Hello, and welcome to this, the first article of Comedy Gems: a series about ‘comedy gems’ (get it) from the UK and Ireland that may not have reached the ole US of A, or you may have just missed them entirely.
A bit of background on this series and myself: This website’s audience is primarily American, and I am not. As a result, a lot of the things I watch, you never see. You easily could, but what should you watch? For every Billy Connolly there’s 12 Shappi Khorsandis; for every Monty Python’s Flying Circus there’s 22 Outnumbereds. Hopefully I can point you in the right direction, as far as comedy is concerned. By the way, the above examples of terrible British comedies/comedians are incredibly popular, so you can tell my tastes don’t always correspond to those of the masses. Anyway, on with the show!
Today’s feature is Dara O’Briain. Here’s a quick bio:
Country of Origin: Ireland
Style of comedy: Stand-up, television
Genre of Comedy: Observational
Known for: Mock The Week, stand-up shows.
Influences: Eddie Izzard, Paul Merton and Lewis Black.
Dara O’Briain was born in Bray, Co. Wicklow in Ireland. He attended University College Dublin, where he was the auditor of the Literary and Historical Society (debating soc). It was as a part of this organisation that his rhetoric grew in strength, which you can see in his comedy. He studied Theoretical Physics in college and is an avid astronomer.
Like a lot of comedians, he got his “big break” in children’s television, starring in Echo Island and Don’t Feed the Gondolas on RTÉ (number 1 Irish broadcaster).While doing this he performed for small audiences around the Irish circuit,
learning his craft. He then hosted “The Panel,” which, rather predictably, was a panel show. This show was well received by critics (myself included) and viewers, being nominated for several awards. In the early 2000s he increased his popularity through a series of well-received shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and particularly an appearance on the incredibly popular political panel show, Have I Got News For You. In 2005, he became the host of extremely successful comedy panel show, Mock The Week. On this show Dara is joined by a panel of stand-up comedians who comment on the news that week and do stand-up routines on “randomly” selected topics.
On a quick tangent, Mock The Week is the breeding ground for up-and-coming comedians (not in that way, you dirty person). I recently watched a very old episode of Mock (as it’s commonly abbreviated to) where I made note of a few people: Russel Howard, who has gotten his own very successful show; Michael McIntyre, who was, at one point, the number one stand-up in the UK; Hugh Dennis, an impressionist who was beyond his heyday but who now has the aforementioned incredibly popular show Outnumbered; Frankie Boyle, who was at one point the main draw of the show with his incredibly risqué jokes, such as the now infamous joke about the Queen of England’s, em, haunted lady-parts…. yep.
Where Dara shines for me, however, is in his stand-up routine. He does the typical stand-up schtick, that being random stories from his day mixed with some audience chatter. This is going to sound incredibly cliché, but he does it in a completely different way. His stories are so unbelievable, yet you can’t help but believe them. I have been lucky enough to see him live, a week after he recorded his (then) latest stand-up DVD. With other comedians (I usually seem to see them live a week before or after they record a DVD, oddly enough) the show is the exact same, except for maybe one or two moments. Dara’s shows are the exact opposite. If you do pick up one of his DVDs (which are very reasonably priced at the moment) you’ll see how much of his show is him bouncing off the audience. That then leads him onto another tangent about something, eventually getting back to his routine. Out of all his bits, I thought it was his joke about video games that you might like to see most.
Dara O’Briain is probably my favourite stand-up, if not just for his consistency. Some comics (Frankie Boyle, for example) tend to drop in quality after two or three tours, but Dara’s going strong. I would advise you watch his most recent DVD, This Is The Show (TITS, the name decided by his Twitter followers) or any of his other DVDs, all immediate purchases. If you’re in the UK I suggest you check out Mock The Week when the next season airs on BBC.