David O’Doherty has a small keyboard, an Irish accent and a head full of dreams. Well, he has at least two of those things. “Life is like a box of chocolates,” His press release reads, “but one where somebody has eaten the chocolates and replaced them with mouse heads and dishwasher tablets.” Nick Jones had some questions for the “hit recording artist” (and comedian) that is David O’Doherty.
You’ve been delighting audiences for years with your very low energy musical whimsy (VLEMWy) and Casio keyboard; what is it about that particular instrument that so appeals?
“Delighting” is a very strong word there, I mean, “baffling” some times, other times “mildly entertaining”, but on balance, people seem to be enjoying it!
I like the portability of a small keyboard; Virgin and QANTAS don’t charge you, they don’t think it’s a real instrument so they don’t charge you the extra they would for a guitar, you can argue technically it’s a children’s toy… Also, I like the fact that you can’t really be flash on it, you can’t do arpeggios that blow people’s minds, your song is reduced back to it’s barest bones, and yeah, people laugh and find it funny.
What are some of the characteristics of VLEMWy?
[LAUGHTER] Well, “VLEMWy” is a term of abuse that some journalists used to describe my work-
But you’ve reclaimed it!
I have used it intensely since then. I mean, I don’t know how low-energy it is – I yell quite a lot – it’s certainly musical, and whimsical…? It’s sort of one of those terms that…unless you’re delivering a set made up entirely of facts, with pie-charts and graphs, I think we’re all being whimsical to some extent.
You’re also an accomplished author; how do you come up with 100 Facts About Pandas (and later, Sharks)?
I always liked lying a lot, where people would believe you for a little while, and seeing how long you could keep that going. Maybe I’m a bullshiter or I’m good at bullshiting; I studied Philosophy at University and did virtually no work, and was able to wrangle my way through examination papers and seminal discussions and stuff like that, so I took that, and me and Claudia O’Doherty and Mike Ahern (the illustrator) took that to the next level and tried to make a book that seems like it’s true, but it’s not.
I went to a very old University and you don’t necessarily learn things, but you do learn how people who know things act, and the manor in which they talk, and I think that’s very useful. I can give a passable impersonation of knowing something about a topic I know nothing about for at least thirty seconds; the pretentious way you start an argument with, “well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it!” and people go, “wow, this guy knows what he’s saying”.
And minor chart sensation; tell us about Orange.
[In 2007] I was working on a documentary with John Carney…we made a terrible video for a horrible song I wrote, and then me and my friends bought every copy of it by driving around to different record shops and managed to get that to number #29 on the Irish Charts. So yeah, technically I’m a hit recording artist.
Is there anything you particularly enjoy about Melbourne, and visiting Australia?
I’ve just done a few gigs around the country, and I’m always fascinated that when I mention I’m going to be in Melbourne, people always say, “boo!” and react in a negative way; when I travel around there are always certain cities that people can agree, “oh, that’s a nice place,” whereas in Australia every single city has a very specific beef with every other city. So I always enjoy, when I’m in Melbourne, trying to drill down to, “what is the thing, what is the precise thing about this beautiful city,” because I love it, “that annoys the rest of Australia?”
And I think I might have found it.
It’s a cafe, I think it’s at the back of David Jones, called “Coffee Lab” (editor’s note: It’s called Sensory Lab), and you can get like a sixteen dollar Long Black, and I think we might have actually found the kernel of the rest of Australia’s annoyance with Melbourne.
What can audiences expect from We Are All in the Gutter, But Some of Us Are Looking At David O’Doherty at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival?
As far as major themes…one of the chief ills of our times is that everyone thinks that everyone else is having a brilliant time, and that is something that in it’s most obvious form would be something like Instragram, where everyone is just feverishly trying to represent an aspirational brand of themselves. You know, I think the opportunity of the Internet was for people to be honest and say, “we are all having a reasonable time; life is hard, but look, we’re all doing our best,” whereas that hasn’t really happened. The Internet up to this point just seems to be people feverishly trying to outlive each other in terms of the intensity of our lives.
We Are All In The Gutter But Some of Us Are Looking at David O’Doherty is on from March 24 until April 16 at the Forum Theatre at 7:15pm. Tickets range between $31 and $39.50, and are available from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website.