Arts

Artificial intelligence: Belfast stand-up Colin Murphy

Belfast comedian Colin Murphy's new stand-up show is called Artificial Hipster. The veteran funnyman told David Roy about dying on stage, rebooting his social media presence and being too old to be cool

Colin Murphy performs a pair of Belfast dates later this month

COLIN Murphy's new live show may be called Artificial Hipster, but don't be expecting the Blame Game regular to be taking to the stage in Belfast clad in skinny jeans and sporting 'ironic' facial hair.

"Well, every show needs a title," he offers when questioned about what inspired the name he's slapped on his latest stand-up outing.

"It's just about me getting old and whingey and moany and realising that I'm never going to be cool – I'm too old to be cool."

Indeed, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the Co Down-born comedian is fast approaching 50, so it's little wonder that Murphy's famously misanthropic view of humanity should be fuelling his current live set along with an unhealthy dose of middle-aged insecurity.

"Everyone always says that you get to a stage where you don't care what people think about you – but you always care about what people think," he reveals.

"It does get easier in some ways as you get older, because there's usually less pressure from your friends.

"As long as you're sort of coping better than everyone else you know, you're all right."

Wikipedia also claims the comic's birthday is in July (it's not – nor was he born in 1951, as someone once edited his entry to say) and until fairly recently was giving visitors the mistaken impression that he still lives in Downpatrick, the town he left when he was 18.

Little wonder, then, that Murphy has long been suspicious of certain online services:

"I've been moaning and bitching about social media for years," says the man who once claimed that his pet hate was "Facebook and anyone who uses it".

"But I was recently persuaded by someone to go back on to it again, so that's a new departure for me.

"Facebook used to be the worst, but I think Twitter has now taken over. I think all the evil people are on Twitter because it's more immediate – it's the equivalent of standing on the street and shouting stuff at people, whereas with Facebook it's sort of like sending them a letter.

"You need to know somebody's address before you can abuse them."

On the subject of which, Murphy reveals that he recently received something unexpected through his own south Belfast letterbox – an unsolicited pair of Irish passport application forms.

"They were hand-delivered, which is slightly worrying," he tells me.

"It's either a very subtle paramilitary threat or some sort of crafty anti-Brexit-themed election campaign by Sinn Fein."

Having got his start in comedy 24 years ago when he was roped into compering the first ever Comedy Club night at Queen's University Students' Union – where he will shortly be performing his first ever full stand-up show at The Mandela Hall on April 20 (his actual birthday, fact fans) – it seems Murphy's craft is still evolving

Unlike verse-penning comic contemporaries such as Phill Jupitus and Tim Key, he has not previously been known as a funnyman with a poetic streak. Yet rumour has it that this may be about to change with the possible inclusion of a poem in the Artificial Hipster set – although only if the Belfast man senses that the room is ready.

"I'll suss it out on the night," he offers cautiously. "It will depend on how open-minded they are."

As for what has inspired his diversification into new material that may or may not rhyme, Murphy remains coy.

"It's sort of explained in the show," he tells me. "It's a way of venting anger that I've discovered, that I did once and found very useful.

"Of course, it also points up how middle class I've become."

Gauging the 'temperature' of the room is something of an art for comedians, although it seems that this seasoned gag merchant actually prefers to operate in an slightly uncomfortable atmosphere.

"The Stand in Glasgow is like the best club anywhere, because you always have this feeling that it could all go wrong at any minute," Murphy enthuses.

"There's a lovely fizz about the place, which is great. But I have that all the time, this feeling that I'm going to be 'found out'."

And it seems that even after 24 years, Murphy is still prone to having the odd stinker.

"Oh Jesus yeah, I've had loads," he tells me of awkward gigs he's survived over the past two and half decades.

"One corporate gig in particular jumps to mind, which was in Dublin for a load of truck drivers. I was definitely not the person for that gig. It did not go well.

"I didn't get threatened or anything, they just stared at me. A lot."

Still, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and Murphy has now reached the point where he can chalk a bad night up to experience.

"Every gig you die at you learn something from – and you can't always blame the audience," he says. "Although sometimes you definitely don't get the audience that you want to be playing to.

"It's kind of a depressing, really, but the longer you do this, you start looking out through the curtain and just think 'aw f*** – is this who likes me?!'

"You hope it's going to be the young hipsters, but it never is."

But who knows: with his social media activities now ramped up to unprecedented levels and his spleen venting being channelled into newly poetic forms of expression, maybe this will be the tour when Colin Murphy finally does become #cool.

:: Colin Murphy's Artificial Hipster tour is at The MAC in Belfast on April 15 and The Mandela Hall at QUBSU on April 20. See The MACLive.com and Mandelahall.com for ticket details.

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