June 1st 2011

Dylan Moran Interview

By Dan Collacott

As subjective as comedy is, it doesn’t always need to be dumbed down to reach large audiences! Being provocative and conceptual to ride a current trend, or controversial to shock and challenge isn't always a recipe for longterm success either. Dylan Moran is a comedian who proves that point by finding enough mileage and scope for reinvention in the tried and tested life subjects. In his new show ‘Yeah Yeah’ the rakish comic channels his brand of razor sharp observational comedy through topics such as politics, gender, society and religion. His awkward, yet honest style continuing to win over the few audiences left in the country who haven’t already succumbed to his warmth and charm.

Moran’s stand up is famed for its endlessly self-examining, sometimes pejorative, edgy and yet always personal style. But it is his natural and rambling conversational delivery that sets him apart from other comics. His relaxed and natural on stage presence leaves his audiences feeling they have just been listening to a friend in a pub or bar.

“I very much want to have a conversation. I want to talk to people; I want to talk with people. I used to joke that it was the perfect conversation because the audience can’t talk back. Dylan Moran

The Irish actor and comedian is of course also well loved for playing Bernard Black in the sitcom Black Books and his on screen roles alongside Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead and Run Fat Boy Run. But stand up is probably the art that most defines him. I was lucky enough to spend some time talking to him about his current tour and career to date and got to know a little more about the man himself.

Can you tell us about the tour, themes and subject matter?

I’m still tinkering with the show, I’m talking about politics, personal politics, life and reality and what that is. What is in your dreams and what the world is with children, love, death and sex and a lot of things that tie into the last 20 years of my life.

Do you find it cathartic to talk about these things in stand up?

I think it’s just a way of trying to understand them and knowing what’s going on. The world has been in a sick place for a long time, I can’t talk about things that are convenient just for the sake of it. The main thrust of the show is to talk about the audience without them realising that’s what I’m trying to do.

Part of the strengths of your stand up is that it is very conversational is that a fair assessment?

Yes I very much want to have a conversation. I want to talk to people; I want to talk with people. I used to joke that it was the perfect conversation because the audience can’t talk back.  But that’s not necessarily the case for people who live in Belfast but that’s definitely a conversation I want to have.

Are you saying that people in Belfast join in and shout out comments more?

(laughter) It’s like having a cultured political debate, where someone shouts out “I have a few points to add to that”.

How do you prepare for your stand up?

I write as I go along and try and connect the dots. I don’t know what it is I’m reaching for; I’m just trying to mould it into different shapes and trying to make it hang together.

Your material feels quite organic like it grows and develops as you perform?

Yes it does. I don’t sit down and write and think I’m going to write chapter one this week, chapter two next week and so on. It’s not like that, it’s much more isolated pieces and then you subsequently try and see how they are in relation to one another.

What would you like people who have seen the tour to come away feeling?

I don’t want to be that prescriptive, I just want people to have a good time and laugh a lot. You can’t guarantee that for every person in the building - but that’s what I’m aiming for. Sometimes you have a great evening but you can’t remember specifically why it was a great evening.

Your stand up differs from your TV work – how do you differentiate between the two?

Doing TV work in a set environment you get to hang everything off a character in a particular time and place and in particular situations. Stand up is a lot of conversation, whereas if you’re playing a part you’re playing a part but it’s quite natural for people to think “are you really like that?” But if I was actually like Bernard Black (Black Books) I’d be in jail by now!

Is your stand up the true you?

There’s no such thing, I can’t be the same all the time as I am when I’m on stage. It’s not natural for me to stand on stage and talk relentlessly for an hour and a half. I have to put on armour to be able to do that because I’m an ordinary person. Really - standing in a room talking to thousands of people would scare the bejesus out of me just like it would any normal person so I have to tinker with my own head to be able to do it. I have to build up certain parts of myself to be able to put the show on, like my self-consciousness and so on and so on.

Also on that point people think politicians always act the way the do in speeches and on TV but what they are doing is not themselves, it’s a creation.

Is the character Bernard Black an extreme version of yourself?

Yes, definitely some of the aspects of myself that I thought could be funny. He’s based on these guys that work in these bookshops that I used to spend a lot of time in browsing. There wasn’t a specific type but often they would be glowering and resentful, they wouldn’t fit in anywhere yet they sat holed up in their empire of books.

What are you plans after the tour?

I don’t know to be honest, I get the odd offer to be in different things and it depends what it is. I’m writing quite a few different things I don’t yet know what to do with. The tour tends to take up most of my time when I’m doing it, and then I finally get it right and then there’s not a lot more I can do to it. That can take a bit of time ‘cause I often change my mind where I want it to go.

Could you see yourself directing a film?

Yes, I am interested in doing something small. I’m in discussions with someone at the moment but I can’t really say anything about that, as it’s way too early. I thought for years I wouldn’t like to do that type of thing but if it’s at a manageable level I would like to have a go at it.

What was the last song or album you listened to?

I like listening to old fifties music like ‘do wop’, music you don’t often listen to as it’s in the background. I was struck by the genius of some of the lyrics, like Shake, Rattle and Roll, a song you’ve listened to a thousand times, but if you listen to the lyrics, especially the line ‘I believe it to my soul you're the devil in nylon hose, For the harder I work the faster my money goes,’ it’s quite rare to find that kind of song writing these days.

Your stand up often features cartoons and art that you draw - would you ever consider publishing these?

I probably will one day scrape them all together, tidy them up and put them out there.

You could get them printed on T-Shirts for the tour?

People often ask me to do that but I can’t be arsed (laughter)

You starred as Simon Pegg’s adversary in Shaun of the Dead, if you were caught in the middle of a real zombie apocalypse and had only and axe or a shotgun to defend yourself with, what would you use?

Is that a real question? Could I use a blender?

I don’t see why not

Well I’m a very patient person so I’d probably just keep trying to talk to them (zombies) and get eaten.

Was it more fun playing Simon Pegg’s enemy or his best friend (Run Fat Boy Run)

It’s not like that, a gigs a gig, it doesn’t matter if you’re Dr. Fang or Captain Shark or Bill the Painter.

Can you tell us anything more about work coming up?

Yes, I’m releasing a range of underwear for next spring? (laughter).  No honestly all my focus and concentration is taken up with the tour, I just want to focus on that and get it right, I can’t really look ahead or do two things at once whilst I’m doing that.

Is it quite lonely and isolating doing a national tour?

No its not that bad, it’s really all-consuming, the show is quite a hungry thing and your perform it and you think you’ll keep a section of it quiet, but it keeps gnawing away at you till it’s satisfied and once that happens you can take it for a nice long walk, but until then it bites at you.

After twenty minutes chatting to the Dylan Moran I was left in no doubt that he is every bit as unpretentious, likeable and intelligent, as you would expect him to be.

Dylan Moran is touring his show ‘Yeah Yeah’ until July 16th, click here for tour dates: