Belfast comedian Colin Murphy on his new Big Time tour
Blame Game panellist and veteran stand-up Colin Murphy has barely finished his current comedy tour but he's already lined up a slew of dates for a new show next year. The Downpatrick-born comic tells David Roy about Big Time
HI COLIN, what are you up to this afternoon – are you almost ready for your sold-out 'work in progress' show at The Black Box in Belfast?
I'm arguing with my computer while also trying to write stuff for the show. It's doing endless updates and I'm drawing mind mappy, Venn diagram-y type things, with a pen. It's sort of panic stations time.
Before you kick off Big Time in January, you've still to finish your current and extensive Bald Ambition tour, which started back in September. How come you've been touring so much recently?
I've an eldest child who's going to university next year! Also, I'm really enjoying stand-up again. I've really enjoyed [this tour] – the shows down south are slightly harder because I haven't toured down there for so long, and I haven't been on TV down there in years. That's almost like starting again – it keeps your feet on the ground.
The audiences aren't as big but the people who are there really want to be there. So that's good. But, ironically, it's harder to make a room full of 30 laugh than it is a room full of 300. If something doesn't fly, it's very obvious very quickly.
Is that the idea behind doing the smaller Black Box gigs on Sunday and on January 6?
Absolutely. If you can make 50 sober people laugh then it's a lot easier to mess around with the material in a bigger room. It gives you a frame to work with.
Once you know that the material works and you have that in your head and you're confident, then you can then riff and mess around and chat to the crowd all you want.
There's also going to be other things that happen in the news that day you'll want talk about, but you always know you've got the prepared stuff that you can dip in and out of.
Were you tempted to try out new material for Big Time in the last few Bald Ambition shows?
Well, that was the plan – but the plan came to nothing because that would have been too organised for me!
But I have been doing a few bits and pieces when I've been compering and some of the stuff I've been touring around in the south anyway which I didn't do in the northern part of the tour.
So some bits have been road-tested, but I'm still not sure exactly how much I've got. The show could be 40 minutes long, or it could be two hours long – I'll have no idea until Sunday.
Given that you'll be touring Big Time throughout the period when Brexit is supposed to happen, will you be talking about it in the show?
It does get a couple of mentions, but not hugely. To be honest, I don't really want to talk about the Brexit thing because I think people are already sick to the back teeth of it – although the tour does go over the actual date.
So, I'm doing two nights in Armagh (March 29 and 30): one is pre-Brexit and the other will be post-Brexit. So the lights might not be on on the second night.
Does the title Big Time have any actual significance?
No. It was one of those things where someone asked 'have you got a a title?' and I lied and said, 'oh yeah, big time' – and they said, 'oh, that's good'.
It's weird though because every comedian in the world does that – they come up with a title first and then try to crowbar their stuff around the title, or subconsciously end up writing around it.
So I don't know yet. There's a lot of stuff about us and here and that sarcy thing where 'big time' is a positive term everywhere in the world except here, where if you say 'aw, he's big time now', that's an insult.
On the subject of 'big time', you're playing some sizeable gigs on the new tour including The Ulster Hall and The Millennium Forum. Was it a deliberate move to play bigger shows like that and are you hoping for sell-outs?
They are bigger rooms but I thought 'yeah, why not? Let's go for it and see what we can do'. On the last tour they both did really well.
The Millennium (April 12) is a hard one to sell out because it's a big room, but we've already had to put a second date on for The Ulster Hall (May 18) as the first one (March 15) is nearly sold out.
I'm also doing two nights in Armagh, which is always brilliant and is always the first show to sell out – I don't know what it is, but they are a great audience.
Some places take you by surprise. Like, the Ardowen in Enniskillen (May 23) is also really good with an amazing audience, and Coleraine (February 28) as well.
You turned 50 earlier this year and have apparently developed some uncharacteristically active-sounding tendencies. Are you still running regularly?
Yes, I'm still doing Parkruns and I ran a half-marathon in September there. I'm sort of still toying with the idea of a full marathon – it's one of those bucket list-y things that you tick off so you can say 'well, at least I did it once'.
The half was great, I actually weirdly enjoyed it. I felt like I could probably have gone a bit faster. There were definitely an awful lot of people of a certain age at the starting line though.
So it's basically a very healthy kind of mid-life crisis then?
I think there's definitely a very fine line involved. I saw a guy at a run a couple of weeks ago who was well into his 50s and manscaped to within an inch of his life: he had the fake tan, the eyebrows, the teeth, the Porsche, the whole heap.
I thought, 'there's a serious crisis going on in his life'. So I'll have to keep an eye on myself.
:: Colin Murphy's Big Time tour starts on January 19 at Monaghan Theatre and includes dates at The Ulster Hall in Belfast on March 15 and May 18 and Millennium Forum in Derry on April 12. Second 'warm-up' show at The Black Box in Belfast on January 6 now on sale. Full dates and ticket details at Thatcolinmurphy.com