As he prepares to take Dr Cosmos across the UK, it might feel as though Dylan Moran has an intricately conceived game plan in place given that he announces a new comedy tour approximately every three years. But that feeling would be quite wrong. “I’m glad to be able to say that I don’t know how often I tour, because I can’t really deal with knowing exactly what I’m going to be doing. But I do enjoy touring and I’m really looking forward to this one. It’s great fun getting to go places. Last year I went to Lincoln: I’d never been there before.”
A reader and a thinker, Dylan is always alert to the comedic or philosophical possibilities all around him. And never is this more apparent than when he’s on the road. “I try to make myself very responsive, and you’re always on when you’re touring, constantly receiving and transmitting, but you can’t be like that all the time. You have to come home and be boring dad. Which I’m very good at apparently. And yes, they tell me that in no uncertain terms.”
Little do they know, perhaps, that this dull father is one of the most acclaimed UK-based comedians of the past three decades. In 1996, at the age of 24, Dylan became the youngest winner of the Perrier Award, and this Navan-born, Edinburgh-based comic, actor and illustrator (his ‘doodlings’ are likely to be used as the backdrop to his new live set), has continued to woo the critics and charm his audiences with live shows such as Monster, What It Is, and Off The Hook, while his TV and film credits include Channel 4 sitcom Black Books, BBC comedy-drama How Do You Want Me?, brittle Irish movie Calvary, and zombie romcom Shaun Of The Dead.
But never does Dylan seem more alive than when he’s working his material before a live audience. “I have high hopes for this show, I’m really into it. And I’m really into what an incredible time it is to be doing comedy. I want people to come in and have a great time and go home feeling better. I’m not going to ask people to understand anything too complicated or anything that I feel can’t be understood. A lot of it is about pulling the squirrels out of the bag and giving them a name or a number. Let’s just say that I’m organising the squirrels.”
So, who is this Dr Cosmos that Dylan Moran speaks of? Is it some fictional man of the world? Or is it the Irish comedian himself in stage guise? “I get these ideas for themes or identities that obsess me for years and Dr Cosmos has been around for a while. I’m writing a pilot episode which has Dr Cosmos as the title and it’s about all kind of things, like consumerism and mental health. It’s the idea of a snakeoil salesman, like those ads you see on the net about losing your tummy by eating bananas or not eating bananas, whatever it is. A lot of the live show is about people just trying to cope. The big things still apply: family is still there and the root systems don’t change, it’s just the way we’re living has.”
Much of this new way of living has, of course, much to do with the technology that seems constantly at our fingertips. It’s fair to say that Dylan isn’t exactly approving of our dependency on screens. “Look at the mystery that has been taken away from us: the whole romance of human history was made by all the imagination and projection of people in one place wondering what was over the hill. There was myth and storytelling, but now everything we could concoct in the dark has been replaced by the crystal clear Samsung LED screen. All those deliberations that were needless but very human and showed how inventive, capable and nutty we were has been swept away now.”
So where does over-reliance on technology that answers all our questions in a nano-second leave the art of storytelling? “I think people are desperate for it; we really need it. And we need to be around the fire and hear it. We’re confused about what’s happening to us now, and that’s why you get Brexit and you get Trump and you get all this polarisation.”
If people are craving stories and storytellers, then they can still delight in the innovative world of Dylan Moran. And the good news is that he has plenty to say. “I write a lot, so I’ve got tons of material. That’s never been a problem for me, the problem is deciding exactly what to do with it. Much of what I have for this show is about the incredibly fluid nature of now, how disorientating and tiring it all is and how it feels to try and orientate yourself and stay foursquare on the earth.”
What Dylan won’t be doing is looking around at other comedians for inspiration or to glean a sense of what’s on other people’s agenda. He’s certainly not immune to what’s going on in the comedy world and enjoys everything from the Dutch absurdism of Hans Teeuwen to the smart observational work of Kevin Bridges, but you’re unlikely to find him lurking in the shadows at a stand-up show. “That’s just sensible. Are there jockeys out there hiding behind hedges looking at horse races? I don’t think so. Are there hookers with their noses pressed up against the windows of cheap hotels? I don’t think so . . . I don’t know why hookers and jockeys came to mind, but there you go. I don’t seek live comedy out but I love it when I see someone who has their own voice.”
Dylan Moran is at Curve Theatre, Leicester on 23rd September. Tickets are available here.