Arts

Chatty Alan Carr still has plenty of specs appeal

Comic and chat-show host Alan Carr is heading to Belfast and Derry as he nears the end of his 140-date Yap Yap Yap! tour. He talks to Brian Campbell about reality TV, Tommy Tiernan and Nadine Coyle's accent

Alan Carr is playing a run of dates in Belfast and Derry

ALAN Carr has come a long way since starting out as a stand-up comic and supporting the likes of Tommy Tiernan.

Carr has been a gigging comedian for about 15 years now and won the BBC’s 'best new stand-up’ award in 2001.

Since 2009 he has been a household name because of his popular Channel 4 chat show Chatty Man, which has featured names such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Justin Bieber, Adele and Hugh Grant.

Grace Jones is in the line-up on Friday night’s pre-recorded show.

Meanwhile, Carr will be live on stage in Belfast as part of a four-night run. (Next month he’ll do four gigs in Derry.)

Speaking to The Irish News, he recalls supporting Tiernan “ages ago, in the early days”.

“He’s so good. I thought I’d had a good gig and then I saw him and thought 'You’ve got a long way to go, Alan, before you’re as good as him’.”

He jokes that Tiernan might be a hugely acclaimed stand-up but doesn’t have a hit TV show. “Yeah, he might be hysterical on stage but he never got to talk to JLS,” he laughs, referencing the now defunct English boy band.

Carr (39) is a comedy natural and a born storyteller. His tour has already taken him to Dublin and Galway this year and he says he’s looking forward to Belfast and Derry.

“I remember playing Belfast on the Spexy Beast tour and it went down a storm, so that was really lovely. And I’m staying in a nice hotel, so that’ll be nice.

“It’s nice to come back to play a more intimate venue, because I kind of went off arenas.

"I found that my show didn’t grow because you never want to try out a new joke in front of 12,000 people.

“When you play a smaller room, things get shouted out and you get a bit of local knowledge. You can go off the beaten track a bit more.”

He says he always likes to get out and about in the cities he visits and plans to do some shopping, sightseeing and personal grooming while in Derry.

“I’ve played Derry a few times, so it’ll be a nice break when I get there next month.

"I’ll have a mani and a pedi and do some Christmas shopping. Is Derry near the Giant’s Causeway? Will it be grim to go and see that in December?”

I tell him that it’s an hour away and that he could go to Bushmills afterwards for a whiskey.

“Ooh, that sounds good,” he says.

On Chatty Man, Carr is always seen offering his guests a selection of alcoholic beverages from an ice bucket. So does he bring the bucket on tour?

“I don’t. I’ve been steering clear of alcohol for the tour. It’s funny because in Dublin and Galway I had people bringing alcohol on to the stage and saying, 'Have a shot!’ and I said, 'It was funny the first time I necked one and slurred a word, but when I’ve wet myself and been sick down myself, you’ll be the first to go and get your refunds’.

"I still have to perform. You don’t want to be the Oliver Reed of comedy,” he laughs.

He says he probably won’t attempt to do a Derry accent when he visits the city.

“No, I’d be like Nadine Coyle. It is funny, because even people from Northern Ireland distance themselves from her voice: 'We don’t know what she’s saying either’.”

Carr says it’s a shame that “someone put the blocker” on legalising gay marriage in Northern Ireland.

“It’s a shame, because me and my other half were going to get married on the Giant’s Causeway. I was going to have my Irish setter running down with the rings and everything.”

Carr says he has added a few bits to the live show since the tour started but doesn’t tweak too much or add too many topical bits.

“The world at the minute is such a lovely place,” he says, deadpan, referring to the Paris attacks earlier this month. “I don’t’ even bother to go down that route. I really struggled on the Saturday after [Paris], because I was up in Hull – and not just because it was Hull.

“I’d be interested to know how other people got on that night if they were performing, because it just knocked me for six. I think 2015 has been particularly bad, but I suppose people have needed to laugh.”

He says he’s been happy with how his Yap Yap Yap! live DVD has been received.

“I’m pleased it’s been getting a good reception. It took me ages to write and I think it’s funny. Of all my tours, I’ve never had so many standing ovations,” he says.

“I even got a standing ovation on the night we recorded the DVD, which is lovely, because normally when you record a show you get the most miserable audience ever and they’re only in there because it’s raining outside and they’re scowling at you and mouthing 'This isn’t Jimmy Carr’ and yawning. But they were cracking at the Hammersmith Apollo [in London].”

Carr is certainly a busy man. His Yap Yap Yap! tour has spanned 140 nights this year and ends in London on December 19.

As well as filming the weekly episodes of Chatty Man – he says he’s hoping to get Adele as a guest in the coming weeks – he will also record a special Christmas show and also his 'New Year’s Eve Specstacular’.

“It is exhausting but I’m in a really lucky situation where I have a chat show that keeps getting recommissioned and people also want to see me doing live shows.

“But it won’t always be like this. I mean, there will come a time when I’m in the Jungle eating crocodile's bits, thinking 'Remember when you were popular?’” he says, bursting out laughing, referring to I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.

He says if he could choose one reality show to appear in it would be Strictly Come Dancing.

“I watched a bit of Celebrity Big Brother recently and it was a load of people I didn’t recognise calling each other f-words. I watched it in the past, but I watch it now and think, 'This is an asylum’.”

He plans to let his hair down and have a drink after his tour-closing London gig at the Hammersmith Apollo next month. So what is his festive tipple of choice?

"I like a Bailey’s and I like a Mint Bailey’s, because when you have the mint one you don’t feel that you need to clean your teeth at the end of the night; it has that toothpaste freshness.”

In January, he’s planning to go off on a 'winter sun’ holiday.

“Or if I love Derry so much, I might even come back there.”

:: Alan Carr is at the Waterfront in Belfast from Thursday to Sunday at 8pm and the Millennium Forum in Derry on December 10, 11, 12 and 13 (AlanCarr.net). Yap, Yap, Yap! 2015 Live is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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