Published Date: November 18 2010, Leinster Leader
Jarlath Regan is a busy man. The Kildare comedian is currently trying to finish off his second book How Not To Get Married, is in the middle of touring his current show Not So Common Sense and is also hosting a comedy night called the No Pricks Show in the Workman’s Club in Dublin on November 23. Oh, and his wife is due to give birth to his first child at the end of the month. “Yeah there’s a lot of things happening at once” he laughs. “It’s been an absolutely stressful and crazy time.”
Regan, who grew up in the Curragh but went to school in Newbridge, is clearly something of a workaholic. Having gotten married early in the year and debuting his new show a few months ago, he admits the last 12 months have been something of a learning curve, both personally and professionally. And professionally at least, he doesn’t see things getting any easier soon.
“It’s meant to get easier isn’t it?” he laughs, “but I think as time goes on you become a little bit more comfortable translating your own funny thoughts into stage stuff… all my last few shows have been is a collection of thoughts brought to the stage and based in one direction.”
Not that he’s gotten cocky or anything. In fact, if anything he is a bit downbeat about the challenges facing comedians. Take musicians for example, once a successful album has been released, they have “made it” at least in the public’s perception, comedians aren’t quite so lucky.
“I don’t think you can think you’ve ever really made it” he begins, “once a band have a released a platinum album they’ve made it, nobody can take that away from them. With a comic every single day you get up on stage you are re-proving yourself and re-establishing yourself with the audience.”
Regan cites the example of well-known comic Eddie Izzard’s recent performances in the O2, which a lot of people weren’t too impressed with. If Izzard’s reputation can’t guarantee him laughs then no-ones will.
“It’s one of the few jobs in the world where you have to go in and each day prove to your employer that you can do your job. In that sense I’m still trying to establish myself and I think I’ll never stop doing that.”
Basically comedians can never relax, they are doomed to forever seek the public’s approval over and over again without ever being able to finally sit back and enjoy the fruits of their punchlines, kind of like Sisyphus and his boulder, but mentally rather than physically draining. Unless you’re Lee Evans.
Of course it is this challenge and the potential failure it presents, that keeps comedians going. They are faced with a unique problem found nowhere else in the artistic world. How can you tell what someone else will find funny?
“It’s such a peculiar thing”, says Regan. “Everybody has had that experience of telling a joke in the pub and it working and you go into work the next day and it doesn’t. There’s no science, it’s hard to capture and that’s why people are attracted to it… At this slightly masochistic point, he pauses: “My wife is looking at me now and raising her eyebrows.” He neatly ignores the response of his spouse and is quickly back on topic. “It’s one of the great mysteries of the world, why is that funny?”
Regan has stretched his comic wings beyond Irish theaters in the past. Having played the Edinburgh festival for the last four years and Just For Laughs in Montreal in 2006 he had a really horrendous experience (his words) in Mountjoy Prison and more recently at his wife’s Montessori school for a show with a bunch of toddlers. It’s these, perhaps slightly scarring experiences, that have thought him a lot about just how broad a medium comedy is.
“This past year I’ve been really coming to understand there’s many different types of humour. It depends on the people involved And there’s no humour better than any other.”
The former graphic designer started out in UCD without ever believing “comedian” to be a viable job description. He was, however, like every other future funny-man the world over “a bit of a show-off”.
“I don’t think I ever consciously wanted to be a comedian, though all my life I always liked standing in front of people. From being a bit of a show-off at home to going to the Patrician Brothers in Newbridge and doing funny speeches at the front of the class, to going to UCD and doing funny speeches there.”
The comic returns to home turf in November at the Riverbank in Newbridge with his latest show Not So Common Sense. The show itself, which has already been road tested at the Edinburgh festival, is based on all those life lessons which we never find inside a school book.
“It’s about the stuff you don’t learn in school, the stuff you pick up along the way that’s often more useful. In the last year, between all the economic turmoil in the country and getting married, I’ve learned a fair bit of that stuff. So it’s really a collection of that and a bit of craic along the way.”
He describes his days in the Patrician Brothers school as “the happiest days of my life” and while he now lives in the centre of Dublin City “for convenience sake” he still feels a close connection to the town and admits that it is a bit different from other shows he does.
“I definitely have been always extra nervous, but every time I come here… I go away feeling ‘what were you nervous about?’. But yeah, it is weird to see your teachers looking back at you.”
With nerves, the almost fatalistic knowledge that you won’t always succeed and the fact that even world-wide internationally acclaimed superstars can’t always make a few drunken Dubliners laugh, just why would anyone be a comedian?
Regan only pauses for a second.
“It’s the kind of job that sometimes affords you these incredible moments that you just can’t believe your luck that you’re able to do this.”