James Rampton on comedy

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The Independent Culture
It is not every stand-up comedian who earns comparisons with James Stewart, but Ardal O'Hanlon (below) did just that when he made his debut as the hilariously dim cleric, Father Dougal, in Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews's heavenly sitcom, Father Ted.

O'Hanlon - first and foremost an inspired observational stand-up - is eternally grateful to Channel 4's priestly comedy. "It's the only way to get people into my shows," he laughs. "If it wasn't for Father Ted, I'd still be doing the clubs rather than theatres, and be just one of four comedians on the bill. It gives you an extra dimension." He has a great affection for the holy fool he plays. "I've never had trouble watching him. He's got a good nature. He hasn't got a bad bone in his body. Sure, he's stupid, but he's endearing rather than annoying. He's got his own priorities. Ants are more important to him than church matters. If I met him, I'd look after him like an older brother."

His amiable stand-up persona is like an articulate version of Dougal. "My act is slightly off-beat," O'Hanlon says. "The position I come from is bewildered, but saying clever things at the same time."

He is viewing his shows next week with relish: "I'm really just looking forward to getting out there and talking shite for an hour."

Ardal O'Hanlon plays the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, WC1 (0171-387 9629) 11-14 Apr