Published in The Music (NSW, VIC) and on theMusic.com.au, Dec 2015
It seems comedy is the only thing keeping Irish funny man Dylan Moran sane. Daniel Cribb discovers how he deals with a chaotic world and why cult favourite Black Books might have flopped if it were set today.
Only days after the tragic Paris terror attacks comedy legend Dylan Moran finds himself in Prague on tour. While other comedians might shy away from such a sensitive issue when it comes to the media and the stage, it’s one of the first things he weaves into conversation, and it’s all too clear that for Moran, his chosen career path is one that allows him to process what’s going on in the world. “It’s not difficult to have something to say about it, but as a comedian, it’s not exactly a shining fruit on the tree,” he begins.
“The difficult thing is thinking about laughter, especially so recently after it. I grew up with terrorism in the background in Ireland, so I’m quite familiar to the sounds of reports and that kind of thing and reactions on a day-to-day basis — that was part of growing up for me.
“The thing is, life does carry on, and it carries on in every single possible way; every single facet of life carries on after some cataclysm event. There’s a shock and then life picks itself up and carries on at pace. Because you have to.”
Each show for Moran acts as a diary entry of sorts, and it’s a personal approach to those issues that seems to work better in a stand-up environment. “For all the planning you do and all the kind of conceiving you do, a lot of that doesn’t actually make it. Funnily enough, what does tend to make it is stuff that you think won’t work because it’s too easy or too familiar, but a lot of the time that’s the stuff that people respond to because that’s the relatable stuff.
“It’s not, ‘I think this about the history of terrorism,’ or ‘I think this is why this country has the attitudes that it has right now.’ It seems to be much more, ‘So I was in the bakery and this happened.’ Street level, anecdotal.”
It’s a far deeper thought process than fans of cult hit Black Books or his film work might envision, but the fact is, Moran is a political and social sponge, forever adapting his show to what’s going on in the world and the city he is performing in. If you caught Off The Hook in Australia this year, its DVD release — filmed in London — is almost a completely different show.
One of the constants throughout, however, is Moran’s concern with how much humanity is engaging and relying on technology. “I think the phase of it that I’ve noticed over the last year or so has not been a positive one. I think people either need to get rid of some of it or integrate it more into their lives so it’s less of an obstruction to their ordinary behaviour,” he comments.
The current trend would see future generations watching Black Books and not quite understanding the concept of a bookstore. “Yeah, it’s interesting that,” Moran says. “Because when people sit down with a book, they’re plugging into a relationship with another mind, but the internet is not a mind, the internet is like a boiling sea of souls. There’s no rest in it.”
Off The Hook begins with a series of art drawn by Moran projected onto a screen, which is another creative format he finds cathartic. Coupled with the impressions and numerous accents delivered throughout the show, it’s not a stretch to think he might be thinking about getting into voice acting. “It is, actually,” he says, sparking to attention. “It is, but I’m a bit reluctant to jump into somebody else’s game. I am thinking about it, in short — possibly animated, but I’ll get back to you on that. It’s very much in the pipeline.”
The Off The Hook DVD release marks the end of an extensive world tour that will see Moran take a bit of a break from touring, allowing him time to work on other things. “I have fiddled around with some television things, I will again before long because I won’t be touring for a while. I’m going to be doing something homemade,” he reveals. “Something I can do at home without having to haul my arse out on the road for a year again, so I’ll do something that I can make at home — that’s what I’ll tell you.”
But Moran’s noticed a change in the way TV is consumed these days, which ties back into the technology issue. “I think people are using TV differently — there was a phase of really good dramas, long-form American series that happened after The Sopranos. I think people seem to be using [TV] for pure escapism now.
“Your problem is still there squatting at the bottom of your bed when you’re finished looking at MasterChef Goes Dancing.”