Once again Irish comedian David O’Doherty has packed his keyboard in his hand luggage and headed to Australian shores. Playing as part of the Perth Comedy Festival at the Regal Theatre next Wednesday, April 24, O’Doherty will beguile with his brand new show of jokes and keyboard ditties. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to O’Doherty about about new show Ultrasound, his style of humour, and his affinity for one Irish songstress.
How did you get the tag line “the hairy Enya”?
I’ve always been weirdly obsessed with Enya. She lives in Dublin, she lives in a castle, which I’ve driven past many times. She doesn’t do any interviews, or anything, there’s something mystical about it. I’ve tried moving into that space. She’s also one of the highest paid musical artists in the world. I believe that she makes a lot of money out of hold music. I think that could be a growth area for me, I need to talk to Vodafone.
Yeah. I grew up during the Robin of Sherwood era. So Clannad was everywhere…
There’s also In a Lifetime which is Clannad and Bono.
Oh dear God!
You look at Enya, she is like a proto-hipster, I like that. Although I can’t sing six-part harmonies, like her and her family. I envy that.
Speaking of music, how did you come to have a keyboard as a part of your act?
My dad was a musician and the band was always in the house. It was a small house, trombone on the stairs, and drums in the kitchen, and that sort of thing. So I wanted to have a different sort of keyboard, preferably one that had headphones as well, so I didn’t have to hear them, and more importantly, they didn’t have to hear me. So I was given the Yamaha Portasound 250 keyboard for my confirmation present. That’s the model I carry around, wrapped in a jumper in my bag, to this day.
So tell us about Ultrasound?
It’s got some absolute bangers in it but it’s primarily a love letter to bicycles – I’m obsessed with bicycles. So it’s a load of songs, and a man waffling on about how much he loves bikes.
Honestly, not what I was expecting from the title…
I had to do the title of the show a couple of months ago before I actually wrote the show. It refers to the first joke I ever made up when I was like 13 years old. Who are the most decent people in the hospital? The ultra-sound people: “sound” is an Irish term for “good person”. I think some people think it might be to do with having a child, or something, but no, it’s just a word that sounds cool.
Has comedy changed in the time you’ve been doing it?
Yes, hugely. I started in Dublin in 1999, just in the aftermath of the Father Ted TV show. There weren’t many comedians and Ireland at the time (you had Dylan Moran etc…). You weren’t thinking like “one day I’ll be able to go to Australia”. Comedy was something that happened in dark rooms upstairs in pubs. So, huge change in the time that I’ve been there, has been this kind of industry around it. It’s been unbelievable for me, the fact that you aren’t trying to get on TV anymore. Just put your own stuff up, that I have filmed on my phone, and more people watch that than watch TV.
And you’re a writer as well…
It’s a break from stand up comedy. There’s a lot of navel-gazing gazing and introspection that goes on. If you’re not careful you can disappear up your own…. navel. So it’s nice to go there reading, in a school where eight-year olds shout at you for an hour. It’s good to have a few different things going on with comedy.
How would you describe your comedy?
It’s very hard to describe it, in a way, to make anyone, in any way, curious about it. I sit there for a lot of the time with the keyboard and waffle on about things that are in my mind… the day to day. I wanted to be a jazz musician like my dad, so this is just a failure to compromise. Not sure if that encourages people to come to the show.
Has Brexit been the gift that’s kept on giving, from a comedian’s point of view?
It was fun up until the point. You know, being in Ireland, our neighbours effectively set their country on fire while screaming Churchill’s name. But we see the smoke coming under our curtains, and it’s not as funny now. They just extended it to October, so I think the number of comedians going to the Fringe in August will be very glad that they’ve still got the material.
Sorry, didn’t consider all the issues with the possible hard border…
Yeah, it’s a funny one, because they never thought about that. They were so mixed up in the sovereignty they forgot that half the people in Northern Ireland regard themselves as Irish. You’re looking at reopening of war just so they can have blue passports without the word Europe written on them. It’s pretty sad.
They seem to have forgotten that the EU was set up not to steal their currency, but to stop war in Europe. Has done a very good job in the last 60 years. I think it’s no coincidence that this is happening at a time when a lot of the people that fought in the Second World War are dying. It’s pretty bleak.
Yeah, demagogy and nationalism appear to be on the rise all over the world…
It’s easy enough to stir up. I think the genius of that campaign was the slogan “take back control”. I don’t think there’s a referendum, or a vote, that in the last 20 years, wouldn’t have been won by that slogan… because it’s what everyone feels. But in this situation, it doesn’t seem like the best way to go. It’s kinda like standing on the roof of your house and just calling all your neighbours dickheads. I don’t think it finishes well.
OK… change of subject… what’s next for you, after this tour?
I just handed a novel in last week. It’s a novel for kids, that I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. Working on some secret TV stuff in the UK and Ireland. Also looking forward to doing a lot of cycling over the summer. My secret guilty pleasure is when I get back late from a gig, I go on weird arse Belgium, Swiss, and Hungarian websites, and buy ex-professional bicycles from the 1990s. I like to cycle. That’s what I’m going to do after the tour.
That’s a very particular fetish…