Colin Murphy: It sounds like a mid-life crisis, but it's not. I think I'm past that
Currently back on TV and radio with the latest series of The Blame Game, Co Down comedian Colin Murphy spoke to David Roy about his new stand-up show Bald Ambition, which he'll be touring throughout Ireland in the new year
THE year was 1992: The Maastricht Treaty unified Europe, future James Bond actor Daniel Craig landed his first film role, Madonna's Blond Ambition World Tour Live LaserDisc won the Grammy for Best Music Video – Long Form and a Downpatrick man called Colin Murphy performed his first stand-up set at his new comedy night at Queen's University Belfast.
A quarter of a century later, things are very different. The EU is creaking under the strain of an imminent Brexit, Daniel Craig's tenure as 007 is coming to an end, Madonna hasn't made a good record in over a decade and QUB's Comedy Club will be wound-up this year due to the imminent demolition of the Student's Union.
However, Colin Murphy's career is going from strength to strength: the Co Down funnyman is currently back on the box and the wireless in his regular role as a panelist on BBC hit The Blame Game and is also preparing to hit the road with a new live stand-up tour, Bald Ambition.
"The first date is on Old Christmas Day," says Murphy (49) of his upcoming engagement at Strule Arts Centre in Omagh on January 6.
"So I'll take the Christmas tree down and go and do the gig. Hopefully, it should go OK. Even though it's early in the year, that's when cabin fever has usually set in and people just want to get out of the house after being cooped up staring at each other.
He adds: "Tickets also make for a cheap, thoughtless Christmas present."
The 15-date tour, which also includes shows in Belfast (March 9 and 23 at the Waterfront Hall Studio), Newtownabbey (March 15, Theatre at The Mill) and Derry (March 16, Millennium Forum) will be The Blame Game man's first extended run of live work in quite some time, as he explains.
"I haven't done a proper tour like this in years," says Murphy. "Normally, it's just bits and pieces but this time it's from January right through to March."
Yes, it seems the comedian is actually enjoying himself on stage again after a period of feeling underwhelmed by the prospect.
"I got so fed up with it for quite a while," admits the regular host of the soon to be extinct QUB Comedy Club and (along with Blame Game buddy Jake O'Kane) The Empire Belfast's long-running comedy night, The Empire Laughs Back.
"I'd had enough and was getting bored by it – but then something happened. I don't know what it was, but I suddenly started really enjoying doing gigs again.
"It was like finding my mojo again."
Every comedian will experience peaks and troughs like this during their career, especially those who've been at it as long as Murphy, who partly attributes his renewed interest in being funny to a fast approaching major milestone.
"I realised 'Jesus, I've managed to make a living at this for 25 years'," he explains.
"I'll be turning 50 in April as well, so I got to thinking 'this is all fodder', so why not go out and talk about it and celebrate it?
"That makes it sound like a mid-life crisis, but it's really not. I think I'm past that."
Fans of The Blame Game will be pleased to learn that Murphy and his regular co-conspirators Jake O'Kane and Tim McGarry are still enjoying their 'topical panel show' antics 12 years on from their very first series.
"Every time we start doing it again, before the first episode you're thinking 'oh Christ, how do we do this?' – but by half way through the show you're like 'oh yeah, we know exactly what we're doing here'," explains the Co Down comic.
"It's like putting on a comfortable coat. It's still fun, even though it can feel like we're covering the same old story every week. But there's always some little bit, some angle in it that make it different – and that's the fun of it."
And now, a word of warning: anyone attending a Bald Ambition show in 2018 who is expecting a seminar on how to survive the onset of follicle failure will be disappointed.
Murphy's latest tour title is merely a nod to his own increasingly exposed pate and auld Ms Where Is She Now? AKA Madonna, who was still in her pomp when the comic was first starting out.
"There's nothing about baldness in the show," he confirms. "There are no solutions for baldness in it, so bald men need not get their hopes up. It's just a play on the Madonna thing, because she was just off her Blonde Ambition tour when I started out – in fact, another idea we had for the poster was me in a conical bra."
Thankfully, good sense prevailed.
Of course, Murphy could have just as easily have donned a tux and called the tour 'Bond Ambition', what with fellow 'class of 1992' success story Daniel Craig having resolved to finally give up his license to kill after the next 007 film.
But could the comedian see himself as cinema's most iconic superspy?
"Er, no, definitely not," he responds.
"And I don't think the fans of Bond would be willing to go in that particular direction either. Instead of Never Say Never Again, it would be Whatever You Say, Say Nothing."
Colin Murphy's Bald Ambition tour starts at Strule Arts Centre in Omagh on January 6. See Thatcolinmurphy.com for tickets and full live dates. The Blame Game is on BBC1 Northern Ireland every Friday at 10.35pm and BBC Radio Ulster on Saturdays at 10.30am.