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Don't Kill the Funnyman
Dara O'Briain has made it through hundreds of comedy gigs, only to come close to expiration in Dublin, choking on a grain of rice in the company of our interviewer.
Anne Sexton, 04 Nov 2008
There is one basic rule you should follow when conducting an interview – don’t kill your subject. At least not until you’ve got a few decent quotes out of them first.
Five minutes after saying hello to me, Dara O’Briain has a near death experience when he nearly chokes on a mouthful of rice. It wasn’t my fault – it was more of an occupational hazard. O’Brian’s a busy man, and today he’s been on a non-stop media merry-go-round – newspapers, television, and most important of all Hot Press. He hasn’t had ten minutes to himself so he’s having lunch as we talk. That’s when a grain of rice attempts to hasten the comic’s demise – like David slewing Goliath.
“How great would that be if you had to perform the Heimlich on me midway through the interview,” he says once he regains his breath.
I doubt the Heimlich would help. O’Briain is what’s called a fine figure of a man – six foot four and broad, built like a brick shithouse. In comparison I’m a midget. I probably couldn’t get my arms all the way around him. He casts a critical eye at me when I point this out.
“Oh God, I’d be fucked.”
We’re sitting in the penthouse suite of one of Dublin’s better hotels. If no time to eat is the downside of success, this is surely one of the perks, but O’Briain seems little uncomfortable in his luxurious surroundings. It’s a striking space, all dark colours and polished granite as if the designers were mainlining testosterone.
“I’m ruining the look of the place by eating chicken, badly. There’s nothing domineering or masculine about the way I’m stuffing food into my mouth,” says O’Briain.
“We’ve been doing all the interviews up here with me apologising for this huge, ridiculously imposing table. It’s like, ‘Look at the size of my table – it’s fourteen foot long.’ It’s like something Blofeld would use, if Blofeld gave interviews discussing his plans for world domination.”
While O’Briain himself may have some way to go before achieving world domination, his profile rise has continued to rise over the last few years, both in Ireland and in the UK. These days O’Briain can pack a house of enthusiastic fans without any trouble at all. For his 2008 stand-up tour he completed over a hundred dates, thirty-four in Dublin alone. With that many gigs, he says, audience participation is crucial, to keep the show fresh.