David O’Doherty - happiness is... and the perfection of the bicycle
By Kernan Andrews
ALBERT EINSTEIN once said that “life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”, while HG Wells opined that “Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race”.
David O’Doherty - comedian, songwriter, performer, and passionate cyclist - would concur with these statements. After all, cycling he says, is a “beautiful mystery”, while comedy is a form of release and protection, a kind of hope.
The consolation of comedy
David performs his new show Seize The David O’Doherty in the Róisín Dubh on Friday February 8 at Saturday 9 and for the Dubliner, coming to Galway is not another date on the tour itinerary, it is somewhere he has a genuine affection for.
“Galway is significant for me in that Gerry Mallon was the first, back in 2003/4, to give me a headline slot,” he tells me during our Tuesday morning interview. “He saw me a few times and asked me to do a 40 minute set. At that time in my career, that was everything I ever thought of, and people laughed. Since then I have never failed to be surprised that other people are into my comedy.”
In Seize The David O’Doherty, the comic puts forward the notion that life is a marathon, but the kind best done as a sprint to overcome the “hurdles and weights to lift”.
“There is a cloud over our times, everyone is a bit glum, and it’s a depressing winter,” says David. “On a personal level, I was seeing someone but that broke up so coming up with this show was an attempt to cheer myself up, rather than about feeling down, and I did that by writing silly jokes.
“I look at the idea of happiness in this show. I’m not sure people are less happy than they were five years ago when the country was doing well. I think it’s probably part of the human condition that we fail to realise when we’re happy and often don’t allow ourselves to think ‘That was good, I had a really good time’.”
David argues that comedy is not just a way of providing a few laughs and a night out, but that it can also have a positive effect on a person’s mental state and produce feelings which can be accessed time and again.
“At its very best,” he says, “when a gig is going well - and I’ve see this as an audience member - you find you’re sharing this moment with all these other people and even if it is only a temporary respite from your troubles, you can think back upon that show and find it still puts a smile on your dial.
“I am prone to getting down,” he admits, “but I like to listen to music and it’s a great way of stopping becoming overly introspective. It’s the same with playing football, which I also like to do, and to say ‘This is important’. Comedy is the same.”
Was David destined to be musician or a comic? Given his family background it is no surprise he ended up doing both, and he cites his father as a key reason for this.
“He’s a huge influence,” says David. “Music was the family business and a very close second was comedy. Granny lived in Achill so we’d drive down to see her and Dad would play his Goon Show tapes. He also did the music for Hall’s Pictorial Weekly and was involved in Only Slaggin’ and Scrap Saturday.
“I wanted to be a piano player but my father, when I was 18/19, not to put too fine a point on it, said I was not going to be a jazz musician. ‘You can’t polish a turd’ were his exact words.
“I got into stand-up and I brought a piano along to my first gig and I would sing songs and tell stories inbetween. As the act went on the stories became longer and the music could be an accompaniment, but my comedy has always involved me talking about my life in too much detail.”
I want to ride my bicycle
The bicycle is a central motif in David’s comedy. “I worked in a bicycle repair shop at one stage,” he says. Indeed he has an almost mystical appreciation of the form.
“There is some sort of perfection to the bicycle,” he muses. “It’s an improvement on the legs. It’s also a mystery. I have no idea how it stays upright. There is still a debate in ballistics and physics as to how it manages to do this. It’s a beautiful mystery.”
However that love of the velocipede, combined with an effort to get to Galway a couple of years ago, very nearly finished the comic off!
“I tried to cycle to Galway from Dublin for a gig in 2007 as part of a documentary I was involved in making with John Carney, who directed Once,” he says. “I set off from Dublin at 7am, thinking I would make it, and triumphantly arrive in the venue for the gig, but there was torrential rain and a gale and I was unfit.
“I got as far as Ballinasloe before I collapsed. I hadn’t taken enough essential something or other so I ran out of fuel. I just sat down in an Emo garage an waited for someone to pick me up - and then I still had to do the show a few hours later! Still I was proud to have made it as far as Ballinasloe.”
As well as comedy and cycling, David’s talent for humour extends into books, penning (with Claudia O’Doherty and Mike Ahern) 100 Facts About Pandas and 100 Facts About Sharks, filled with outrageous spoof claims and false facts.
“That was about two years work which is ridiculous for something that was trivial,” he says, “but I’m very proud of how well the books did, even if they must be the least essential books in the history of publishing, but I think of that as an accolade.”
In what must surely be a great, if unintentional, piece of situationism and surrealist subversion, there were those who genuinely took the books seriously as factual zoological works.
“It was a constant problem in doing publicity. DJs were the worst,” says David. “It was obvious they’d not read the book and you’d have to tell them live on air that baby pandas are not magnetic and are not naturally drawn towards the north pole.
“When 100 Facts About Sharks appeared on the best-seller lists it was classed as non-fiction. It was even placed in the nature/wildlife sections of some bookshops, so imagine I was placed alongside David Attenborough! I will be interested to see where Trinity Library put it!”
Doors for both shows are at 8.30pm. Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, from the Ticket Desk at OMG, Shop Street (formerly Zhivago), and The Róisín Dubh.