Ardal O’Hanlon is a name that isn’t necessarily always on everyone’s lips – but his face is, and his character of Father Dougal in Father Ted will live on until humanity is no more. Mr O’Hanlon’s problem is that he was just so good as Father Dougal that no one wants to believe that he isn’t Father Dougal. And that’s his opening bid in his new show The Showing Off Must Go On, currently touring. He gets irritated at being mistaken for Dougal – yet his first (extremely funny) anecdote illustrates just how like Dougal he really is. You’re gonna have to face the fact, Mr O’H; in the same way that My Lovely Horse will always be a possibility for next year’s Irish Eurovision entry, Father Dougal is the gift that keeps on giving.
But I’m running away with myself. First on, we had a support act in the shape of Brodi Snook, an Australian comic whose name sounds more like one of those healthy 1970s Scandinavian crispbreads. Ms Snook is a smart little powerhouse of strong contemporary material, but with a calm, gentle delivery that belies the savagery of her observations. The Derngate auditorium is a vast and lofty place and I think Ms Snook’s style would probably be more suited to an intimate venue. But she gave us a good show and it was an enjoyable hors d’oeuvres before the main course.
We last saw Mr O’Hanlon six years ago, where his soft, relaxed style oozed over you like a comfy duvet. Today, I felt his stand-up had more attack, and more bite, and was probably the better for it. Nevertheless, I still feel he’s exactly what the late Sir Terry Wogan would have been like if he’d gone for a stand-up comedy career. Jocular, knowing, confiding; relating many of his comic observations to his family life and noting how, once you reach 50, you really don’t care about what anyone else things. For example, I loved his sequence of how most people have a Bucket List of things they want to do whereas he has a F**kit List of things he has no intention of doing.
One fairly unusual aspect of his comedy is that, unlike most comics, his material hardly ever strays into the bedroom – apart from one teenage reminiscence of passing round the only dirty magazine in Ireland, with an unexpectedly whambam punchline. With an air of part-innocence and part-resignation, Mr O’H confesses his perfect night would be to stay up late watching TV and eating crisps, and I completely get where he’s coming from. He pushes tentatively at the door of Brexit, to see how we react; wisely he decides not to enter in too far.
With a stage backdrop of posters advertising his previous gigs, there’s a charming disconnect between the pizzazzy showbiz world of comedy and sitcom, and this mild, unremarkable middle-aged man talking about a range of domestic observations that we can all recognise. Technically, it’s a pretty fantastic performance, with a very rewarding number of callbacks coming home to roost at the end, a confident clear delivery and a very amiable persona doing the talking. There are a few terrific belly-laughs, but for the most part it’s simply an enjoyable meander through life’s idiocies. His UK tour continues through to next March and, honestly, why wouldn’t you want to see yer man do his stuff?