There’s a decided buzz about going to see a comedian when you haven’t a clue who he is – it’s a distinct risk, because humour is very subjective, and although whoever it is you’ve chosen to see might be top of their tree technically, they simply might not be your cuppa tea. I really enjoy taking these leaps of comic faith, and, so far, we haven’t really been disappointed. If you hadn’t guessed, gentle reader, the talent that is Mr David O’Doherty had previously passed me by, as we hadn’t seen him on TV, and we hadn’t caught him at Edinburgh. However, he had some very fine reviews on Chortle, so it was more than worth taking a punt. And it paid dividends, in droves.
He meanders on to the stage in a very unshowbizzy way; in fact he’s what the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle would have called a scruffy urchin. As he himself points out, if you’re expecting a big build-up, you’ll be disappointed. But it’s that quietly unassuming, realistic persona that really makes you warm to him. Within a few minutes, you really feel he’s one of us (whoever we are, of course.) He got great mileage from the fact that, whilst he was on the stage of the charming and elegant Royal Theatre, Jersey Boys were pounding the boards upstairs at the Derngate auditorium, and trusted that no one had got mixed up as to which show they were seeing. A pretend rivalry between the two shows became a brilliant running thread that developed throughout the evening; I loved the suggestion that the two shows had to finish at different times because otherwise us O’Doherty Boys would beat up the wussy Jersey Boys in the foyer, as though we were re-enacting some scene from West Side Story.
We both enjoyed Mr O’Doherty’s relaxed, natural style; no over-the-top McIntyre-like pacing or skipping from one end of the stage to the other, and no gimmicks – just his little Bontempi keyboard that he plays probably about as badly as I would, to sing his hopelessly funny songs about how life is basically rubbish and why does everything go wrong. You sensed there was a script lurking in there somewhere; at times, particularly after the interval, it came to the fore, but some of his best material emerged when he’s just freewheeling and thinking off the top of his head. He’s clearly got an amazingly lively brain as he spins off on delightful tangents, exploring if there’s anything funny there – and there usually is. He does involve the audience, but not over-much; you needn’t worry that you will become the star of the show if you sit in the front row, although 14 year old Jack might occasionally have hoped the earth would open up and swallow him.
Amongst Mr O’D’s comedy nuggets were observations on how e-cigarettes are really unsexy, Rod Stewart’s ability to think on his feet, mobile phone advertisements; and comparing the problems of a 40 year old (Mr O’D is 40) and a 20 year old. Specifically, if a 20 year old’s phone gets stolen they’ll be embarrassed about the naked selfies and videos; but what were the equivalent concerns of a 40 year old twenty years ago? He has some longer material when he recalls the day when they counted the votes in the Irish referendum about equal marriage. It branches out into all sorts of bizarre avenues, which are mostly not at all what you might expect, but very funny.
Perhaps one of the elements that makes an evening in Mr O’D’s company so enjoyable is that he’s easily recognisable as any number of one’s own friends and acquaintances. He reminded Mrs C of an Irish ex-colleague; he reminded me of one of our Irish friends; and he also put me in mind of a teacher back in the 1970s – a little hairy Irish chap whom everyone loved because his clothes were tatty and he looked thoroughly degenerate, so different from the other dignified but run-of-the-mill teachers – one of us, in fact. By the end of the evening you think of Mr O’D as someone you’d really look forward to going out for a pint with.
He’s touring the UK, Ireland and Australia between now and April – go and see him and for some genuinely funny material in the company of a really decent bloke.