Sheffield loves a crowd tickler from Dara

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Irish comedian Dara O’Briain is a familiar face on our TV screens these days on both coemdy and popular science shows but he just loves a theatre.

He said: “The other day, I sat in an empty theatre thinking, ‘I just love these rooms.’

“I’m on the board of the Theatres Trust in order toprotect these wonderful buildings. It’s not about nimby-ism; it’s because I adore these places. It still gives me such a thrill to walk on stage.”

Dubbed “the king of audience interaction”, he excels at rapid-fire exchanges with his fans and delivers a mixture of witty, daring, thought-provoking and downright hilarious anecdotes.

Dara, who grew up in Dublin and has been called Britain’s “favourite Irishman” by The Irish Independent newspaper, says that he couldn’t resist returning to touring because live comedy is quite simply addictive.

“When you arrive at an empty theatre, the potential is immense. You think, ‘This is going to be magical’,” he beams.

The other element of stand-up that Dara relishes is its sheer spontaneity. He is surely unrivalled in his ability to swap off-the-cuff quips with his audience.

“I love the fact that you can shape the entire evening by thinking on your feet. If Plan A doesn’t work, you have to come up with Plan B immediately.”

He say that his improvised riffing with the audience creates “a tremendous frisson. It’s like walking a tightrope.

“The audience love it because they can see you’ve got nothing up your sleeve and that things could very easily go wrong. They realise that this could go anywhere.

“You’re not given any easy ride. “When I’m questioning the audience, my stance is not, ‘How can I mock this person?’ It’s ‘I am an eight-year-old meeting this person for the first time. What aspects of them do I want to talk and enthuse about?’”

He said that his audience never lets him down. For instance: “The other day this guy in the audience told me he had a very dull-sounding job in HR.

“He said he was the comptroller – no-one ever knows what that means. But it then emerged that in fact he worked in HR for a chocolate company.

“So I came up with the idea that he would put a large bowl of chocolate down on the desk in front of a potential employee, and then turn away. When he turned back, if the potential employee hadn’t got chocolate all over his face, then he’d get the job.

“If you can survive in an arena of grab-able chocolate without taking any, then you’re the man for the job.

“I then thought that his friend might work for a toothpaste company. How great that they could put aside their differences, despite working in jobs that nullify each other.

“It would be like a tobacconist being friends with a lung transplant surgeon. As long as they don’t talk about work, they’ll be OK.”

But what about what he actually plans to talk about in new show Crowd Tickler? “I’ll be talking about the awkward conversations we will have about grandchildren about all the resources we’ve used up and all the wonderful advances we’ve casually wasted, like Concorde and the space shuttle.”

He also uses his vast scientific knowledge to tackle “an angel therapist who is leading a campaign to remove fluoride from the water in Ireland because she thinks it’s poisoning the nation. For sheer energy, you have to admire her campaign.”

He’ll make you laugh while he’s doing it too. Now that’s clever.

Crowd Tickler is at the City Hall on October 27 and 28.