On-screen marriages and mid-life crisis

Colin Murphy seems concerned. One of The Panel’s best known and loved comedians, he is reflecting on his on-screen partnership with Neil Delamere.

Speaking from a hotel room in London, Colin concludes that maybe the pair need a break from one other. “Neil and I have a strange on-screen marriage. I think we have worked together too much. We finish each other’s sentences - he starts a joke and I end up finishing it. It’s quite worrying.

“That’s why I’m in London now and he’s in Australia. We need some separation time,” he says.

Though best known for his TV work, the Belfast-born comedian is a veteran of the stand up circuit, and will be making his way to Roscommon Arts Centre for the first time next Wednesday April 8.

It took Colin several years to settle into a career in comedy, having experimented with a number of occupations over the years. In addition to completing a degree in design, he worked as a laboratory technician, door to door salesman, factory worker, painter and decorator, labourer, window cleaner, dish washer, illustrator, and lecturer in graphic design. But was he always funny?

“I wasn’t one of those kids who put on shows in the garden or anything. I went to art college and lectured for five years, but was doing a bit of acting and improv. Then when a comedy club opened in Belfast I got up on stage. The first time went well and I got up again and again,” he says.

Many people will remember his first foray into TV presenting on cult favourite The Blizzard of Odd - his “first proper TV series”.

“It was all a bit insane, I would end up bouncing up and down on blow up dolls or sitting surrounded by pigs’ heads. There was just one researcher and a producer. I made the props and built the set, and I did my own make-up. It was all very hands on.”

So is there any point in us launching our ‘Bring back The Blizzard of Odd’ campaign? “If it was brought back now everyone would think we were copying Harry Hill. But we were there first!”

Colin also enjoys the format of The Panel, having appeared as both a panellist and presenter. He says his favourite guests were Germaine Greer and “that crazy artist fellow Sebastian” [Horley], even though he was “all ready not to like him”.

“I don’t like to talk to the guests beforehand, I avoid them. It’s in case I find I don’t like them, or that I do. It’s easier to present the show if you don’t know them, it’s more real.”

Colin lives in Belfast with his wife and two children, aged eight and five, and he is already hoping they won’t follow in his footsteps. “I want to be looked after in my old age, so I want them to be doctors or lawyers or something. One is a total performer though, a good mimic. So you never know,” he laughs.

When he’s not entertaining RTE audiences on The Panel, offering nuggets of wisdom on BBC’s The Blame Game, or off doing stand up at some festival or another, Colin is honing another skill altogether.

“We started up a mid-life crisis band last year called the 1234s - because every song starts with ‘1, 2, 3, 4’.”

Fellow comedians Dermot Whelan (a regular on The Panel ) and John Colleary, who will MC his Roscommon gig, make up the band, but according to Colin there’s been very little rehearsing going on so far.

“It’s a bit of fun. It’s a nightmare to get together to rehearse. We played at a comedy festival in Portlaoise recently - it was our first gig and our fourth rehearsal.”

So he’s an accomplished actor, lecturer, comedian, TV presenter, and musician. There is one thing, however, that Colin hasn’t turned his hand to yet. He has never appeared on The Late Late Show.

“I’m recording a live stand up DVD in September to be out in time for Christmas. It’s my first DVD and I’m a bit nervous. I’ll have to do the Late Late. I think we were barred for ages as we slagged off Pat so many times.”

Luckily for Colin, Pat Kenny announced his resignation shortly after this interview.

See Colin Murphy in the Roscommon Arts Centre this Wednesday April 8. For ticket information, contact the box office at (090 ) 6625824.

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