David O’Doherty talks Instagram, marriage equality and God watching his set

david o'doherty

david o'doherty - Credit: Archant

Anna Behrmann meets the Irish comedian ahead of his Union Chapel gig

Irish comedian David O’Doherty may have appeared on TV shows such as 8 Out of Ten Cats, QI and Have I Got News For You, but he’s still wide-eyed when he speaks about gigging at the Union Chapel in Islington.

“It’s the most beautiful venue,” he says. When he’s alone in front of the crowd, playing his signature mini-keyboard, O’Doherty looks up and sees the last of the light hitting the stained glass window. “It’s like God is watching your set as well,” he says.

While O’Doherty says that he is not a religiosus man, it appears that his Irish Catholic schooling did have an effect. “I feel very weird about cursing in a chapel - you always feel like a candle is going to fall on your head or something,” he says.

Starting his career in telemarketing, and transitioning to stand-up in his twenties, O’Doherty has been writing fresh shows each year for over a decade. He won a nomination for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh festival fringe in 2000 and scooped the 2008 if.comedy award for Best Show.

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The summer months leading up to the Edinburgh Fringe are the most exciting for O’Doherty, when he’s “sloshing around quite a lot of new stuff.”

For his Islington gig, he’s going to be chatting about how Instagram and other social networking sites can make it look like “everyone else is having this idyllic, fulfilled existence.” In reality, he is convinced that “everyone’s still sat at home and they can’t get to sleep because they feel like they’re wasting their lives.”

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If it doesn’t sound like a gag a minute, perhaps that’s typical of O’Doherty’s understated, thought-provoking comedy. And apparently it’s not all doom and gloom out there. O’Doherty is also planning to draw on the overwhelming success of the Irish referendum for marriage equality in May this year, which he canvassed for.

“For a second, or an afternoon at least, everything aligned,” he says. “You felt like you were part of a democratic process. We were all there to see the birth of a new Ireland among the old nuns and priests and the politicians.”

All very uplifting - but O’Doherty describes how after 62 percent of voters said yes and he partied in the street, he soiled himself on his way home. He hadn’t eaten for two days because he had been so nervous. And when the results were announced there had been lots of cava - or prosecco - anyway, the cheap stuff.

This might be an Irish victory, but it fed into the sense of a social revolution around the world, with gay marriage declared legal across the US the following month. O’Doherty wants his work to ring true whether he’s performing in a backstreet or in packed venues in London, Edinburgh or LA. Over the summer, he takes his new material to lots of little gigs first, and the audience can be brutal. Comedy, he explains, can have a tree falling in the woods quality to it - it’s only funny if the audience laughs too.

O’Doherty might grace our small screens, but he is “most obsessed with doing gigs.” Now 39, he’s still scribbling down ideas from the night before and watching performances by fellow comedians, and he believes that he’s getting better.

For the fans out there of his tiny keyboard compositions - there isn’t much danger that they will come to an end. O’Doherty has a pile of 20 or so little keyboards back home - and naturally he also has a few emergency ones in London.

Live at the Chapel with David O’Doherty will take place at 7.45pm on 25th July at the Union Chapel in Islington.

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