Dara O Briain interview: stand-up, eroticism and RoboCop

We chat to Dara O Briain about his new stand-up disc, people fornicating in his gigs, and RoboCop…

We think by this stage it’s fair to declare that Dara O Briain has more than earned his geek stripes. His previous stand-up shows have featured more than enough nerdy segments (his videogaming skit in particular comes to mind), while his TV work has taken in maths, science, astronomy, and other topics that got us picked on at school.

As his new DVD and Blu-ray, Craic Dealer, hits the shops, he spared some time for a natter. And here’s how it went…

I came to your show in Birmingham the other week, and you walked on for the second half saying there’d been a complaint about people up to ‘naughtiness’ in the theatre. What happened? Did that come from a Tweet?

Someone actually complained! Somebody went and said that they’d seen somebody near them, in the room, performing a sexual act. We don’t know what it was. So that’s why I came out and said ‘oh my God, I think somebody’s been up to no good in the room’.

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That was the second time I’d seen the Craic Dealer show. It was interesting: it was a Sunday night show, and it appeared as if your tentacles were suggesting the room wasn’t working when you walked out?

It’s more you can really feel the energy differences as the week goes on, and Sunday, it drops dramatically. I’ve a barometer in my head for the different rooms that I go to, and the Birmingham Hippodrome is one of the better ones. So when you go out, and it’s quiet… when the lights go down and there isn’t any applause, you know that it’s going to take a while to warm them up. They’re great by the end, but definitely the opening was real Sunday night stuff. We’re here, but not quite fully.

So I have to put the energy in, and basically do what I do. I have to go out to them. At the very least, it’ll make an audience gel, and go ‘fuck you, we are here!’ You’ll get some energy into the room that way! 

It felt like the order of things was slightly different from earlier in the tour. I’m more used to you seeing you chatting with the front row very early, and you held it back until you were 20 minutes in.

Actually, this tour it’s kind of been that way. I’m doing it a little bit later in the show than I normally do.

It’s evolved on this show. It’s something useful for putting an injection of energy into a room. I do quite like the order of the opening 10 or 15 minutes of stuff.

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Two years ago when I was touring, I used to get really fucking stroppy with crowds if I thought they weren’t giving sufficiently, and I’ve actually had to knock that on the head, because genuinely people were going ‘we didn’t come out here to be given it for not being sufficiently loud’! It’s sometimes a good technique in a club-style way, just to mix and match it a bit, street fight it out, to get the energy into the room. Particularly Sunday and Monday nights in a plush theatre, people settle into their chairs a bit more than you want them to.

And it’s all quite erotic, by the sounds of it.

Yeah! That was unexpected and never before experienced complaint we’ve had, that two people got carried away! I wonder what part of the show it was that set them off…!

I’ve got to ask – I’ve not seen the disc yet, so I don’t know who you’ve done your drinking game extra with this time?

Oh, Lee Mack. It was Lee Mack, but Lee Mack, like a fucking eejit, misunderstood me when I invited him, presumed he was doing a talking head thing, and hadn’t watched the DVD. So it was a much looser conversation than when we did it with Andy Parsons, David Mitchell and Andy Parsons. He thought they’d all done it this year, that I’d filmed a night of 1000 stars all watching my comedy DVD! He came into town just to hang out, and didn’t know he was supposed to watch it! So it ended up being a very loose conversation.

One thing was he went on about how there was too much drinking in comedy anyway, which is a theme apparently in his book!

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Have you read his book? It’s very good.

No, I never get round to them. I read Steve Martin’s one about touring, but other people’s biographies, no. People I know, reading their biography, I’d feel it intrusive! 

Tesco appears to have backtracked on its decision not to stock your DVD [as Dara explains in the gig, there were objections over the name of the DVD, which hasn’t changed].

Yes they have. Or whoever it was in Tesco isn’t in the same department any more, and they just haven’t noticed it.

Surely it’s tempting for the next one, to come up with a Tesco-taunting tour name?

Do you know what, I was wondering if I could get away with ‘Craic Addict’. Slowly work my way up to ‘Craic Whore’. But that may not go down as well with Universal. We’ve got away with it, it may be time to wrap that one up!

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You could always call your DVD ‘500 Free Clubcard Points If You Take This To The Till’?

Dara O Briain, and the tour be titled Free Clubcard Points?

That’s right.

In a flash along the top. What about Dara O Briain: Free Computers For Schools?

Perfect. Is your plan to carry on with how you’ve been doing things: a year of touring, a year of not touring?

I think I’ll take slightly longer this time. As it stands, I’ll see how much I fidget around about July, but the current plan is to give it a bit longer.

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This show was written to favour performance, as opposed to the more structured routines of the previous show. The shows always oscillate between structure and performance; between a big idea one year and more loose, audience driven one the next, and next time, I’d like to have longer routines. For that, you need a little bit more time to do things. I think a bit of life would be good for a while, and then we’ll come back on the road. 

Let’s talk movies, then. You’re a man of RoboCop – it’s come up in pretty much every gig I’ve seen you do. What are your thoughts on the RoboCop remake?

Is there a remake?


I wasn’t even a fan of the sequels.

I don’t think anyone was.

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You’ve seen it pop up in a few different tours. The hidden routine is usually – and she doesn’t appear in this one at all – Gloria Estefan. Gloria Estefan has appeared in three separate tours, so my reference set is quite random! RoboCop I wasn’t aware was appearing as much as he was!

RoboCop sometimes gets shouted. Alien is the other one that gets shouted a lot. My dread of RoboCop is that they’ll do what they did with Total Recall, which is they’ll take all of the humour out of it. And it’ll become very po-faced.

Presumably when you’re touring, you have afternoons to kill, and you have a chance to see a lot more films than you would any other way?

Sometimes, but we’ve left less time now. I got to see Skyfall, and Batman, and things like that. But it often doesn’t quite work out with the timings, unfortunately. I’d sooner take the time to sleep, than get to Watford three hours early. So no, not as many films as I would have liked on the last tour!

What I like about what you’re doing is that you’re using your profile and position to get programmes about topics such as maths, astronomy and science on the television. That wouldn’t appear in the timeslots they would otherwise. The maths one I really enjoyed, even if I couldn’t answer a bloody question. It was like the boss level on the numbers game in Countdown.

Oh yeah. And apparently, they’ve got more devious ones for next year. The thing with the maths one, that wouldn’t exist… because who else is going to do it? If you couldn’t get Ben Miller, that’s it. So there is a touch of if I don’t do it, no one else will do this.

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Science Club was another one of those too. I’m sure other people have used their fame for other reasons, and to try and meet models and popstars. I’m trying to meet scientists, so if you can do that on the telly, even better.

So what are the plans, as things stand, for the next year or so?

Over the next two months, I’m finishing the tour, there’s four more episodes of Science Club to get in the can. We’re doing the brain, music, extinction and man in space. Another season of the maths show. Another season of Stargazing Live. It gets very nerdy for the next couple of months.

That’s what we like.

It’s properly geeky. It’d be nice to do a series of Science Club though where I’m not cramming in the car coming back from a gig. Notes about what pigeon went extinct in the 1930s on the way back from Southend. It’d be nice to have a little bit more time to enjoy it, so I think I should give myself that next year.

Finally, your favourite Jason Statham movie?

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Ah! For sheer nonsense, the one where he is a hitman and there’s a French or Italian cop… The Transporter? This cop keeps going ‘oh I don’t know, maybe I should report it, maybe I shouldn’t?’ And you’re going ‘yeah, you should, you’re a police officer! And there’s a dead body in the boot of this car! What the fuck are you doing’. And they made more of them! It’s the most insane film of all time.

Crank is obviously ridiculous, but that one with the cop going ‘I don’t know. I know I did not see anything’. Yes you fucking did! You’re a police officer! Report him! He’d have been arrested at the start of the film, and that would have been the end of it.

Dara O Briain, thank you very much!

Craic Dealer: Live 2012 is available on DVD and Blu-ray now. You can order it here.

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