator who made the trip down the M4 just to see this show, or the grumpy front-row patron who seems determined not to enjoy a single joke.

But the questions get more inventive, from asking the crowd what they might shout to scare off a burglar, to suggestions for unusual or unsuitable stories a primary school could take on instead of the same old Nativity. O Briain’s been on the road a long time with this show – including a mammoth run in Dublin – so these segments almost seem as much designed to mix things up for his benefit, as they are for ours. Nonetheless, he’s a skilled ‘Banter Claus’ who delivers comic gifts from any relaxed chat, and never really at anyone’s expense.

It’s not all badinage, there are some strong set pieces here that are naturally more dependably funny than the improvised stuff. Stand-outs include his take on the difference between men and women (the under-fives versions), the preposterous names rappers give themselves and the worst thing anyone’s done on holiday.

With Stargazing Live behind him and a new science-based BBC show ahead of him, O Briain’s got the geek market covered. Newer comics who take this route tend to play up their introverted and social misfit side – as if that was any advertisement for their passions – but O Briain lights up as he shares his enthusiasm for the wonders of universe... or more precisely his infuriation at the quacks and the charlatans who deny the scientific way. Or, as he puts it: ‘I get irrationally angry at things that offend me on a rational level.’

Corpse-bothering grief vampire Sally Morgan is a popular choice of target, given the cheer that goes up in the room when the topic is breached, and O Briain will make a convincing case for astrology being worse than the most hideously offensive prejudice. This all plays well to the gallery, for O Briain knows his audience. Who else could get a big laugh from the line: ‘He was using a SCART!’

There’s a slightly rowdy air to the night, encouraged by O Briain’s invitations for punters to shout out suggestions, which moves the night away from the sterile experiences some TV comics’ tours can be. A couple of knobheads made their konbheadedness clear, but were quickly and deftly put back in their place.

In many ways it’s a no-frills show, without a classic, defining routine, that will go down in the annals of stand-up history. But O Briain maintains a constant barrage of laughs over a two-hour show – and that’s definitely not as easy as he makes it look.

Review date: 20 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Eventim Apollo

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