Arts Q&A: Comedian Ciarán Bartlett on Shane Todd, James Ellroy and Reservoir Dogs

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, comedian and writer Ciarán Bartlett

Ciarán Bartlett's new comedy drama How To Have A Northern Irish Wedding is on Radio Ulster

Comedian Ciarán Bartlett


When did you think about a career in comedy/writing and what were your first steps into it?

I thought about it in between having no real job and refusing to sign on. I actually first thought about it when I was watching a lot of stand-up comedy as a student and wanting to give it a go. I got my first gig by pestering local comedians and started 10 years ago in the basement at McHugh’s bar in Belfast… where dreams are born.


Best gigs you’ve been to?

I love Frankie Boyle, so it was great to see him in the Falls Park a few years ago. I saw Dave Elliott tell horrific true stories about himself in front of his parents and in-laws last year which was sensational. My favourite gig of late was Shane Todd’s Waterfront preview show in a small library upstairs in The Accidental Theatre. It was a handpicked, small crowd and the atmosphere was electric. Outside comedy, it’s a toss-up between Killswitch Engage in the Limelight a few years ago or David Gray in The Greek Theatre, LA, in 2017.


Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses on guitar, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass, Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater on drums, and the mighty Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden on vocals. It's surely got to be very messy, but what a line-up. I call it the Rose Red Dream Maidens. Glam-funk-progressive-metal.


The record you’d take to a desert island?

John Martyn’s Solid Air. Something for every mood.


And the book?

LA Confidential by James Ellroy. An unbelievable story with amazing characters, depth, detail, twists and the setting of a scummy jazz-soaked LA (Los Angeles, not Lower Andytown) is always a fun read. Ellroy’s style and public persona are over the top but very entertaining to me.


Top three films?

Best film ever for me is Michael Mann’s Heat. Ludicrous direction, unreal script and amazing performances from Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and everybody in it, right down to the getaway driver’s jerk boss at the burger joint. Second favourite is Goodfellas. Ridiculously innovative, and cool direction from Scorcese. And there’s a brilliant cameo from one-liner legend Henny Youngman ('Take my wife... please!'). Third choice is Reservoir Dogs. It’s all about getting through a tough situation and bad people saying horrendous things to each other in a brilliantly funny way.


Worst film you’ve seen?

It’s a toss-up between Sweeney Todd, which I walked out of and was overjoyed to have found myself with two hours of free time that I thought I’d never get back, and Battlefield Earth which is just like having someone you don’t like sit beside you on a cramped bus for two hours. Both total dog-breath films.


Favourite authors?

William Goldman, James Ellroy, and – I’m going there – JK Rowling.


Sport you most enjoy and top team?

I’m a diehard Manchester United fan…it’s been a bleak seven years. I follow Ulster Rugby a bit, and the UFC, but I really love the NHL ice hockey and follow the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.


Ideal holiday destination?

The beach at Portstewart. Name me a better one on the planet and I’ll buy you a chip.


Pet hate?

Cats. And people who claim to adore cats. Next.


What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Drink.

Dessert? Dinner.

Drink? Dessert.


Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Is it cheesy to say my soon-to-be-wife, Chloe? Yes, it is. Still, she’s my best mate and we know each other through our shared views: we both love Ciarán Bartlett. She’s a brilliant actor and the most caring, funny and supportive person I’ve ever met.


Is there a God?

Yes. His name is Eric Cantona. French fella, used to wear the No.7 shirt at United.

Ciarán Bartlett is a stand-up comedian and the writer of How To Have A Northern Irish Wedding, a new six-part radio comedy drama that continues on BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday 15 February at 10.30am, and also on BBC Sounds.

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