By his own estimates, it’s been about 10 years since Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain visited Dubai for a stand-up show, despite holidaying here last year. In our book, that means his next gig is long overdue. Fortunately, the 39-year-old, most famous for his stints as a presenter on late-night British quiz shows Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You takes the stage here once again next week at The Irish Village.
When we quiz him on his visit, Ó Briain soon knocks those Irish stereotypes for six – it seems he’s more excited about visiting Wild Wadi than going to the pub, and emits an excited squeak when we mention that Dubai has two waterparks these days. ‘What? I’ve got to go to both!’ he splutters. Even though his visit is in the middle of his UK tour and he’ll be here for less than 48 hours, he has no qualms about hopping on a plane to sunnier climes. ‘I’ve been on the motorway for as long as some of these flights, and of course it’s very rare that I get to spend the day at a world-class waterpark.’
Animated, good-natured and forthcoming (despite having just walked off a flight from Antigua), it’s easy to see why Ó Briain is so bemused by the British press’s determination to describe the majority of comedians as ‘depressed’ when they’re off duty.
That said, he admits he has a slightly darker side, though it’s largely restricted to his Twitter behaviour. ‘I pick fights on Twitter – I genuinely do. A lot of the time I’ll make some contentious points about offensiveness in comedy, and someone will come in and I’ll get into big, long discussions with them,’ he explains, comparing it to having a conversation with someone in a bar. ‘Some people’s policy on Twitter is that if someone’s being rude to you, you block them as if they don’t exist. Whereas I think you hunt them down and correct them,’ he chuckles.
Yet Ó Briain is not always so on the ball, and has found himself in some interesting situations in the past. When asked to recall some of the weirdest circumstances in which he’s found himself, he recounts an occasion where he, in a rather merry state, mistook a police car for a taxi outside the house of comedian pal Ed Byrne. ‘I’d been at a Westlife album launch at the Irish Embassy or something earlier in the evening, so there I was, dressed for the opera, hailing a police car.’ Thankfully, the officers inside were unperturbed and escorted him back to the house, but it was here, to Ó Briain’s incredulity, that they witnessed the sight that was to displease them most. ‘As the policewoman left, she said, “This could be a very nice house, if you tidied it up a bit”,’ he says, pausing for a minute as though still reeling in surprise. ‘It was completely out of her jurisdiction, almost an abuse of power, like, ‘Why can’t you brush your teeth more often?’ It was just naggy – there are murders going on and you’re telling Ed Byrne to tidy up his house!’
Sporadic encounters with the law aside, life off-stage and off-screen seems otherwise pretty normal for the comedian, who started his career presenting a bilingual children’s TV programme in Ireland, before his stand-up gigs took off and hosting jobs started to pile up. It’s thanks to his enormous European success with both that we’ll be seeing him on stage again in Dubai, where he’s certain a few local observations will work their way into the gig after a day in the city.
‘It’s impossible not to [make observations], especially when you’re in somewhere strange and new, and God knows Dubai is strange and new,’ he explains, ‘Stuff just jumps out at you.’ Considering his early determination to don his swimming trunks, we’d say you can expect to hear much more about our waterparks.