Interview by Graham Chalmers
Never cross swords verbally with the charming Dylan Moran.
In my experience of interviewing the great and the good, comedians are usually, though not always, the cleverest of all, the result, perhaps, of having to live on their wits.
Though many funnymen are as articulate and well-informed as politicians, few stray into the realm of philosophy.
But the deadpan and gloriously dishevelled Moran who plays the Royal Hall in Harrogate on April 23 seems to see the black well of things lying below the surface.
Talking to me from a hotel in Southend before a date on his current Off The Hook tour, he seems uninterested in anything as trivial as a “career” or “success”.
Asked what his first-ever US tour was like a couple of years back and he replies: “It’s a huge territory. A world within a world. If you want to know it you have to leave the cool places like New York and San Francisco and travel to the heartland. The Americans are a very sophisticated people. They have enough of everything because everyone is there. America has the broadest band width of possible cultures to draw on. ”
Like a living, breathing black comedy, this 45-year-old Irishman from County Meath who now lives in Edinburgh with his wife Elaine and two children, speaks with a permanent tone of exasperation as if he has already seen through everything mankind has to offer.
It might explain why he is such a fine low key actor, having impressed in both comic and dramatic roles, from Channel 4’s cult sitcom Black Books on TV to Simon Peggs’ hit movie Shaun of the Dead on the big screen.
Last year saw Moran come close to out-shining the entire cast in the highly-acclaimed comedy-drama Calvary, even giving the formidable acting titan that is Brendan Gleason a run for his money.
Not that’s he interested in that sort of praise.
“Are people still watching that. I suppose it’s come out on DVD?” is his simple reply.
Neither was he aware of coming 17th in the top 1000 greatest stand-up comedians on Channel 4 in 2007.
“I have no interest in that,” he says.
Will Black Books come back?
Tell me something about it I didn’t know.
“It was hard work but it was fun.”
I mention some critics have compared his ruminating, dark sense of humour on stage to playwright Samuel Beckett.
“I’m not in the business of comparing myself to anyone else. If you’re playing football you don’t try and put yourself in the context of the rest of footballing history.”
I am about to switch the discussion to his current tour when he interrupts to say he’s just spotted that the hotel has UKIP posters up in its windows.
What can audiences at Harrogate expect in the new show, I continue?
“The show covers a lot, everything that’s been in the news in the media storm we live in these days.
“I remember as a kid running across the fields without a care in the world but the way the media looks at the world today is bizarre.
“It’s a daily tsunami of black carnage, horrible hell-holes and sex crimes. You’re sitting at breakfast taking the top off your boiled egg with the 40,000 horsemen of the apocalypse riding towards you on TV.”
What was Russia like, I ask, making reference to the breakthrough shows he performed there in 2012.
“It’s a great centre of world culture but the country is being very misrepresented by the particular man in the Kremlin at the moment.
“A whole generation of young Russians just want to get on with the rest of the world and he’s alienating it. I look forward to the end of his reign.”
Gulp. Did this stand-up comic in the crumpled jacket and open neck shirt with a glass of red wine usually close at hand just say he wanted rid of Putin?
I’m starting to think Dylan doesn’t think life’s funny at all.
Does it get harder to be funnier the older you get?
“It changes. You change. Different things make you laugh. As a young man you talk about chasing girls and going to the pub. As you get older you talk about walking the dog and eating cheese.
“It’s easy to talk all the time about why the world is so miserable but there comes a time when you have to look for brightness.”
And on that philosophical note, the lugubrious but likable Dylan Moran signs off.
For tickets, call Harrogate Theatre box office on 01423 502116 or book online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk