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Published April 4, 2017

“Out of a sample size of one,” says Irish comedian, Dara O Briain, “I’ve have a 100% success rate with Australian audiences this tour.”

The day after kicking off his Australian tour, with a show at the Sydney Opera House no less, O Briain is already looking at how he can alter his material to suit the Australian audience. “I’m excited to finally be able to do bits about the last time I was in Australia,” he says. “I can finally do my Koala routine after 16 years.”

Of course, stand-up comedy can be fraught with cultural landmines, even for the most seasoned of performers. After using his jokes about ‘Koala Bears’ early in the Sydney show, O Briain tells me of a heckle he received towards the end of the night, around an hour and a half later, to the delight of the rest of the audience: “Koalas aren’t Bears.”

“I’ll pander to the local audience,” he assures me. “But as soon as I get on the plane, they’re Koala Bears again. It’s just what I grew up with.”

Last time O Briain was in Australia, he was part of a showcase of international talent at a festival. “One of those ‘best of Edinburgh or Irish Comedy’ things,” he recalls. “It’s good to be back for the first time properly. Although I’m dreadfully fearful of what material people might be familiar with.”

This is, of course, a danger of releasing comedy shows on DVD, as O Briain has been doing since 2006’s Live at the Theatre Royal. “I had a show in Moscow where the audience knew everything I was doing already. They were total comedy nerds,” Dara says. “I had to dredge up ten-year-old material while on stage, just so I could be sure they wouldn’t have seen it.”

One of the signature parts of O Briain’s shows is his form of audience interaction, which is far more playful and welcoming than a lot of other comics out there who use ‘what’s your name?’ as the opening salvo of a personal attack. “I’ve had to stop asking people what they do for a living, though,” Dara tells me. “Jobs are just getting too specific, especially in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. What I need is for people to be in the front row, dressed as their jobs, like a kid’s book. There’s a Fireman… and an Astronaut…”

Of course, O Briain’s career’s not been so easy to pin down, either. The comedian has hosted a variety of BBC shows, including Mock the Week, Dara O Briain’s Science Club, The Apprentice: You’re Fired, and even the most recent incarnation of Robot Wars. “I’ve had a strange career,” O Briain admits, “But I feel like it’s important to remember that I do turn some things down.”

One of his more recent hosting gigs, the video game focused Dara O Briain’s Go 8-Bit, has been surprisingly successful for O Briain. “It’s just comedians sitting around playing video games, and I suppose we do have a strong competitive streak, but the audience loves it,” he tells me. Of course, as a loud and proud gamer himself, O Briain can appreciate the joy of playing them. “I’ve started playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, but I’m still in the opening bit, you know these games where it doesn’t start for about eight hours?”

“I will be quite excited when Red Dead [Redemption 2] is released, though. I’m looking forward to that one.”


Dara O Briain is performing at Hamer Hall on the 4th & 5th of April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available through the Arts Centre website.

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