For comedy fans in Ireland, the UK and indeed many corners of the world, Ardal O’Hanlon needs no introduction, and is rightfully considered TV royalty. Best known for his roles as Father Dougal McGuire in Father Ted, and as Thermoman/George Sunday in My Hero, Ardal has also written an acclaimed book, won an award for his role in a London theatre production, and has been killing audiences with laughter through his own unique brand of stand-up comedy for over 20 years. Ahead of his show in Berlin this Friday, we managed to pick his brain on a few subjects and find out more about this wonderfully gifted entertainer.
#1 Hello there Ardal, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today, we’re really looking forward to your show at Urban Spree later this week. How has 2016 been treating you so far, and do you have any new projects on the horizon?
2016 is shaping up to be a pretty good year work-wise. I’m enjoying stand-up more than ever, doing a sitcom pilot in March, and a BBC drama during the summer. The Berlin date is the culmination of a European mini-tour taking in Brussels, Antwerp and Amsterdam.
#2 Did you have the opportunity to visit Germany much throughout your career? How do you think Irish people in general perceive Germans? We’re also interested to know what your associations and perceptions of Berlin are nowadays?
I’ve only done one show in Germany. That was in Hamburg about 20 years ago. However I do like to visit Germany as a civilian. I spent a summer in Munich when I was a student working in beer gardens and restaurant kitchens and absolutely loved it (apart from a brush with Scientology and a minor kidnapping incident). I loved it so much that a few years ago I brought my family on holidays to Bavaria for a month. I’ve only been to Berlin once for a long weekend to celebrate my wife’s birthday. She had the flu and stayed in the hotel, so my experience was fairly limited… but I do remember getting a nice haircut and a fabulous pair of boots. The Holocaust memorial also sticks out in my mind as being a very powerful monument. Irish people generally resent the German banks for lending us too much money and then wanting it all back! We also suspect that the EU dice is loaded in the favour of the bigger nations. But my impression of German people is that they are very fair-minded.
#3 You’re perhaps better known for your TV work, but we found it interesting that you’ve won awards for your stand up comedy going as far back as 1994. In what ways has your approach to preparing for comedy shows you do today changed since you started out?
I have always loved stand-up. It’s part of my DNA, more lifestyle choice than a job. When I started I had a more rigid, wide-eyed persona and well-crafted, slightly surreal lines. But now it’s a bit more organic, personality-driven, free-flowing and energetic.
#4 Who is the first famous German that pops into your head, and why?
I suppose it has to be Angela Merkel. She looms large in all our lives, even in Ireland. And I greatly admired her stance on the migrant crisis last year. I’m also a big fan of Schweinsteiger (about 5 years ago). And, of course, Kraftwerk.
#5 Berlin is known as a global capital of techno music. Have you ever been into it at all?
I’m into all kinds of music (see Kraftwerk above) but I can’t dance. Alas, I’m a dancer trapped in the body of a tree.
#6 So you’re currently on tour. Do you enjoy life on the road more or less than you used to? What’s the worst thing you’ve encountered on tour?
I enjoy it more because I don’t do it as often. I look forward to it, especially travelling abroad. I also make a bigger effort nowadays to visit museums, see sights, eat well. The worst thing that ever happened on tour was somebody dying at one of my shows.
#7 Of all the great characters on your hit show, Father Ted, which one do you think would have the best spin-off show if it were broadcast today?
It would have to be the singer Eoin McLove’s Christmas special, complete with duets with special guests like One Direction and Beyonce.
#8 You’ve spent a fair bit of time touring in the US. If you could vote in their upcoming election who would you pick, and why?
I’d pick Bernie Sanders as he is reasonably normal and not in the pocket of big business and Wall St. But because he’s perceived as too left wing he’s probably unelectable. So the sensible vote would be for Hilary Clinton.
Bonus Question: What is your favourite Irish saying?
If you expect a kick in the balls and you get a slap in the face, it’s a victory.