Dylan Moran: interview
Irish comic Dylan Moran tells Time Out how he tunnels to Atlantis on a regular basis and why angry people are the funniest of all. Photography Andy Hollingworth
How do you prepare for a big tour?
‘Lots of comics try stuff out all year round, which is very sensible – I don’t. I did a show in Liverpool to 6,000 people and I’d only done a couple of club dates before that; I hadn’t said about half the material before, even to myself. So that was weird. If you’re a comic, you don’t have a rehearsal room, you rehearse on stage. My main concern is remembering everything. I’ve written lots of material, but how do you memorise 90 minutes? That’s one hell of a long speech. I’ve always had problems with that. All the sections were in my head but I couldn’t access them in the order I was meant to. That was why I always looked so surprised; it became part of my style. I would go blank and then suddenly remember stuff. It was like being a broken jukebox: I really wouldn’t know what number was coming up next.’
What’s your writing process? Do you just sit down and get on with it?
‘Absolutely. It’s like there’s this magical city underground and I have to dig a tunnel every day to try to get to it. I end up with lots of rabbit holes leading me to Atlantis – which I know is underwater, but it doesn’t matter for the purpose of this metaphor. You follow these tunnels and hope that eventually they’ll connect and get you where you want to go. When things are going well, I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my mind. Writing walks, speech runs and talk flies. Other times, though, it’s like fishing.’
When you’re writing, how much of it is about amusing yourself?
‘Oh, a lot. You can’t please everyone, nor should you seek to, because then you won’t please anyone, least of all yourself. You’ve got to do that before you can hope to give anyone else a good time. It’s like in that stupid analogy I gave you about the tunnels. Once I’m in that place, I could stay there all day. When you’ve tunnelled your way into that room, you’re never wrong and you just know it. Everything I come up with while I’m in there is right. You don’t want to come out, you don’t want to drink your tea, you don’t want the day to end. You want to keep your eyes open with matchsticks.’
Are there nights like that on stage too?
‘Some shows really are magical. It feels astonishing. It’s more mysterious than having a good writing day, because everyone in that place is part of it. Some connection has been made. The rest of the world can wait. Anything can happen.’
How much have you learned from other comedians?
‘Certainly in the beginning, you’re watching everybody very carefully. I remember thinking: Oh, so-and-so’s good. It was like they’d got the fairy dust. How have they got it? Where did they get it? How much have they got? They’ve got loads! They’re made of it! They are fairy dust! Then you thought: If I stand next to them, could it rub off on me?
Where did your trademark rants come from?
‘I don’t want to share philosophical meditations about life on Earth. I’m always asking: What do I feel about this? Why do
I feel like this? What do I do if I don’t want to feel like this? How do I make it go away? You could say to yourself: Well, I must develop more mature reactions to this feeling. Or you think: I could just burn this thing to the ground. And a lot of us want to do the latter. Plus, I think angry people are funny. I always have. What’s funny about anger is that you’ve basically got somebody saying, in a spoilt voice: “I want the biscuit!” However, the irony is, their behaviour is guaranteed to keep them many miles away from the nearest available biscuit. And they can’t see that. They are the ones putting a glass box around the biscuit, putting it into a safe, then throwing the safe into the sea and swimming in the opposite direction. I love watching that. It’s a glimpse of what it means to be human – that with so much reason and speculation and amazing social structures, humans can still fall victim to this.’
You’ve also got a movie coming out, ‘A Film with Me in It’. How do you choose which projects to do?
‘I ask myself: "Does it make me laugh?" Making that movie was the most fun. It was hard, though; we only had 20 days and not a lot of money, but it was very satisfying, largely down to the dark script by this very talented Irish guy, Mark Doherty. It was a great project. I don’t want to do panel games or adverts. I really like challenges. I always get roles as an art teacher or a photographer. In the future I want to play something like a mugger/assassin/pastry chef.’
Dylan Moran’s ‘What It Is’ tour is at Hammersmith Apollo (Nov 24), The Forum (Nov 26), The IndigO2 (Nov 27) and Brixton Academy (Dec 1).
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