Admitting that he was happily sliding into middle age, fairly sure he knew all that he needed to know about the world, Ardal O’Hanlon has been jolted out of that complacency by recent world events.
This has meant the Irish comedian, writer and star of such TV hits as Father Ted and Death In Paradise has felt compelled to write a new stand-up set, The Showing Off Must Go On, writes Brian Donaldson.
He’s appearing on tour at Sheffield City Hall.
Ardal said: “I thought I’d cracked everything and then suddenly you have to completely re-engage with the world as it shifts. There are always things to say but at the moment there’s a kind of urgency.
“I think as you get older you have to be true to yourself. For me, it’s more about material rather than just gags; it’s about expressing yourself and it has to be based on real feelings and emotions. I hope it still has the silly and surreal qualities that I always brought to stand-up but it has to be based on something.”
Inevitably, the likes of Trump and Brexit will raise their less than pleasant heads, though in Ardal’s hands, the treatment of the work will be typically off-kilter.
“I think it’s incumbent upon a comedian to find clever and imaginative ways to come up with stuff. I personally prefer watching comedians who aren’t too blunt or too partisan, so while I have strong political views, I don’t want to hit an audience over the head with them. Comedians have to be cannier than that.”
As well as displaying his talent for a decent pun, the title of Ardal’s touring show reflects the part of his personality that he’s had to draw upon to get on in the entertainment world.
“I’m a very reluctant show-off,” he said. “I come from a part of the world where showing off is anathema; it’s the worst thing you could possibly do.
“When you grow up in a border area of Ireland, people are very wary and cagy and keep their head down at all times. Don’t speak unless it’s absolutely essential, and don’t give anything away. So showing off was a really terrible thing to do; it’s up there with armed robbery.”
He continued. “I love stand-up comedy and I love performing, but I was always conscious that this is showing off and I’m slightly uncomfortable about that.
“I suppose the question I ask myself almost every day is ‘why do I do this?’ And as I get older, ‘why do I still do this?’ I suppose to some extent this is what I’m addressing in the show.”
As Father Dougal McGuire, Ardal charmed the socks off the nation when Father Ted reigned supreme on Channel 4 in the late 90s.
Although he’s not involved with the proposed Father Ted musical (‘I wish them well with it’), he still looks back with fondness on the Craggy Island-set sitcom.
He said: “I’m so grateful of the show and proud of my part in it. I sometimes pinch myself that I was in it and that it was so successful. I was in the throes of a burgeoning stand-up career at the time when we made it, and that was always my focus at the time; we’d be rehearsing during the day and I’d be gigging at night.
“I arrived in London the year before and things were going well for me, and Father Ted was almost like a distraction from that, a brilliant distraction obviously. At the time I didn’t know what that would mean for my career.”
Ardal O’Hanlon’s The Showing Off Must Go On is at Sheffield City Hall Ballroom on March 10. Tickets: www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk