Dylan Moran on quitting smoking, being about as sexy as the Pope and why comedy panel programmes are 'c*ck shows'

The comedian speaks to The Independent about finding the ensuite dungeon in your comedy repertoire

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Dylan Moran became best known for playing a hard-drinking hard-smoking maniacal bookshop owner on Channel 4 sitcom Black Books as a superlatively angry, vaguely young man back in 2000.

Playing Bernard Black, he became famous for three series of forbidding the use of party as a verb, freezing a bottle of wine to make an ice lolly and using a wicker basket as a toilet.

Now 43, Moran has quit smoking, doesn't particularly want to talk about drinking and is back on what can only be described as a truly enormous tour of the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand that grinds to a gradual halt in October.

Unlike your ever-present Jimmy Carrs or David Mitchells, Moran has chosen not to do the comedy panel shows ("I don't like them, it's as simple as that") and brings his distinctive brand of dark comedy to his latest tour, with illustrations of fables about animals, which aren't really animals, you understand.

The Independent: Lots of people start out being optimistic and become cynical, but you were bleak from the outset. How does that work?

Dylan Moran: "I think it’s working the other way with me. I think I could possibly be lightening up as I’m getting older. The light and the dark are part of the whole composition, you have to have both going on and you have to go from one to the other."

You're on tour now, how's it going?

DM: "I’m still kicking the show around and mangling it, trying to reshape bits of it. I like to get into the position where you can sort of play it backwards, or play it from side to side or play it from inside out. It’s like being in an old house that’s got lots of secret rooms, you’ve got to find all the doors so that you’re able to run around any way you like in pursuit of whatever you want. So at the moment I’ve got all the main doors, and all the main rooms, but I know that there’s more secret doors that I want to find."

Moran played a strait-laced, irritating housemate in Shaun of the Dead

You want to find the ensuite.

DM: "Yes, the ensuite dungeon."

You've been doing stand-up for a while now...

DM: "Someone asked this the other day, and I think I couldn’t speak I was so shocked, it’s been 23 years! Which is quite a long time to do anything, really."

Do you still smoke heavily?

DM: "I don’t smoke anymore, I stopped about a year ago. It’s very, very hard. I don’t really take anybody seriously unless they’ve given up smoking. I vaped for a while and then I sort of transitioned out of coughing all day long to coughing half the day and now I don’t cough at all."

And drinking?

DM: "Well you know everyone associates drinking with me because of Black Books."

But you do stand-up about it as well…

DM: "I did, certainly. Well it’s a huge part of our culture here in the West so talking about drinking’s like talking about anything else."

Did you find you became an unwitting heartthrob after doing Black Books?

DM: "That would come up for anybody on television. Anybody who’s been on a television screen, even the Pope. As long as you’re not actually clinically dead, somebody out there will work you into their sick fantasies."


You illustrate your shows with quite dark drawings, do you find it cathartic to make them?

DM: "I’ve done over a thousand for the show... I find it very useful. It’s another way of finding out what you’re thinking or what’s going on. I’m suspicious of people who know what they think all the time – we don’t know what we think half the time, and we have to rattle around and find what’s in there."

You've said that you don't do comedy panels hows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, how come?

DM: "I don’t like them, that’s it. I don’t do work I don’t want to do, it’s as simple as that. Stand-up is something I do and I get to decide. I don’t like organised fun."

They can be quite humourless...

DM: "They are. That’s another thing to point out, that an awful lot of comedy and an awful lot of entertainment is devised and orchestrated and the whole purpose is to stop people feeling or laughing. It’s an anaesthetic. Real laughter comes from your gut, it infects you. That thing that these formats are peddling are nervous gabble or gibberish, because people are terrified by the feeling that they are in time and then they’re going to die. It’s just a nervous reaction to being alive. It’s a total cock show. Fronting off between one another all the time - it’s incredibly boring."

They've been criticised for being male-dominated - do you think there are too few women in comedy generally?

DM: "No I actually don’t, and I think it’s much better than it was. I think there’s lots of brilliant comics who happen to be female. Lots of these people are just funny people, and they don’t have to fight and say: ‘I’m a woman and I’m doing comedy’ in the way that people had to before. They’re just talking about whatever they want."

Which comedians do you like at the moment?

DM: "I don’t go to gigs, because I’m at gigs sometimes and see the comics that way. I don’t keep up with who’s new or anything. I saw Patton Oswald the other night and I thought he was funny, and Maria Bamford and I thought she was very good."

I suppose you don't do the whole Edinburgh Festival thing anymore?

DM: "I’m involved in the festival most years, but not like I used to be. That is definitely tough, doing the full Edinburgh run. When I was younger I did 50 or 60 shows, I remember. But my days doing that are long gone. I can’t survive on tepid lager anymore."

To buy tickets for his tour, visit Dylanmoran.com