- 27 Aug 15
While some dream of a room with a view, Al Porter dreams of a Harold's Cross house without a hall. The coming talks about his strong Taillight identity and desire to take on Britain.
You could say Al Porter is doing God’s work. Not a way we often refer to stand-up,
but Al’s first exposure to performing and showbiz came as a kid watching his local priest really work that altar of a Sunday.
Father Al!” the young comic laughs when recalling his childhood dream to enter the priesthood. “I wanted to be a priest mainly because I loved the reaction from the elderly people after I read at Mass... I do a thing in my show where I turn hymns into swing songs: ‘He Is Love’ turns into ‘New York, New York’. I always thought that Mass is theatre. I’m an atheist now and I actually do think religion is one of the last parlour games left. It’s one of the last variety shows left. I was so into old school stuff like jazz and Danny La Rue and Larry Grayson. Variety. You can’t go and see Danny La Rue and showgirls but you can go see a man in vestments sing ‘He Is Lord’.”
Ultimately, Porter dodged the dog collar for a similarly sharp outfit. Title of Suavest Comedian In Ireland (not much of a contest) certainly goes to the man from Tallaght.
When we meet in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel, his face falls when he realises a photo shoot will follow our natter. He’s only wearing a crisp white shirt and smart trousers, not the full three-piece suit.
The old-fashioned, modish style formed years back.
“I tend to buy new stuff tailored in old style. If I was let off the leash to buy proper old stuff, I’d be dressed like an extra from Michael Collins. My mother would be like ‘Why are you a Victorian gent? With a green carnation.’ So I need to shop new to avoid becoming a caricature of myself.’”
With his star in ascent, Louis Copeland now happily helps him out in that department.
“He gave me my suit for The Late Late Show and my suit for Vicar Street. Louis is a real Dub. He’s salt of the earth. He loves that he’s championing Conor McGregor and me because of our backgrounds. I think he likes the idea of ‘working boy made good’; dressing you up real good.”
So far, Al Porter has done very well indeed, and is fast becoming one of the most recognisable young entertainers in the country. Part of this is down to the clobber, as well as an all-encompassing outlook when it comes to the showbiz “game” that harkens back to the golden age of light entertainment.
“I like to do the the light entertainment thing where people go: ‘he does comedy, presenting; he sings, he dances’... even if you can’t!”
When he’s not blowing up as a stand-up, you’ll find him putting on variety shows (“The Al Porter Experience”), planning musical gigs (“Al Porter Swings Both Ways”), working on tentative TV ideas with RTÉ (“We’re kinda in a relationship but not committing to each other”) and writing a panto he’ll also star in. He’s been presence on 2fm, co- hosting with Colm Hayes on Driveby and is likely to move with him permanently to his new weekend slot – if he doesn’t end up with his own show.
“They think that Colm hangs out with this 70-year old gay man in studio,” he says of the listenership. “I think they picture Ian McKellen. Although far less grand.”
Perhaps the weekend crowd is more clued-in. It would also give him more time to gig across the Irish Sea during the week. Having supported Katherine Ryan in London, Porter is undertaking his first ever Edinburgh run.
How does his distinctly Dublin brand of humour go down?
“I was really surprised that an English audience got it,” he says of the Ryan show. “I know people love it or they hate [Mrs. Brown’s Boys], but Brendan O’Carroll has made it a level playing field. He’s made working class Irish humour very popular over there.
“They have a drier wit so they laugh in different places than the Irish,” he continues. “I do stuff about Tinder and say, because it pairs you up by distance instead of personality, in 50 years when you ask your grandad what was the first thing he liked about granny, he’ll say: ‘she was geographically convenient’!
“They love that over there. In Ireland, they prefer my Tinder story. I was messaging two guys and I’m crap at that, so when one said something funny, I’d copy and paste that into the other conversation. This went on for weeks.
"They were having these conversations with each other and had no idea. I got in too deep and realised they were perfect for each other! I didn’t know what to do so I organised a date and they met.”
He says they are now a couple, so clearly they were also geographically convenient?
“Yeah, both in the Tallaght/Crumlin/Walkinstown vicinity, I don’t look much farther than that!”
It’s true that Al Porter is strongly identified with Tallaght. A huge town in South Dublin with a population of over 70,000, there has even been talk that it should be granted city status. Culturally, it is very much its own thing.
“Tallaght does have its own culture. A guy I’m seeing came to my show in the Civic Theatre and he said the next morning: ‘Tallaght people are so funny. They’re so into being from Tallaght! That’s their thing.’”
Essentially, then, they’re the Dublin equivalent of Cork people?
“Well thank you very much. I always say we’re like the northside of the south. We drifted, like an island, away. We were supposed to be with Artane and Ballymun.”
Wandering around the quays for years like the Israelites in the desert?
“Yeah, we’re going ‘guys, we’re gonna hold down the fort over here.’ We refuse to become southsiders. Or mountaineers from Wicklow. It’s so vast. Basically it’s just a council estate and a cinema. It’s bigger than Limerick City and what do we actually have?!”
With plenty of family from Sarsfield Road in Ballyfermot, Porter also has a place in his heart for the Old Wild West.
“It was always instilled in me – never forget where you come from. I’m almost ashamed that I don’t have the Imelda May or PJ Gallagher accent because people immediately hear them and go ‘there’s a townie, I love it!’ I’m like [posh accent] ‘I’m a townie, I love it!” I feel like Rachel Dolezal, appropriating working class culture for myself. Even though I am working class through and through!”
While Al Porter wants to take on the world, the ultimate dream begins and ends in Dublin.
“No matter how successful I became, my dream would be to have a two-up two-down somewhere like Harold’s Cross or East Wall. Little front garden, tiny little back garden. That’s it. Those houses are great. You open the front door and there’s no bull, you’re into the living room! There’s no hall. Halls are pointless. What a waste! I also love the under- the-stairs cupboard where crisps and hoovers live. You open it and fight a hoover for a bag of crisps.”