An Interview with British Sitcom Star
A long time ago a young Irishman traveled to London. There he began working the comedy circuit day in day out for over a year, adding bits to his act and developing his own style. Now this same Irishman has toured some of the grandest venues in Great Britain and, like just about every other comedian, pop group or TV chef, has his very own video.
The secret to his success is quite straightforward. He would sum it up as "I was really lucky and got a job in a sitcom." He is of course Ardal
O'Hanlon otherwise known as Father Dougal Maguire of the utterly fantastic "Father Ted" television show.
Amidst writing a new stage act and getting prepared for Father Ted, Ardal is trying to find the time to work on his book. "It's totally unoriginal really" he admitted. " It's about a lad growing up in a small village. I'm doing it because everyone in Ireland has to write a book at some point or their passwords are taken away."
Father Ted has made Ardal O'Hanlon one of the most popular comics in the country. He confesses however that he was surprised by the reception it received. "When I first heard about it I thought it was a terrible idea" he said. "People in Ireland have been dressing up as priests for years and trying to make it funny and that was the sort of stuff I was trying to get away from. But when I saw the scripts and realised how bizarre it was it instantly appealed to me. I thought it would end up a minority thing and I was really amazed the way it took off." Back in Ireland the show is even more popular than here. "In truth people back home are starved of homegrown Irish TV comedy. They went absolutely mad for it when Ted appeared. There was a certain amount of pride in it, a bit like when Ireland came back from Italia 90" he said.
Ardal explains that the cult status of Father Ted on both sides of the
Irish Sea has a lot to do with the fact that it is different. "I've always
felt that if you come up with something new then you'll do well. I think
that the biggest mistake people can make is what I saw when I first came down to London. People were all doing the same old crap about getting drunk and puking up in a kebab. There are infinite ways of doing comedy and if you can find the one that suits you, a way that is different from everyone else then it will work for you."
Although the tremendous popularity of Father Ted has put Ardal on the map, it also creates problems when he returns to stand-up. Many people apparently turn up expecting to find Father Dougal Maguire. "There are two sides to it because if it wasn't for Father Ted I wouldn't have an audience but at the same time I am getting a mainstream audience with a preconceived idea about comedy who watch TV on a Friday and don't get out enough. Sometimes this means you have to work harder than you might want to. I'm also getting a lot of kids coming along which makes you uncomfortable because if I'm talking about sex or something and I look down in the front row and there is a 12 year old lad there with his mum then it puts you off going as far as maybe you would."
A very funny video of Ardal's stage show is currently in the shops.
"Basically the video is me in Dublin performing all the stuff that I'd been on my last tour. It took years to put together. We basically started with a five minute set and over a period of 5 years it grew into a full-length show. I wouldn't recommend it" he laughs.
Since he is unwilling to plug his stuff I'll have to do it for him.
Go to the nearest video shop and buy Ardal's stand-up video. While you are there pick up the newly released Father Ted videos. If you have any money left buy a couple of Father Ted t-shirts, Ted posters and a Father Ted toothbrush. When you get home you'll have an impressive bedroom wall display, you'll be laughing so hard that you are in danger of exploding and you'll have lovely clean teeth. What more could you want from life?
by Paul Trainer