Go and see Father Dougal in Dubai. Go on go on go on GO ON!
What’s On speaks to Father Ted star Ardal O’Hanlon performing his stand-up comedy in Dubai at Almas Tower, opposite McGettigan’s, JLT on Friday May 2.
You were instrumental in establishing a comedy scene in Dublin – how does the current scene in the city compare with back then? There were only a handful of like-minded pioneers when we started. Now there are legions of comedians out there, thousands of them roaming the streets looking for comedy scraps. The biggest difference is that it was probably more experimental in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
You started out in stand-up and went on achieve success both in comic and straight acting roles. Do you still view yourself as a stand-up comedian first and foremost? Yes. The acting jobs are a welcome break but stand-up is the bread and butter, the vocation, the way of life.
Did you always know this was what you wanted to do? To be honest I never knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to write but had no grand plan or vision. People who knew me growing up are shocked when they hear of what I do. But it seems now like it’s the most sensible job in the world.
Ireland is famously a country of storytellers. Has the experience of growing up in Ireland informed your material? Without a doubt. While I play all over the world to all sorts of audiences, my sensibility is Irish, my rhythms are Irish, and my comedy is rooted in an Irish sense of the absurd. More specifically, growing up in County Monaghan means there is a dark deadpan edge to the material.
What else inspires you when it comes to writing for your stand-up shows? Everyday life, my own petty frustrations, the follies of mankind. You don’t have to look very far to find all sorts of stupidity.
Do you still get nervous before going on stage? Not really. I used to be bad, one of the worst, pacing and retching, but it doesn’t bother me so much now. I just go a bit quiet and eat bananas.
What has been your most memorable stand-up gig to date? There have been a few. The first one ever in Dublin’s International Bar, the first time I played the Comedy Store in London, and there was one in New York’s Town Hall a few years ago with Dylan Moran and Tommy Tiernan which was a bit of a highlight.
Have there been any you would rather forget? I did a few misguided gigs in prisons when I was younger, I’m still scarred by the experience. And there was one in the lobby of a cinema complex in Basildon, Essex where people in Motorhead t-shirts were playing fruit machines, which was the only time I ever thought of packing it in. These were character-building experiences.
Who are your personal comedy heroes? They come and go. At different times in my life, I liked Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton, Steve Martin, Steven Wright, Eddie Izzard, Bill Hicks, Hans Teeuwen, Reggie Watts, Stewart Francis – the list goes on.
Have you spotted any up and coming comics you think are destined for stardom? Far too many of the b******s.
Which country has the best audiences? Americans are most enthusiastic, Irish are liveliest, English most discerning and fairest.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals? Lots of naps.
Father Ted left our screens 15 years ago, but the show was so popular that fans still associate you with the character of Father Dougal – does it bother you? Not really. I’m proud of the show and it opened a lot of doors for me, but I’ve managed to get on with my life and work without looking over my shoulder too much or worrying about what other people think.
Do you have a favourite episode? Speed 3 [a parody of the action thrillers Speed and Speed 2] would be up there.
Did you base the character on anyone you know? It’s kind of a composite of my sister, one of the writers, a dog and Stan Laurel.
Do you know any real-life Father Jacks or Mrs Doyles? Most of the population of Ireland.
What’s coming up for you after your Dubai trip? The Cats Laugh Comedy Festival in Kilkenny followed by a few other festivals lined during the summer.
Almas Tower, opposite McGettigan’s, JLT, Dubai, May 2, 8pm, Dhs125. Tel: (04) 3560560. Metro: JLT. mcgettigansdubai.com