Known across Irish and UK TV as one of the busiest comedians in the biz, BBMLive’s Hannah Shakir checks in with Dara O’Briain ahead of his return to Australia for the first time in 16 years.
Humbly under the influence of thinking that no one would remember him in Australia, Dara says he might as well have never have even performed Downunder as who would remember that bloke with a oddly spelled surname from 16 years ago?
Speaking like it was yesterday, Dara recalls his time in Australia “…we did the Adelaide Fringe, did the Melbourne Comedy Festival a couple of times and then just never got the chance to go back. Really irritating, phenomenally irritating because I completely fell in love with Melbourne in particular, and I was almost going to buy a house over there. I thought ‘oh my God, this is amazing’. And then didn’t get to go back for 16 years.”
Talking about what’s kept him away – and evidently it’s his busy TV schedule, Dara elaborates the reasons behind his hiatus from the Southern Hemisphere, “It was originally because a terrible television station in Ireland kept saying ‘we’ll definitely be doing something next spring. We’ve got big plans for you next spring.’ And I kept cancelling Melbourne for three years in a row. Then I eventually left Ireland because it was just ridiculous and then when I went to London, it just became this all-encompassing thing and so, I couldn’t take off. And then slightly later, it was because I’d be touring here, sort of, every spring. And then it became an issue of my wife patiently saying to me ‘why are you going to Australia for a month?’ And I go ‘because I’d like to dance for a month, like I did when I was 28, and she’s going ‘er, no. We’ve got small children here. I’d like you to be here.’ So, it really had to happen like this, where I was going over for something else.”
The something else being his popular Stargazing program that has some how rocketed in the TV ratings. “I’m going over for Stargazing Live, which is in Australia this year, and then the production team is staying on to do it again for ABC over there, including Brian Cox. But instead, I’m saying ‘bye-bye suckers’ and going on a tour instead.” Continuing on how he’s made this trip to Aus viable, “So, it’s at a level that I can justifiably now go ‘no, this is great. This is worth doing.’ It’s not just me going to dance in the Hi-Fi Club, if that even still exists 16 years later, ‘til five in the morning.”
Speaking about gazing at the skies of the Southern Hemisphere once more and encountering the Milky Walk and the Southern Cross, Dara recalls a trip to Heron Island, “The high point of which – well, there were many, many high points – was when I checked in, there was a woman standing in the reception area having a breakdown and screaming ‘I’m scared of birds. Why are there so many birds here?’ Because she’s come for a diving holiday and she was surprised to see so many birds. The woman there was patiently waiting to go ‘it’s called Heron Island. What do you think? There would be no birds at Heron Island?’ And it’s covered in birds. But the woman had to go back on to a helicopter to be taken off Heron Island because she hadn’t put two and two together.”
Speaking about his material for his Australian tour, Dara enthuses about getting the audience involved. “Having not been back for so long, it’ll all be new and exciting because I will go ‘hey, what do you do for a living?’ and will naturally presume that everyone will say something enormously and iconically Australian – ‘I breed kangaroos’ – but everyone will just be ‘I.T.’ and ‘I work in mid-management in a finance company’ like everywhere else in the world. But I presume I’ll walk out and it’ll all be really, really typically Australian. ‘Well, actually I’m an Aussie Rules player’ you know? But there’s going to be a lot of messing around and stuff that’s happening off the cuff on a night.” Continuing, “And then I may also unveil The Australia Suite, which is all the routines I’ve done over the last 16 years which were directly or indirectly inspired by the fact I came to Australia twice in my 20s. I kept going off doing diving and looking at animals and all sorts of other things and they kept popping up in routines. So, I may unveil a Best of Australia, just a ‘thank you for the many great stories you’ve given me’ and now finally get a chance to do them actually in Australia.”
With St Patrick’s Day around the corner, Dara explains his “weird weekend” ahead of him… one that could only be endured by an Irish comedian, “I’m going over to Dublin for the first time in what must be a decade at least, maybe more. So, I’ll be in Dublin for Paddy’s Day. Which, by the way, isn’t some enormous emotional homecoming. Dublin is carnage on Paddy’s Day.” Continuing on St Patrick’s Day in Dublin, “It’s people getting very drunk, can’t get anywhere and it’s just a mess.”
Spending his evening doing a Comic Relief gig, Dara explains, “There’s never really been a Comic Relief thing in Ireland and a friend of mine organised a gig. She basically got all of us to do it. So, every Irish comedian you’ve ever or never heard of are all playing one huge arena gig on Friday night. So, I’ve got to find seven minutes of stuff, which they also haven’t heard, to do that. So, I’m sort of having a seven-minute gig interrupting a reunion with 20 comics who I haven’t seen for a couple of years. So, it’s going to be great. And once we get the small matter of the seven-thousand people who bought tickets out of the way and we can actually sit down and start talking to each other, that’s the thing you know, there’s a whole generation of us. Because when you’re a touring comic, you don’t get to see each other that often because you’re off doing your show, they’re off doing their shows and you exist in your little bubbles. So, getting us all together – so, I’ve got that. And then I come back from that and I’m the grand marshal of the Saint Paddy’s Day Parade in London. So, I get what I presume will be a deeply embarrassing walk down from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square. I’m doing the wave right now, by the way. I’ll wave left and right as the representative of the Irish people.”
With Dara having such a varied career including panel shows, Stargazing and of course stand up, I ask him which he prefers and excitedly he replies, “most fun of all those is stand-up because it’s just you in control. There’s no-one else to worry about. And therefore, all the risk and reward is on your back. If you’re in a show and you go ‘right, hang on. You said what? I’m going to go down this rabbit hole now and you’re all coming with me because I think this could be a funny thing.’ And that gamble is just yours alone. And if, or ideally when it pays off, the reward is also all yours. It’s a great rush. You’re just completely in charge of it. And you get an audience to yourself for two hours. So, yes, it’s play time.”
Catch Dara O’Briain in Sydney on 2nd April, and Melbourne on 4th April. Tickets available via www.ticketmaster.com.au
Get tickets to Sydney Comedy Festival 2017
by Hannah Shakir