Dylan Moran, Irish-born toast of London comedy, gigs at the Village Theatre
The Monster sank into a chair and arranged the glasses before him—one glass of ginger and fizz, the other of wine. It is from both liquids, he confirmed, that he sips at close intervals throughout the hour and a half of his show—in between the constant drags on cigarettes.
“I myself would not be standing up under all that wine,” a Yankee journalist remarked.
“It’s something that I grew up with,” the Monster dryly replied. He’s a darkly handsome 32-year-old Irish-born, London-seasoned man named Dylan Moran, and “Monster” is how he’s billed throughout Britain and Europe and now at the Village Theatre on Bleecker Street, but he isn’t really. It’s just that his wit, when he collects it between sips and puffs, can be pretty scathing.
On stage, he makes much, of course, of New York City’s anti-smoking laws and other local oddities. Now, at the end of a long, hot afternoon, an hour and a half before show time, he stared at the message window of a tiny cell phone and muttered: “If you don’t have a car to get around, it’s worthless to try to get across this fucking town.”
Indeed—the Monster was told—there was once a crotchety, lovable, pipe-smoking traffic commissioner, the late Henry Barnes, who used to say the only way to get across town in Manhattan is to be born there.
“True, actually,” said Dylan Moran.
He was first in the United States for a gig (now reprised) in producer Arnold Engelman’s British/Irish Comedy Invasion at the Village Theatre (formerly the Village Gate) in April, presented by WestBeth Entertainment and BBC America Comedy Live. His American experience brought him to Chicago and Los Angeles, about the latter of which he complained, “A toilet of a city. I would never go there voluntarily again. You need a Jag to get out.”
What’s a good Irishman doing with a Welsh first name like Dylan anyway?
“You’ll have to take it up with my parents.” But he doesn’t discuss his parents, his family, or any of that. Well, they were working-class, and his father makes furniture. Period. It is on record in the London press that Dylan Moran has two children, and he now, between sips, confirms their existence. Period, full stop.
The London Evening News has tagged him “the Oscar Wilde of stand-up,” and he isn’t quite that, but who is? You will probably nevertheless sit up and take notice when the Monster gets on the subject of religion, or religiosity, or, as he coolly, caustically puts it, “just people talking to you at length about their imaginary friend.”
Fatigue is, in a sense, his hallmark in performance, and it is with (professional) fatigue that, in performance, he addresses the question of, say, the ignorance of those who attack gay marriage.
Dylan Moran was born and bred in Navan, “a middle-sized industrial, no, manufacturing city in County Meath, in the middle of Ireland, surrounded by farmland,” and his summation of his alma mater, St, Patrick’s Classical School, is: “I was bored. A lot of priests, a lot of theocracy, a lot of small-town mediocrity,”
There is, both in Britain and Ireland, “a huge conservative streak, but in Britain, anyway, it’s not as enmeshed in religion as here”—i.e., in the United States, “where politics and religion are entwined. Right-wing Christian people live in fairyland,” Moran said as he diddled with and squinted at the tiny cell phone.
Do you know any…?
“Right-wing people?” He stared at the questioner as at an aardvark. “I know Christians. But people for whom God informs social policy—I don’t want to live around them.”
Last month he’d told the London Sunday Times: “I don’t do interviews, but I’ve done at least 13 million interviews.
“And now it’s 14 million since I got here,” Moran lamented.
Okay, let’s make that 14 million and one.
It was to a small Dublin club called the Comedy Cellar that Dylan Moran at age 20 “went one week, watched the people,” and then—like the kid, Bobby, in “A Chorus Line”—said: “I can do that!” and went back the next week and did.
“Because, believe me, there were plenty of things I couldn’t do—such as find a job, or go to college.”
Are there any people or things this blue-denimed misanthrope admires?
A long thought.
“Well, writers and artists. Iconically brave people like Martin Luther King.”
Which writers, for instance?
Another long thought. “My favorite novelist is Don DeLillo. At the moment I’m reading Lorca.”
Moran had a bit part (as Rufus the thief) in “Notting Hill,” and has been in a couple of films that are yet to be released in the U.S. One is “The Actors,” opposite Michael Caine, written and directed by Conor McPherson.
“Michael Caine plays an older actor, I play a younger actor and lots of different parts,” Moran said.
The other movie is “a ridiculous zombie parody called ‘Shaun of the Dead.’ “
Does he like acting?
“It pays the rent. A lot of fun… sometimes. Couldn’t have it my mainstay. I’d be bored out of my mind.”
What he most dislikes in the culture around us, the American culture in particular, is “its relentless positivity—like unhappiness is a crime. A certain kind of advertising-speak that bleeds into the everyday talk of very ordinary people. An unwillingness to admit failure or anxiety. And I don’t think that’s the case, since a lot of things in this world are fucked up and always will be,”
He does, however, like the audiences who come to see and hear him on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
“They’re not the kind of people who are going to throw beer cans at you or ask you to take off your top. Which is very good for them, I can tell you.”
Maybe he can do striptease when he goes on Letterman, Tuesday, June 29. Remember, Oscar Wilde came here and conquered the Wild West.