Dara O'Briain on-stage in Castlebar. Pic: Jay Meenan
Front line falters under friendly fire
Last Saturday night, February 20, marked Dara O’Briain’s second trip to Castlebar (the third biggest house he plays to on this tour, he told us). It also marked my second time seeing him – this time ‘up close and personal’ in the second row, along with my 17-year-old son and his girlfriend.
As a big fan of Dara’s, owning all his DVDs and a regular viewer of ‘Mock the Week’, I knew pretty much what to expect. While the main material of his shows remains the same on each tour, his very individual style of involving the audience in the performance means that there is massive opportunity for impromptu comedy as well.
However, the Castlebar audience didn’t seem to know what was expected of them, and Dara found it hard work getting responses from his ‘victims’ in the front row on this occasion. One wonders why anybody would get a front-row seat at a comedy show if they weren’t prepared for a little give and take with the comedian! This meant that the first half of the show was a little laboured, and Dara showed some impatience with the lack of response from an audience that seemed reluctant to give him anything to work with.
In 2009, Dara’s tour had involved asking audiences if they had ever stopped a crime in progress. This year he asked if anyone had dreamt of a celebrity and also if anyone had saved a life. Thankfully, our party had foreknowledge of these questions, as friends who had seen the show in Dublin had told us what to expect, so we were able to offer our stories and have Dara turn them around and take the mick out of us. His ability to make comedy out of anything he is fed is one of his trademarks, so the first half ended on an upbeat note.
The second half, in contrast, was excellent throughout. Dara’s recent introduction to parenthood has given him a whole new view of life, and, with that, a new range of material. His stories of parenting classes had the older members of the audience in stitches (and at times the women cringing). Not forgetting the young people there, his demonstration of playing video games badly was an absolute howl.
As always though, Dara O’Briain’s show was something to be experienced rather than translated. In his own words, “You had to be there!”
O’Briain returns to the TF in November at the end of his tour. It will be the same show, but hopefully, a more responsive audience will make it better for fans and performer alike. I’ve already got front-row seats.