Dara O’Briain – Birmingham Hippodrome – 21st May 2006 4 out of 5 stars
A sell-out audience saw TV star and Stand Up comedian Dara O’Briain riffing on several familiar and more unusual topics when the Irish comedian played at Birmingham’s Hippodrome. A well-known comedy venue, alongside places such as the Glee Club, and Jongleurs, several high profile faces from the stand-up circuit have played at the site.
The targets of O’Briain’s ire were varied and wide-ranging. This tour was partially inspired by his recent appearance on BBC2’s Room 101, with targets such as Gillian ‘You are what you eat’ McKeith’s overwhelming passions of televisual cruelty and human waste, in addition to Magicians and daylight featuring particularly highly.
As well as being a stand-up, O’Briain is also a very good satirist, as his performances as the host of ‘Mock the Week’ on BBC2 and as a guest and host on ‘Have I got News for you’ will testify. So, with the recent misfortunes surrounding various celebrities, and our esteemed government and Prime Minister, he was mining a rich seam of comedy gold.
Much of his comedy was drawn from audience reactions and interactions, and he kept comparing the gig to other recent performances on tour, such as a gig in Salisbury, and Newport, which gave rise to an audience member being the 1968 Milky Bar kid, but having his voice dubbed, because ‘the world was not ready for a Milky Bar Kid with a Welsh accent’. The technology was also a target, with O’Briain’s allusion to the Moore Principle, and how mankind will never be able to keep up with modern technological advances.
A lot of comedy was also directed at the self-deprecating comedian. An audience member saying O’Briain was 42, rather than 34 led to a lengthy diatribe. The comedian claiming that he was always the unhealthy after picture for Honey We’re Killing the Kids, but questioning why the sick picture was still bald. Yet, in the healthy image, when the child’s lifestyle and health have been looked at, they miraculously are more hirsute than might have been expected.
O’Briain’s comedy was often on the darker side, but his charisma and charm meant that at no stage was he ever in danger of becoming a grumpy old man. In many ways, he seemed to welcome age, for the experience and wisdom that he gave, even going so far as to tell a story about his driving test, and how he felt more ready and able to take it now than he would have done in his youth.
The gig lasted for more than two hours and even saw two encores, one in which the comedian thanked everybody who had contributed, from those at the front, too the man who had helped from the front. A lengthy skit about national stereotyping was particularly good, with O’Briain showing how easily prejudices and stereotypes can become fixed. He had said that this type of show stands or falls by the audience that he gets, and their contributions. Luckily for him, and us, that Birmingham, as always, provided a good one.