wed 12/08/2020

Dara O Briain, touring | reviews, news & interviews

Dara O Briain, touring

Dara O Briain, touring

Mock the Week host makes a triumphant return to stand-up

Dara O Briain: one of the brightest and most quick-witted comics around

What a joy to welcome Dara O Briain back into the stand-up fold. The Irishman has been away from live performance for five years because he has been busy hosting the panel show Mock the Week and mucking about in boats on various Three Men... series, both on the BBC, and writing a travelogue, Tickling the English, which is about to be released in paperback. His hunger to interact with an audience is almost palpable as he strides to the front of the stage.

O Briain is one of the brightest and most quick-witted comics around as the first half of this show (which I saw at the glorious Winter Gardens in Margate) attests. He picks on various people in the front row - not in a horrible way, you understand; he may be a big guy, but he’s no bully - and strikes comedy gold. A science teacher - whose mathematical shortcomings are cruelly pointed out - and then a non-commercial toilet-fitter (yep, I didn’t know there were different kinds of toilet-fitters either) try to outwit him with arcane details of their jobs. But O Briain trumps them each time, seamlessly fitting jokes and anecdotes around each piece of information he elicits from them. He’s also done his research and makes much fun of the venue’s history and its locality.

The immediate good humour in the room is helped by the fact that O Briain is currently carrying an injury. He recently badly scalded one of his feet and so takes to the stage in socks. “It’s not a Sandie Shaw thing,” he tells us. “Just that I can’t put my left shoe on. And if I can’t put my left shoe on there’s no fecking point in putting the right one on.” Fair point, well made.

There’s no theme to this show - just O Briain talking about stuff that moves him to irritation or bemusement, whichever comes sooner. So we hear that he thinks Ben Fogle and James Cracknell are twats - “What’s the point of them?” - and he doesn’t rate chiropractors, but he isn’t going to diss Muslims because, unlike Catholics, they don’t make him give up sweets for Lent. He mentions becoming a father since he last did stand-up, but says he won’t be doing material about it because it’s puke-forming when comics do that. He does, however, manage to get about four non-soppy jokes in that statement.

In the second half of the show O Briain does more extended routines, including one in which he hilariously skewers the modern middle-class mores of birthing children. He also talks about video games and the idiocies of apocalyptic film 2012, neither of which subjects in any way interests me (and I suspect a fair share of his audience), but here O Briain is entering newer, more surreal territory than previously, and as both build into bizarrely logical unreality one has to admire the clever constructs and his passionate delivery.

After an almost three-hour set that never palls and in which neither warmth nor energy drop, O Briain draws together all the threads of the evening in a riff that he must have composed in the interval. At Margate, he was on such a buzz he started sliding across the stage like a six-year-old at a wedding and this delightful and frankly bizarre sight of a 6ft 4in man sliding aaround in his socked feet is one that I will carry in my head for some time. For future audiences’ sake, I hope O Briain retains the joys of doing his Sandie Shaw impression for a while longer.

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He did stand-up in 2008 and 2006.

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