Dara O’Briain returns to the Ipswich Regent on October 20 with new show Crowd Tickler

Dara O'Briain

Dara O'Briain - Credit: Archant

Event’s James Rampton spoke to comedian Dara O’Briain ahead of his second trip to the Ipswich Regent this year.

Dara O'Briain. Photo: Angst Productions / Guy Levy

Dara O'Briain. Photo: Angst Productions / Guy Levy - Credit: BBC/Angst Productions

It’s been three years since O’Briain. After a spell away in the TV studio making such successful shows like Mock the Week, The Apprentice: You’re Fired! and Star Gazing Live, he returns to his first love, live comedy. He couldn’t be happier about it.

There is nothing he adores more than a theatre, saying: “The other day, I sat in an empty theatre thinking ‘I just love these rooms.’ I’m on the board of the Theatres Trust in order to protect these wonderful buildings. It’s not about nimby-ism; it’s because I adore these places. It still gives me such a thrill to walk on stage.”

Audiences get a similar thrill because there is surely no better live comedian currently at work.

Dubbed “the king of audience interaction”, he excels at rapid-fire exchanges with his fans and delivers a dazzling mixture of witty, daring, thought-provoking and downright hilarious anecdotes. There is no other comedian quite like O’Briain.

The critics are in agreement. The Guardian declares “these are classy routines, that assume the audience’s intelligence and condescend to no one”. While The Times is more short and sweet, describing his live show as “typically brilliant”.

O’Briain, who grew up in Dublin and has been called Britain’s “favourite Irishman” by The Irish Independent, says he couldn’t resist returning to touring because live comedy is quite simply addictive.

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“When you arrive at an empty theatre, the potential is immense. You think ‘this is going to be magical’,” beams the stand-up, whose mastery of live comedy is underlined by his four previous classic stand-up DVDs Craic Dealer, This Is The Show, Dara O Briain Talks Funny Live In London and Dara O Briain Live at the Theatre Royal.

“Then, when the show starts and you hear those waves of laughter in the auditorium, it’s just so enjoyable. It’s a huge rush.”

The other element of stand-up he relishes is its sheer spontaneity. He is surely unrivalled in his ability to swap off-the-cuff quips with his audience.

“I love the fact you can shape the entire evening by thinking on your feet. If plan A doesn’t work, you have to come up with plan B immediately.”

The 42-year-old, married with two young children, adds his improvised riffing with the audience creates: “A tremendous frisson. It’s like walking a tightrope. The audience love it because they can see you’ve got nothing up your sleeve and that things could very easily go wrong. They realise this could go anywhere. You’re not given any easy ride.

“When I’m questioning the audience, my stance is not ‘how can I mock this person’? It’s ‘I am an eight-year-old meeting this person for the first time. What aspects of them do I want to talk and enthuse about’?”

The comic - a graduate from University College Dublin in mathematics and theoretical physics who has drawn on that background to present such TV shows as Dara O’Briain: School of Hard Sums and Dara O’Briain’s Science Club - carries on that his audience never lets him down.

“Everyone has something to give me. The other day this guy in the audience told me he had a very dull-sounding job in HR. He said he was the comptroller – no one ever knows what that means. It then emerged that in fact he worked in HR for a chocolate company.

“So I came up with the idea that he would put a large bowl of chocolate down on the desk in front of a potential employee and then turn away. When he turned back, if the potential employee hadn’t got chocolate all over his face, then he’d get the job. If you can survive in an arena of grab-able chocolate without taking any, then you’re the man for the job.”

Hitting his rhetorical stride by now, he continues: “I then thought his friend might work for a toothpaste company. How great that they could put aside their differences, despite working in jobs that nullify each other. It would be like a tobacconist being friends with a lung transplant surgeon. As long as they don’t talk about work, they’ll be okay.”

O’Briain proceeds to outline the themes he will be discussing in Crowd Tickler.

“I’ll be talking about the awkward conversations we will have about grandchildren about all the resources we’ve used up and all the wonderful advances we’ve casually wasted, like Concorde and the space shuttle.”

The comedian will also be tackling the subject of: “An angel therapist who is leading a campaign to remove fluoride from the water in Ireland because she thinks it’s poisoning the nation. For sheer energy, you have to admire her campaign.

“I always enjoy demolishing idiotic arguments. It suits comedy. If you take it to its logical conclusion, it’s madness. It’s a reductio ad absurdum.”

Despite his wonderfully clever routines, the comedian underscores the show is first and foremost about jokes.

O’Briain, who has made a huge success of hosting 13 series of Mock the Week on BBC2, wants the audience for Crowd Tickler primarily to roar with laughter.

“It’s great to tackle subjects that are more thought-provoking, but I have this dread that people will go ‘oh Dara’s show – there’ll be some bit where he bores us with some science thing’.”

He jokily sums up the effect he hopes Crowd Tickler will have on his audience.

“I hope they’re unable to talk because I’ve beaten them over the head with so much humour and punched them repeatedly in the face with jokes – that’s my aim,” he laughs. “I want them spent. I want them silently driving back home absorbing it all, while I’m left in the empty theatre quietly wiping the make-up off my face in a mirror surrounded by light bulbs.

“I make points here and there, but that’s secondary. Above all, I hope it’s a great night’s entertainment. I hope people walk out and say ‘Dara’s still got it. I hope he doesn’t leave it another three years’. If they do that, then I will be delighted.”

Read entertainment writer Wayne Savage’s review of O’Briain’s April performance here.

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