In DOD we trust

 
 

Conor Barry talks to award-winning funnyman David O’Doherty about life, comedy, and tweeting too much

David O’Doherty is puffing out his cheeks like a chipmunk. “It’s my new default face,” he declares. “I’ve been working on some new faces.” otwo has accompanied O’Doherty into town after a gig in the UCD Student Bar, modestly described as “semi-floundering”: “It had some nice moments and then some boring moments. It’s a lot like life, you know?”

Never one to let the press down, O’Doherty agrees to an interview as we stand under a tree, with drunken twenty-somethings squinting to see if it really was the Irish comedian there braving the elements. All of this, just so David can get across one key point that seems to have been bothering him.

david-odoherty image“There is meant to be an O in my name. I’d like to make that clear,” he laughs. “The Irish Times made up this thing about two years ago that I added an O for showbiz reasons, which is the last thing you’d do if you were trying to be more showbiz – make your name sound like an Irish wrestler.”

O’Doherty began comedy in 1999 after failing to follow in his father’s footsteps of becoming a jazz musician. Not, admittedly, the most obvious of career shifts. “I was temping after college and I hated temping. So I did a stand up gig and the first couple went quite well. I was lucky because the first was with Tommy Tiernan in a tiny bar. Then the second gig was with Ardal O’Hanlon, and if I’d started in, say, London it would have been like five years before I’d even gotten to meet those sorts of people. The fact that it’s Dublin meant that I could just experience being around them and see how they operate. So I learnt a great deal in a short time. And I went to Edinburgh, and won the newcomer award, and they gave me an enormous cheque for £1500. By enormous, I mean it was cardboard. So I was officially pro then, which meant I never had to go back to temping.”

Does he still get nervous? “I get nervous doing some of these TV gigs, where you’ve got that feeling of mistrust of yourself, of power, where you could just pull down your pants live on Australian television in front of six million people. You could say ‘arseballs’ on Rick O’Shea’s afternoon show on 2FM and get him into trouble. But no, I don’t really get nervous anymore… If you go out on stage and you are nervous, it is very hard to make things up. The antithesis of improvisation is shitting yourself.”

In the cold with puddles surrounding us, O’Doherty muses about Twitter. “I’m really fascinated by the psychology of status updates on Twitter. People sending out these weirdly aspirational messages about their own life: ‘Just had a picnic on a hill. What a dream day’, Which is achieving nothing in the world… If you’re a newsmaker and you’re announcing that the new currency of Ireland is children, then you should have a Twitter, and Twitter as much as your tweeting heart desires, but to me it seems like filling the world with unnecessary information.”

It is this type of thinking that O’Doherty has built a career upon; otwo asks if a comedian’s lifestyle contributed to this. “Y’can go a bit insane because you don’t have much to do during the day, but that’s only if your head isn’t right. Just treat it as a sort of massive holiday. I certainly remember as a kid pulling a sicky from school one day, it being a nice day… sitting out in the garden and going, ‘All those losers are in school and I’m having some sweet sunshine.’ Sometimes I think my life is like that. Especially when I phone someone up at 2:30pm and go, ‘Let’s play pitch and putt,’ and they tell me to keep my voice down because the boss is near.”

It is this unique way of looking at the world that has been the cause of O’Doherty’s success. “I think part of being a good comedian is having the bravery to fail whereby you’re not put off your own thing. The world doesn’t really need more stand up comedians who’ve figured up how stand up comedy works and do the thing that works, which is to be reasonably high energy and talk about things that everybody knows. What the world needs are new people with unique standpoints. That’s why Maeve Higgins in this country is so unique. She is really getting the reputation she deserves overseas now; people going ‘where the fuck did this come from?’”

It’s getting wet, so otwo concludes by asking what other comedians inspire him. “I still get incredibly inspired every year going to Edinburgh or going to Montreal. You might see three or four people who really remind you of why you’re doing it in the first place, which is not to write jokes that other people laugh at. You hope they do, but the reason to do it is to write jokes that you find interesting and are a reflection of your own unique mind. It’s like when you hear a new band that you really, really like. And I still get a buzz from that.”

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