One of Ireland’s best loved comics is back in Australia.
Dara Ó Briain is well known from British television shows such as Mock the Week and The Apprentice You’re Fired but he was familiar to Irish audiences long before that from shows like Don’t Feed the Gondolas and The Panel.
Fast-talking, charismatic, incredibly sharp and intelligent as well as very, very funny, Ó Briain brings his Voice of Reason tour to Australia this week.
The Bray native has long held a great affection for Australia and almost moved to Melbourne at one point, he reveals.
“I had a couple of big years in Australia when I was much younger as a comic. I came over for the Melbourne Festival, did the Adelaide Fringe and I genuinely thought I was going to be spending a lot of time in Australia.
“I even looked at buying a flat in Melbourne. I totally fell for the place and then I didn’t go back for 16 years because of work.
“I got screwed over by RTE at home basically: ‘No, no, no, don’t go to Australia because we’re definitely going to do a thing with ya’. And I lost out on the Melbourne Festival because RTE promised me to do something.
“Basically it got to a point in my life where it was difficult to justify to my new wife why I would spend three months partying in Australia so it became less of a priority and it became a distant thing until a few years ago when i went back again.
“It was like, ‘where have you been all my life?’ It was fantastic but it was very different to go from playing a small room at a comedy festival in Melbourne to doing two nights in the Opera House in Sydney which is what we did last time. That was like, ‘Okay, this is great, I haven’t had to do any work to get this but I’m in the Opera House, fantastic’. Australia’s golden, glorious for me. I love it to bits.”
It was in 2017 that the now 47-year-old was last here to do those two shows at Sydney Opera House as well as gigs in Melbourne and Perth.
He constantly met the young Irish in Australia at the time and empathised with them and the dreaded farm work requirement for those who want to extend their stay.
“There was a bit of irritation over their whole 88 days. The opening line I had was, ‘Hello Sydney, I’m going to Melbourne, then I’ve got to do 88 days working on a farm, then I’ve got a show in Perth’. That was the opening line that I had and that got a huge laugh from the Irish, all of whom were trying to avoid doing 88 days working on a farm.
“The audience was one third Irish, one third British and one third Australian so it made kind of an interesting tension to play with.
“You couldn’t just fall back on the idea of it being an Irish expat crowd, that kind of, ‘oh my God, remember the old days?’ Luckily I don’t have to do that so it keeps you fairly honest.
“The (Australian) audiences are not that different, they’re storytellers like the Irish.”
Ó Briain may be familiar from his television presenting, and has been announced as the host of a forthcoming revamped Blockbusters, but his own stand-up shows allow him more freedom.
“Mock the Week, the panel show is great fun to do because you’re amongst friends ... but in terms of delivering the best comedy I can do, that happens when I’ve got you for a while, when I’ve got you for the evening. When I’ve got you for two halves of the show, I know I can set something up at the start that pays off an hour and a half later.
“When you’re doing a panel show, it’s really in and then out of there and that’s great, great for getting gags out, gags rather than stories.
“On stage, you really come across as who you are, personality-wise and can play with that. I have their attention now and instead of going boom, boom, boom with the jokes, I’m going to set them up and the dominoes will fall later. Especially as I’ve been doing it for so long now, the shows work in a complicated way.”
His Voice of Reason show has been described as a reflection on some of mid-life’s mundanity with some topical issues like Brexit thrown in.
He’s reluctant to reveal much about his material, an exercise he likens to a band describing an album.
“Do you know what? I hope to never have to describe the show because it’s kind of like a band having to describe an album: ‘Well, there’s a couple of fast ones, a couple of slow ones, hope you’ll like it’. Comedy shows are a bit like that. Towards the end, it feels a lot more connected than it was earlier on but some of it will be off the cuff.
“It will be the 167th time I’ve done the show so to be frank, if it isn’t working by now, I don’t deserve to be up there.”