Comedy

Dara Ó Briain renews love affair with Australia

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.

Ó Briain with actor Kenneth Branagh at an Embassy of Ireland function in London. Picture: Jeff Spicer

Ó Briain with actor Kenneth Branagh at an Embassy of Ireland function in London. Picture: Jeff Spicer

“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.

O’Briain almost moved to Melbourne 16 years ago.

O’Briain almost moved to Melbourne 16 years ago.

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.

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“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.”

Dara Ó Briain plays Brisbane on September 11, Sydney on September 14 and Melbourne on September 16.

First king of Irish comedy Brendan Grace, dead at 68

The president of Ireland and the Taoiseach have paid tribute to Father Ted star Brendan Grace, who has died at the age of 68 after a short illness.

The veteran entertainer, who was also a stand-up comedian, played Father Fintan Stack in the popular comedy series about three priests.

He died on Thursday, surrounded by his family, after being diagnosed with lung cancer 10 days ago, his manager confirmed.

He is survived by his wife, Eileen, and their four children, Bradley, Melanie, Brendan and Amanda.

Brendan Grace in character as Bottler, one of his most famous characters.

Brendan Grace in character as Bottler, one of his most famous characters.

The actor, who also starred in 2013 TV film Brendan Grace's Bottler, had lived in the US for many years, but returned to his native Dublin in early June, where he was first diagnosed with pneumonia, before his terminal cancer diagnosis.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said he learned of Grace's death with great sadness.

"As a comedian, Brendan's spontaneous wit and his sense of timing, his obvious delighting in interaction with his audiences, meant that Brendan's sense of humour was drawing from, and itself a profound contribution to, the deep wellspring of Irish wit," he said.

"It was a privilege to know him, and a pleasure to meet Brendan as recently as the 5th of June last, when he accompanied The Forget-Me-Nots choir to a garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin.

"As President of Ireland, I express my deepest condolences to his wife and children, and to his wider family and his friends, and all who valued his acuity and sharp sense of humour."

Tom Kelly, Grace's manager for 27 years, speaking on Virgin Media One's Ireland:AM programme on Thursday morning, said the entertainer's death is a great loss to Ireland.

"Although he was aware of the outcome himself in the last few days when the cancer was diagnosed, it's a great shock to everybody," he said.

"He was very weak, he didn't wish to have chemo or anything like that, and the inevitable happened.

"He was one of the greats in modern entertaining, it's a huge loss."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "RIP Brendan Grace, an Irish comedy legend. You made us laugh so many times, from Bottler to Father Ted and so many others. One of the greats. Our thoughts are with Brendan's friends and family."

Grace was a regular visitor to Australia, most recently in 2015.

In an interview with the Irish Echo ahead of that tour, he was asked to explain the secret of his success.

“Hard neck,” he said. “The reason things went well was I always kept my humour simple, and I sang a few songs as well. My attitude was ‘give the people what they want’. And I always managed to keep the act clean, so older people and younger people were still able to come along without being offended.”

And comedian Brendan O'Carroll, writer and star of Mrs Brown's Boys, said: "So sad at the passing of a great comedy legend, husband and father Brendan Grace.

"He opened doors for so many of us and leaves a legacy of love and laughter that will echo through this land and we will all mourn his passing. Rest peacefully Bottler, you've earned it."

Brendan Grace with another Irish comedy legend Hal Roach, in 2002.

Brendan Grace with another Irish comedy legend Hal Roach, in 2002.

Thousands of messages have been posted by fans across social media recalling fond memories of watching Grace with their families, calling him a "legend of Irish comedy".

Dee Forbes, director-general of Ireland's state broadcaster RTE, said: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Brendan Grace. Brendan was one of Ireland's original funnymen, and one of Irish comedy's true pioneers.

"While there are now many Irish comedians who are household names, Brendan emerged as a talent during an era when there were very few established Irish comedians.

"Through his live shows, his live recordings, The Brendan Grace Show and many memorable guest appearances on RTE's The Late Late Show, Brendan established himself in the hearts of generations of fans, not just in Ireland but all over the world.

"Importantly, he also paved the way for many of the wonderful comedians this country has produced over the last 20 years or so and leaves behind a legacy he and his family can be proud of.

"He will be deeply missed. My thoughts and those of his many friends and fans across RTE are with his family and friends at this sad time."

Funny Man, a documentary directed by Brian Reddin which looked back over the career of Grace, will be repeated at 10.15pm on Friday on RTE One.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, opened a Book of Condolence for the people of the city to pay their respects.

Dylan Moran returns for national tour

Dylan Moran returns in October for his first Aussie tour in four years.

Dylan Moran returns in October for his first Aussie tour in four years.

Dylan Moran returns to Australia for a national tour in October.

It’s the hugely popular Meathman’s first Aussie tour in four years.

Moran will once again offer his unique take on love, politics, misery and the everyday absurdities of life in his new show Dr Cosmos.

The Sydney show, at the Opera House, will be part of the Just For Laughs Sydney Comedy Festival.  Tickets go on sale Tuesday 14 May at 9am.

Moran, who like fellow comics Tommy Tiernan and Hector Ó hEochagáin was born in Navan, has been called the Oscar Wilde of comedy for his deadpan, witty and lyrical style.

He first came to prominence in 1996 at the Edinburgh Fringe, becoming the youngest ever winner of the Perrier Award.  He went on to co-write and star in Black Books which won two BAFTAs. 

Other notable screen roles include Notting HillCalvaryShaun of the Dead and Run Fatboy Run.

Moran, who now calls Edinburgh home, has toured the world many times, including versions of his show as far afield as Kazakhstan, Ukraine and across the US.  

His last tour, Off the Hook, took in 149 dates across the globe and was the second biggest comedy tour in Australian history after Billy Connolly.

For tour dates and venues, visit www.abpresents.com.au