Irish comedian David O’Doherty is no stranger to our shores. His musical whimsy has been seen recently on Comedy Central’s The Half Hour and John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, and if you’re lucky, you can occasionally catch him doing his solo show at UCB or dropping in atBrooklyn’s Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival. Otherwise, he and his tiny keyboard can be found at comedy festivals the world over. For those unfamiliar, there’s no better to place to start than withhis own introductory FAQ for the DOD.
Recently, I got the chance to wander around the Flatiron district of Manhattan with David in search of an acceptably quiet place to have a conversation, ultimately introducing him to that most American of institutions, Jamba Juice. In the midst of all that, I talked to him about touring the world, being a chart-topping musician, and becoming a verb.
You toured the US with Flight of Conchords. Were those your first gigs in the US?
No, the first show I ever did here was with David Cross. [He] got [Daniel] Kitson over to do a show in about 2003, and then I came over with Kitson and did a bit on the show. But in 1996, I got a student visa when I was in university. I was in San Francisco, and worked as, among other things, a courier delivering parcels and packages, not knowing anywhere in San Francisco. So the people who were good at couriering could do like 36 drops a day, and I would do between four and seven. But I got a tan. So that was technically my first work in America.
I’m curious about doing gigs in different countries, and the way that people react to you. Is it majorly different?
Well, there’s a Seinfeld quote, I think it’s Seinfeld said if you talk about your town, people go, “Why’s he talking about his town?” But if you talk about your road, people go, “Oh, his road’s exactly like my road.” So, you definitely learn after a while to write stuff — I mean, at the moment, I’m not gonna work on a large piece of material that’s not gonna work in Dublin and London and Melbourne and Sydney and New York and Los Angeles. But then that’s sort of second nature after awhile. Obviously there’s small colloquialisms and whatnot that I still always get found out by. But then, part of the joy is the discovery that some of your jokes mean completely different things here, and then reacting to that with the audience. What I do is reasonably loose, particularly in the longer form, so there’s a lot of messing around and asking people why things got a certain reaction.
It’s cool that you can make it sort of interactive.
Well, certainly change it, and make the shows a bit different to each other. Particularly, doing a run like Edinburgh, [which] is 28 shows, 28 nights. Melbourne’s 24 shows, 24 nights. And you need to change it up a bit otherwise you appear to be going out of your mind on stage.
The Edinburgh Fringe has been this massive thing in my life, from a development in comedy point of view. In that, I’d been doing comedy for about 9 months, I went to Edinburgh in 1999 and did a newcomer competition where you did like a 7-minute spot. I was about 22 or 23, and won the bloody thing.
That’s very impressive.
Oh thank you. I’m still dining out on that 13 years later. It meant that I could go back then the next year and do my first hour, my first solo show.
Winner, 2008 Edinburgh Comedy Award. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. But it is a sort of marathon that you really have to sprint. And there are hurdles and weights to lift. And swimming. And shooting. Life is basically the Olympics. But at the end you don’t get a medal, you die.
David O’Doherty: Seize The David O’Doherty. Monday, 17 September 2012. Upright Citizens Brigade, 307 W. 26th St., New York. 8PM. $5!