Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Birthmonth Day Sixteen: Dara O Briain


When I went to university, everyone had a favourite stand-up comedian.  It wasn’t the kind of thing that had come up at any point during school, but at uni it was a crucial way to a) define yourself (because the wit of a total stranger is vital when being yourself) and b) make connections with others.  It worked with movies too, of course, but that had always been the case.

Stand-up comedians were something different.  It was far more instant.  You might have to watch a film in its entirety or even more than once before you knew if you liked it, and your opinion could be influenced by a variety of factors.  But with comedians, you either got them, or you didn’t.  I saw a wealth of stand-up DVDs during those years, usually in an attempt to impress or be impressed by someone I was interested in.

But it wasn’t until after uni, when I worked in a theatre, that I started to see comedians live.  And I quickly learnt that a comedian is only as good as their audience, which in the town I worked in could be risky.  And that when a comedian is ‘too hot for TV’ this isn’t because they are profane, although they are profane, but because they’re rubbish (or use tired racist and sexist jokes, which amounts to the same thing).

But one day, having looked through The Theatre Brochure, The Housemate decided we should go see the stand-up comedian Dara O Briain.  I wasn’t really sure why
because I wasn’t particularly sure who he was. 

Dara O Briain (Kings Theatre, Portsmouth/1st November 2006)
But we went and it was an absolutely fantastic experience.  Because Dara interacts with the audience and the audience love him for it.  It felt like the entire show was improvised (though obviously only part of it was) because of the sheer lengths he went to to make stuff out of what people were saying.  It was funny, accomplished, involving and it made us lowly non-comedians feel special.  It was one of those laugh-constantly experiences and I was completely impressed (and even a little disillusioned with other stand-ups who don’t interact with their audiences). 

Although it did make conversations with colleagues infuriating every time he came back.

And was very confusing for The Housemate’s Mother.

I have now seen a wide variety of stand-ups and Dara O Briain is still the best.

We went to see him again when he returned in 2008 and of course it didn’t seem quite as good, although we loved it when he referenced a joke from the previous visit (we are special!).  But then in 2010 his tour didn’t come down our way at all so that was that.  But he was back in 2012 (Dara O Briain – Craic Dealer (Kings Theatre, Portsmouth/12th October 2012)) and we went and he was just as good as the first time, so I guess now whenever he’s in town, we’ll go.

(the only other stand-up I have actually paid to see live is Jack Dee (Kings Theatre, Portsmouth/19th October 2012), but his show really suffered from having an awful audience)

What's the best stand-up you've seen?


  1. Dara O Briain is my stand up comedian yardstick. I've never seen audience participation as skilled as that. Others I've seen who were really good include Rich Hall (who doesn't put out enough DVDs, grr!) and... I'll get back to you on the rest. Um. Dara O Briain was pretty good?

    1. I could name the ones who weren't good, but that would be rude.


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