Just For Laughs: Sydney – Dara Ó Briain
There are many famous faces in the line-up for Just For Laughs: Sydney, none perhaps as quick-witted and high-spirited as Dara Ó Briain. We had the pleasure of catching up with Dara ahead of his return to Sydney with his currently touring show, So…Where Were We?
Irish funnyman Dara Ó Briain is set to return to Sydney for the upcoming Just For Laughs: Sydney between the 12th and the 21st of November. This year, Dara will bring his current show So…Where Were We? down under.
Originally written and performed as COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, Dara states, "This is a show about reunions”. He explained that the show has evolved since he began touring it on and off since September 2021 (interrupted by COVID-19). “We’ll be up to show 162 or 163 by the time we get to Sydney, so it’ll be very polished”, Dara joked. “Really, I like to give myself the leeway to do a lot of things that kind of characterise what I do - a lot of audience messing around”. Dara’s comedy is not only known to be highly entertaining but a master of improvisation and crowd work.
While audiences will recognise Dara from various programmes, Mock The Week – a British improvisational comedy show, was perhaps his most notable regular appearance, having hosted it for 17 years. Whilst the show ended late last year, it has shown itself to be an enduring staple of comedy amongst Dara Ó Briain’s fans worldwide.
“The Aussies and New Zealanders, the locals who are comedy nerds who have seen Mock The Week on the Internet, who have seen the Live at the Apollo stuff – they’re really interesting to me”. Of his international audiences, Dara said:
“Sometimes they can be incredibly kind.” It was at this point in the interview that Dara – who was speaking to us via video call from his home in the UK - pulled out a giant puppet of himself, “Somebody in Toronto made a puppet of me – he’s in a proper suit and everything… I had to go all the way to the West Coast, into Calgary and Vancouver with this puppet. The puppet has been on a ferry, and it's been through various security checks.”
His travels will soon bring him to Just for Laughs: Sydney, where he will join a wealth of other international and Australian comics for a week of fantastic comedy. “When I’m touring, I'm on my own, and the Just for Laughs Gala, which is in the Opera House, will be, you know, with like ten other comics, and I don't get to see other comics very often. It will also be ten other comics in Australia, so they'll be friendly,” Dara joked. “Just for Laughs in Montreal with those American comics - they are not friendly people.” He laughed. “So, it'll be fun to be among, you know, Aussie and New Zealand comics, but also it’s in the Opera House”. Dara has previously performed at the Opera House during his 2017 tour Dara O Briain Live. “The walk to it is just the most fun…you just walk along, and there are all the people milling at the bars, and then you walk to THE Opera House”, he said with amazement.
In addition to performing a set at the Just For Laughs: Sydney All-Star Gala, Dara is also confirmed to be performing his own show, So…Where Were We? at the State Theatre, which he described as “Insanely beautiful”.
With a busy touring schedule and over 25 years in comedy and TV presenting, Dara says he is still passionate about performing. “It would be very easy to slip into a kind of, you know, ‘here we go again’. You know, because you could name towns that are less interesting to visit than Sydney over the course of the tour. But they are very much the mainstream. You tour the UK, and you're on the motorway, going here and there”.
“There was a point in May of this year where it was like a list of British town names: Crawley, Bedford, Hastings. On and on and on. But things like the Australian and New Zealand gigs are the prize you give yourself.”
“That's the work. Obviously, and that's fine, and that's how you make money by going to every town in the UK. But it is a lot of towns like, I mean, It's 60 million people wedged into the country, and they built theatres in every town, and you go to town after town, and that can get to be a bit of a grind. So, the prize at the end is the Opera House or Hammersmith Hall, things like that…Sydney is the dessert at the end of a very long tour.”
Dara also shared how the Internet has impacted his career and created new opportunities.
“The Internet has kind of developed a thing of bringing my clips to people - that all happened in the last ten years - so the point when you might have been going “okay, here we go again”, suddenly I was able to do Oslo. Suddenly, I was able to do Auckland. On various tours, new bits kept being added, new towns, new places to visit. On this tour, we did Athens and Cyprus for the first time.
In Athens, there were two people in the front row, one called Orpheus and the other called Thanos, and you're going, ‘Well, that writes itself.’… That kind of stuff is so lovely.”
“I’m in show business, for Christ’s sake. I’m 51 and in show business. If I were in a band, not only would the band be over, but the legacy tour would be over, too. But I’m still in the middle of it…So we [comedians] get a really long chance to get to do this for years and years. What’s kept it interesting is that every now and then, you’ll go somewhere totally new, and that’s lovely. It’s great.”
Sydney is a hotspot for Australian comedy, particularly for new comics honing their skills and finding their voice. On almost any night in Sydney, a comedy show is happening. To end, Dara had some words of advice for up-and-coming comedians;
“Get as much stage time as you possibly can while you’re trying to find your voice. Everything else will look after itself in terms of when breaks come and what happens. You should be thrilled to get any chance. Be thrilled to get the gig that’s a three-hour drive away with only 20 minutes on stage.”
“Just try to get on stage as much as you can. For free, for nothing, for anything at all, just because you will find your voice, and that’s everything. It didn’t click for me for a while…You learn by doing, so take any gig you can.”