‘Our ability to tell a story is bred into us’ – Stand-up comedian Jarlath Regan on the art of being Irish

‘Our ability to tell a story is bred into us’ – Stand-up comedian Jarlath Regan on the art of being Irish

IRISH comic and podcaster Jarlath Regan is taking his latest show Organ Freeman across the UK and Ireland from this Friday.

Jarlath begins his tour in Vicar Street, Dublin on January 12, before moving over to London’s Leicester Square Theatre a week later on January 19.

The versatile Kildare native, who has appeared on Russell Howard’s Good News, Tonight At The Palladium and Stand Up Central, remains a popular figure with his award-winning weekly podcast ‘An Irishman Abroad’.

We sat down with the Irishman ahead of his tour (you can get your hands on tickets here) to ask him the questions that really matter moving into 2018...

London or Dublin?

Dublin every day. While it’s not my home city, there’s so much of my youth connected with that town. At the same time, I had to leave in order to become a man like so many Irish people. But home is home. Regardless of the amazing opportunities that London has afforded me – Dublin will always be my first love.

Guinness or Murphy’s?

Guinness when I’m in Dublin. Murphy’s when I’m in Cork.

Michael Collins or Éamon de Valera?

Michael Collins any day. History is understood in slow motion and hindsight is 20/20. But even though no man is perfect, our history will remembers Michael Collins better as time goes by.

On that note... Michael D Higgins or the Queen?

Michael D Higgins by a million miles. I’ve been a fan of his since before he was President. I loved his old shit. Not to sound like a Michael D Higgins hipster. But it’s hard to have an affinity with the Queen when you grew up where I grew up.

You're probably getting tired of the this or that questions, but – hurling or football?

It’s got to be hurling, man. The speed and skill of the game is truly extraordinary. Nobody can argue with that. It’s basically ice hockey sped up and played without pads in the air. And it also has a set of rules you can keep to. I struggled with football for years over how ‘open to interpretation’ the rules are.

I also have a good deal of bad experiences playing football – with coaches shouting at me: “Regan, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” In hindsight that was a fair question, because I really didn’t know what I was doing.

Who'd be your dream Irish guest on An Irishman Abroad?

There’s three or four I’ve been chasing for years. Daniel Day Lewis, Mary Robinson, Bono and Roy Keane. They’re the four I would drop everything to go and interview if the call came in. If anyone reading this knows one of them, you know what do.

What’s your favourite thing Irish people do that our UK cousins don’t?

Our ability to tell a story is bred into us. It affords us so many benefits. So many Irish comics are successful as a result of that skill we are all trained in. Trained in by being around a dinner table and in bars for a lot of our lives. It’s so part of our history and our culture.

It’s not that British people can’t tell stories, but there’s way more tolerance in Britain for people who aren’t telling a story well. In Ireland, if you tell a story poorly it could become your reputation for life. I’ve seen that happen. It makes me enjoy brilliant British storytellers like Micky Flanagan all the more.

One of the biggest debates over the festive period was whether Die Hard is a Xmas film. Is it?

One. Hundred. Percent. It’s framed around the idea of coming home for Christmas. It’s fully about family. And forgiveness. Which is so much of the modern Christmas for me – letting bygones be bygones in the name of one silly holiday. Obviously there will always be shots fired around the dinner table at Christmas, and if you’ve ever been in an Irish house you’ll know that’s true. But Christmas is about redemption.

What’s something that is really popular now, but people will be embarrassed about in the future?

Weightlifting. The gym fanaticism at the moment is truly out of control. Right now I’m sitting here in a pair of man-tights with a pair of shorts over them. I know I will look back and think ‘what the hell was going on?’

But equally, it has to be this Star Wars thing. I’ve always been dubious of hype, even when it was justified. I’ve found myself only discovering things years later because I have such an aversion to hype. Hype isn’t always bad but you really get a sense of when it’s hollow as you get older, and I get that feeling with Star Wars. And weightlifting.

What’s the funniest Wi-Fi name you’ve seen?

‘Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi’ is hacky right, but it’s got to go in there. The best ones I’ve seen around my area were ‘I know that your cats wee in my garden’ and ‘Metropolitan Police Mobile Surveillance Unit’.

I loved the latter so much I changed my own Wi-Fi name to it, but Virgin Media notified me that it wasn’t on. Which made me wonder whether it wasn’t actually a joke.

If you could choose a really mundane superpower, what would it be?

There’s only one superpower I’ve ever wanted my whole life – teleportation. It isn’t mundane, but I want it for a very mundane reason. If anyone tells you they’d rather a different superpower then they’re not that clever. Every gig I’m offered I could take. I’d even use it to get off the couch to go to bed.

Is it strange having a child with a non-Irish accent?

My little fella has a higgledy-piggledy accent. When he goes back to Ireland people repeat the world ‘chocolate’ to him as if he’s a top hat-wearing, monocle-flicking man about town. And yet at school his teachers repeat his accent back to him and ask whether he likes potatoes. They think he sounds like Father Ted.

So he can’t win either way. What’s beautiful about it is how proud he is to be an Irishman. He’s already telling them about the monarchy at seven years old.

Have you ever looked into your ancestry?

Yep. I did an Ancestry DNA test. Turns out I’m – get this – 100% Irish. An Irishman Abroad, go figure. The first in my bloodline.

What’s the most ridiculous thing anyone has ever tricked you into believing?

That you’re a bad person. That guilt, that Catholic guilt we all grew up with. The kind which tells you, ‘you’re no good, you’re never going to be any good and the most you can hope for is to keep your head down and keep working’.

As you head into your 30’s you realise what a nonsense it is. You should be able to be whoever the hell you want to be without fear of being struck down or cast out. Ireland still has problems with that. Life is for living, and I wish I knew that earlier in life.

What’s the most useless thing you’re good at?

I can spin a basketball on one finger. Even in basketball it’s a useless skill. There’s never a point in a game where you have to do that. But I can. I can also do a few magic tricks and make balloon animals – but at least they’re useful as a dad.

What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

I popped my shoulder and collar-bone out playing basketball as a teen. The collar-bone is actually still out. I also have torn labrals in both shoulders and both hips. Going sideways is really difficult, I go to the gym but I have to go in a straight line! Anything sideways and I’m in trouble.

What about 21st century Ireland makes you most proud?

You know, there’s an empathy in Ireland that’s been shown in things like the utter disgust at the homelessness crisis and the campaign for repealing the Eighth Amendment. There is an empathy for the less well-off that I don’t see in other countries. That to me is a huge strength, and definitely something that makes me emotional.

Whenever I’m doing my work with homeless people I always think – any one of us is only three to four bad decisions away from getting to that point. All it would take is the wrong drug on the wrong night out. Or arguing with your parents and saying something you regret forever. The job goes pretty easy after that.

Irish people have an empathy for those people and those situations that other people simply don't.