Dylan Moran discusses RockNess, stand-up and his next film, Calvary
The Irish comic headlines the comedy stage at RockNess 2013
You’re one of the headliners in the RockNess comedy tent this year – are you much of a festival-goer?
I have been over the years – I mean I’ve been to loads of them but it’s generally because I’m on, you know? You can’t really generalise about them because each one is an individual animal. I’m looking forward to this – I hope the weather’s with us.
Are there any differences in playing to a festival crowd and playing to a comedy club crowd?
I mainly work in theatres, so the big difference with that is, you’re not in a theatre. You’re outside, there’s a lot of ambient noise... generally they’re very good on atmosphere, if it’s a good day – and even if it is raining, a lot of times people run away into the comedy tent, so it probably helps. Generally speaking it’s quite an uplifting atmosphere. You’re sometimes aware of people straining to listen because it’s an open space and there’s lots of other noises, music especially, travelling around in the area, so people have to strain a bit to listen, but there’s generally a lot of goodwill.
‘Comedy is the new rock’n’roll’ was a bit of a buzz-phrase in the mid-90s – do you think that’s still true? Was it ever?
That was a phrase that got a lot of media play; it was in specific reference to the fact that comedy was playing in the sort of space usually reserved for rock acts. The phrase has been around for a while, and certainly the phenomenon – big stage shows for stand-ups – has been around for a while as well. It’s comedy, but you can do it in a place where rock’n’roll traditionally happens. I suppose the best comedy shows do have the rock’n’roll feeling – if it’s a great night, and the roof is raised... yeah, it’s a similar feeling, sure.
Comedy is extremely popular at the moment – do you think that’s tied in with the roadshow-type programmes on TV?
Those shows did make people aware of a certain kind of stand-up – it’s very different from going to see somebody’s individual show in the Edinburgh Festival or touring. It’s also very different from going to a comedy club – they’re really quite distinct. The ones you see on television tend to be very polished and aimed towards a mass of people, and it’s... it’s television. Television is always a big catalyst, it changes the whole dynamic, makes it less spontaneous and all the rest of it. They’re not the same.
In terms of the audience who are coming along to a rock festival...
Well I think you can probably bank on a lot of people knowing stand-up at all from those roadshow-type programmes. I don’t really mind as long as they come.
People who know you best as Bernard from Black Books – what differences can they expect in your stand-up performance?
Well that was a television programme about those characters set in that place, that’s not what I do! [laughs] It’s very hard to describe what you do...
I mean in terms of the general tone, the misanthropy and so on...
There probably will be a presence of it, but the thing is, that’s part of me, that’s part of something I use, but you want to be doing other things as well, during the show. I really can’t describe what my stand-up is like – people see it and they say it’s like that, or it’s like this, and that’s really up to them, that’s fine, but I don’t sit around all day analysing it. I just try and enjoy a show and interest myself because if I don’t do that then I won’t interest anybody else.
Tell us a bit about Calvary, your new film with Brendan Gleeson
It’s by John McDonagh who did The Guard. It’s an ensemble film – Brendan’s very much the pivot of the whole film, and there are various characters who are orbiting around him. He is a priest, and obviously the film comes in the wake of a lot of terrible scandals and stories of abuse and misery, created by the Church, and this film is about an individual priest who, you can broadly say, is trying to be a decent person as well as a useful, good, local priest to these people, whether they want him or not. It’s really about everybody’s reaction to him and to the Church, and I like the way the movie’s structured – it feels like an old-fashioned Hollywood movie to me, the way the story is told, the way it’s put together, and it’s got some terrific performers in it.
How does your character fit into that?
Well I don’t want to give anything away because it’s very much an ensemble, this group, and it’s about their reactions to this man, you know? Basically, everybody wants something from him.
It seems that everyone I talk to who lives in Edinburgh has a story about seeing you out and about – does that become wearying?
Not at all – I live here and, as far as I’m concerned, everybody’s very cool. Nobody bothers me. I’m quite happy on the bus.
Dylan Moran, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, Thu 23 May, as part of the Happyness comedy festival. RockNess, Dores, near Inverness, Fri 7-Sun 9 Jun. Calvary is due for release on Fri 1 Nov.