Currently performing in a Dublin play, he’s about to tour Australia, so we gave him a call…
Did you ever imagine telling jokes would help you travel the world? That is one of the reasons why I still do it and really want to do it. Every day I pinch myself that I can do something I really like. Some days you tear your hair out, but it’s a great thing to do. It’s more than a job for sure, I do think it’s a vocation of sorts. I always feel stand-up is a great outlet for people who don’t have any discernible talent in music or sport or sculpture or whatever. It’s a great medium for chancers. It’s amazing to me because I started out when stand-up was very niche and obscure, but in the intervening 20 years it’s become this huge thing. I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s handy!
How come there are so many good Irish comedians? That’s very hard to answer because you get in danger of stereotyping. I think Irish people are very outgoing, they’re very user-friendly or something. Lots of countries and cultures produce lots of brilliant comedians, the Irish are just very out there and friendly, and they exploit their charm or whatever… ha, it’s very dangerous ground we’re on here, you know that don’t you?! There’s definitely a pattern that Irish people do well in this field. I think it’s partly due to the fact that, I remember growing up, humour was always part of everything. Even going into a shop to get a newspaper you had to have a bit of craic with the guy, it was just a part of life.
Getting into comedy by starting your own club seems a lot more assertive than a lot of your characters… Well, just to clarify, setting up a club. It was so basic and random, just a bunch of lads who very sheepishly asked to use an upstairs room. There wasn’t even a microphone.
Is it frustrating when people still confuse you with Dougal? Yes, it does annoy me, a little bit. But I’ve done a fair few things over the years so I’ve managed to put some distance between those characters and who I am. But it was because it was such a popular show, you accept that 100 per cent. If people think I’m Dougal then fine.
Do you change your act much abroad? My experience is that Australian audiences aren’t unlike British or Irish audiences. I’ve always wanted to appeal to a regular comedy crowd, I don’t care where they’re from, I try to do stuff that is universal in scope, even if it’s about my life and random fears.
Ever get heckled much? Not really. It’s something that happened a lot more in comedy clubs in London late at night. I genuinely don’t think it’s a huge feature of comedy tours these days. There might be banter and exchange, but it’s not nasty. I remember somebody getting sick in front of me at a late show in London about 15 years ago.
Will you see much of Australia? This time I am city-hopping a bit so I don’t expect to see as much of the country as I’d like to, but generally I would. It’s good to tune into what’s going on. I’m lucky enough to have other stuff, like TV, so stand-up is much more than a job for me. It’s something that I desperately want to do, or need to do, which is a sad admission. The reason I started it all was to see the world and understand the world and myself and human nature, hopefully without sounding too wanky about it. It’s a way of correcting your faults and trying to find humour in them.
Not opening an Irish pub then? Ah no, that day will come, we all do that in the end! But I think there’s enough Irish pubs out there…
Ardal O’Hanlon plays Perth (Apr 13), Sydney (Apr 16), then the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Apr 18-24), Adelaide (Apr 26) and Brisbane (Apr 27).