Dylan Moran: The this, that and the other of stand-up, misanthropy and filming his new sitcom in Belfast
David Roy chats to comedian Dylan Moran about making his return to stand-up with new tour We Got This, which visits Belfast and Derry next week. The Co Meath-born comic discusses the show, why misanthropy and comedy don't mix and filming his new sitcom Stuck in Belfast...
"THE world is particularly fruity right now," says Dylan Moran. "It's a really candied fruitiness – it's mad."
Indeed, after nearly three years away from a live audience – a chunk of which which was spent writing and filming his brand new BBC2 sitcom Stuck, his first major TV work since turn-of-the-century cult classic Black Books, which was shot in Belfast (more about this in a moment) – the Navan-born comic is relishing being back sharing his mile-a-minute thoughts with people on his new tour We Got This.
"Everyone has had such a crazy time, so it's a very good time to be out," he enthuses.
"It just feels good for the audience and for me as a performer to be doing it. I think we all need it – it's doing us all good."
Moran (50), adds: "It's been such an overwhelming time that I think we've all had to accept whatever it's taught us about ourselves, you know?"
So, what exactly have the past two years taught this veteran Perrier Award-winning comedian, who also got divorced and turned 50 during the pandemic (both topics he explores in We Got This), about himself?
"It's taught me that I get very crabby if I don't get to do what I want in terms of being able to go where I want and stuff," offers Moran, who until recently lived in Edinburgh with his wife, Elaine, whom he married in 1997.
"I really missed working: doing my work with people, being around people and sharing what being alive is about. I found myself thinking a lot about people who were more isolated than I was, anybody who was ill or dealing with any kind of long-term thing.
"You just realise that, 'Oh my god, some people live like this all the time'. The value of relationships and being around each other was underlined, massively. I definitely had my fill of the 'being alone' thing. I'm very pleased to be back out in the world among people."
Indeed, while Moran may have cultivated a grumpy, slightly anti-social personality via his famously stream-of-consciousness driven stand-up routines and portraying the professionally non-plussed Bernard in Black Books, the comedian rejects any suggestion that he's actually a misanthrope.
"I quite like people up close, but I'd do a bit of eye-rolling when it comes to us as a species," he clarifies.
"I think we're all capable of that, but I don't think I'm misanthropic at all – I like people. You can't do this job and not like people."
Currently getting a nightly dose of the crowds he's been craving, Moran says he loves the fact that each stand-up show is always completely different thanks to the fact that no two audiences are the same.
"It's like talking to a different person each night," he tells me.
"A tour is like one huge walk across a ballroom where you stop and chat to various individuals along the way. It's like crossing a huge party, think of it that way.
"A lot of it depends on how interested you are in other people. The more interested you can be in the world around you, the more interesting the world is going to be – and not just for you. Because, if you're an interested party in it, you're going to be more interesting to talk to.
"So it does feed off itself – engagement breeds engagement, you know? As we can tell from what's not happening in Northern Ireland."
Ah, a little bit of politics, there. But don't panic – Moran is just as bored/jaded by the endless parade of semi-functional vote hustlers of the Brexit era as you are.
"To draw breath is to be political, you know? It's just a question of details after that, but people get lost in the weeds when they start pointing fingers and screaming about individuals and particular parties and so on.
"I tend to lose interest around about then, when it comes to the actual squeaky business, the practical application of politics. When my mind touches upon the fringes of what would be necessary to be the type of person to want to do that kind of thing, I experience immediate shutdown and I don't want to think about it any more.
"Certainly, I take my hat off to everybody in the north of Ireland who has to deal with the fact that their representatives are not talking to each other, again. When the figures opposite one another are looking at one another and they know they are in deadlock and the real subject is actually, 'Why are we in deadlock?', but that's actually taboo.
"I was just talking to a journalist [from the north] who was about 25 and the point she made, just kind of joyfully as a young switched-on person, is that [young people] don't give a s***. They just want to live their lives.
"These young people are here now, alive, looking around for a habitable landscape to live a sane life, and yet they are being presented with old grumpy gits who won't talk to one another. And yet they are running their world, saying, 'You are going to live in Old Grumpy Git World because we have no imaginations and you are going to be denied the joy and sizzle of your young lives'.
"That's what they need to smash up – and I just think we should give them more hammers."
The comedian co-stars with actor/comedian Morgana Robinson in his new sitcom Stuck, which is made by Hat Trick Productions (Derry Girls, Father Ted). Due to air later this year on BBC2, the show is billed as a "sometimes surreal exploration of a couple's relationship".
"It's done and dusted," says Moran of the series, which he also wrote.
"I shot it in three weeks – people say, 'Ah yeah, so what?' but it was f***ing hellsapoppin', man. It took years to write it, so shooting it in three weeks was a bizarre feeling. One day we filmed 24 pages.
"Morgana is fantastic, phenomenal. She has a kind of instinctive genius for performance, she's on another level.
"So I think it's good and I'm proud of it. But we made it during the pandemic, and it was an intense time. I'm glad it's over, I'm looking forward to writing the next series not in the pandemic."
As for what else is on Moran's mind for the We Got This tour, he tells me that, "I'm talking about people in their families, dealing with their families, different roles within families, who are you with your family members? All that sort of stuff.
"What do the roles mean in the kind of economy of the family and the economy of life in general. Who's got the power? How does the buck move around the room depending on the mood and ditto when you go to work: how you're managing yourself, how you're kind of running your team of horses within you as a person as you're out there amongst everybody else, you know?
"That sort of self-management all the time, re-sizing your ego in your head, moving around within all that – all the kind of different lenses you kind of have to 'strap on' during the day: sometimes you're an individual, sometimes you're an equal, sometimes you're part of a mass society.
"There will be different moments where those elements are captaining you and you kind of rotate them all day long."
The comedian can't wait to come back to the north next week for shows in Belfast and Derry, not least because it usually involves some messy post-show antics.
"I don't know why, but I always end up getting drunk, and I always end up somewhere that I never go, like a KFC," laughs Moran.
"Whenever I'm in Belfast or Derry, I just like to walk around going, 'I never do this' while I'm eating something awful at four in the morning."