By Norm Quarrinton
Even if you don’t know who he is, you’ve probably seen Dylan Moran in something. He pops up in movies from time to time–Shaun of the Dead and Notting Hill to name a couple. In the UK (his adopted homeland), Ireland (his actual homeland), and Australia (a place he tours a lot), he’s regarded as a powerhouse of deadpan/surrealist/observational stand-up. He also co-created and starred in Black Books–the cult-classic sitcom that ran for three seasons–which probably makes it one of the longest running British sitcoms of all time. He’s written a few books too. Dylan performs at the Lincoln Theatre tonight.
This interview originally ran October 18, 2016. There’s some election talk. Unfortunately, it’s still relevant.
Brightest Young Things: I noticed you you did a Reddit AMA the other day.
Dylan Moran: Yes, I’d never heard of it before. And then I did one.
BYT: Do you foresee a future when all interviews are conducted via Reddit?
DM: Well, yeah, it did go through my mind that it must be worrying for the likes of yourself because it leap frogs the middle-man.
BYT: How do those AMAs work? Do you screen all the questions yourself?
DM: No, if I was doing it myself I would only have got through a fraction of the stuff at the top. So there was a couple of people shouting out questions to me from computers and I would answer back and they typed it up.
BYT: I saw you talking about Trump on Conan the other day. Have you been following the election closely?
DM: Well, you could watch it all day long. There’s so much coverage. You could just sit there and flick through the channels all day long. I don’t do that but I do follow it. I’d like to see a bit more of the VPs. The American political machinery is awesome to behold in its scale and expense and waste and madness. It’s the greatest circus on Earth I suppose.
BYT: What’s the coverage of it like in the UK?
DM: We don’t have C-SPAN. But you could probably get it if you were that into it. But yeah, it’s total coverage. You know yourself, you’re in this game. It’s digital. It’s everywhere. I mean one thing we don’t have that you do have is Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper or whoever acting surprised by something that’s happened numerous times before. They act like it’s never happened before when, of course, it’s just the same old shit. The sensible thing for everyone to do would be to write all their op-eds and think pieces now so they’re ready the day after the election when Trump is no longer in the picture. God, I can’t wait for that. I hope he just goes away.
BYT: It’s been a crazy year for politics on both sides of the Atlantic. I mean, Theresa May just announced a tentative law that would force all UK-based companies to provide the government with a list of all their foreign employees.
DM: It’s such a bullshit move. Transparently so. It’s obviously supposed to give succor to people who feel pissed off because someone from another country got a job that they feel should’ve been given to them. But that’s what people voted against here. They voted against the movement of labor–that kind of fluidity–because they want a Britain that no longer exists, and they can’t get it. But they do have this piece of legislation which is going to cost millions and millions to enact. And it’s going to deprive a generation of youngsters their gateway to Europe that everyone else in Europe enjoys. Anyway…don’t get me started on that.
BYT: You’re Irish, so you’ll be fine.
DM: Yeah but I’ve lived in the UK for longer than I lived in Ireland. I’m not worried about myself, but it’s ridiculous for youngsters.
BYT: Do you see a comparison between the rise of Trump over here and the Brexit-induced wave of xenophobia over there?
DM: I know there’s similar dissatisfaction in America. There’s a lot of white people who come from blue collar backgrounds and who feel ill-equipped and badly served by modern economics and the modern job market. Of course people are angry. Generation upon generation had jobs at steel mills or whatever–things were going on and it looked like it would always be that way. And then there’s these cataclysmic changes and people find themselves out on their arse and they’re angry and they want answers. But one thing that’s for sure is that those answers will not come in the form of Donald J. Trump.
BYT: As a comic and a performer, would you ever considering performing at a function for either candidate?
DM: No. Never. I mean, I dislike both of them but there’s obviously no choice in the election–if you’re concerned about the future of anything, you need to vote for Hillary Clinton. It shouldn’t even be much of a contest, but as far as I understand, the way the election is structured and the way the country is divided means it’s not really possible for there to be landslides in Presidential elections like there were back in the times of LBJ.
BYT: Speaking of politics, have you ever been to D.C.?
DM: No I haven’t, and I’m thrilled to able to go. I just wish I had longer. It’s very frustrating. As you know, to people over here, cities like D.C. are iconic. We know them so well. It’s very frustrating to be in one of them for 36 hours and have a show to do because you can’t really do anything. I’ve always wanted to visit. The Smithsonian has some fantastic archival material on blues music, which I’m really into. There’s a ton of stuff I want to do there. but it just never happened.
BYT: It’s a great comedy town.
DM: That makes sense. I mean, it must be! It’s the political capital. It’s essentially a big office.
BYT: Do you ever have to tailor your material to suit the country in which you’re performing?
DM: I always try to address where I am. I’ll talk to the people and try to find out what it is about that particular place that makes it distinct from everywhere else. I’ll have to look into D.C. a bit more. I know it’s given over to the administration and the bureaucracy connected to it. It’s a super-organism of the American state. But there’s also a parallel city in there where normal people live.
BYT: A lot of it’s being gentrified.
DM: Well that’s a big story–I’ll need to do something on that. That word is on everybody’s lips all the time now.
BYT: What’s your favorite country to perform in.
DM: Well, if you’re talking about crowd enthusiasm, it varies. I have a decent following in Australia so I like there. I’m interested in playing everywhere. I love playing in America. I feel having been there a few times that I “get” America a lot more than I used to. It used to be so strange to me. It takes years to learn how to separate the actual, major, important differences from the superficial differences that aren’t essential or crucial.
BYT: Do you get recognized in public a lot outside of the UK and Ireland?
DM: Yeah it happens a bit. It comes in waves and takes me by surprise and I go “what the–why do people know who I am here?” and then I realize some movie I was in was on television the night before or something. It’s totally arbitrary.
BYT: Your sitcom, Black Books, is currently available to stream Netflix in the US. Do they send you royalty checks?
DM: Not that I know of. If they do, they’re so minuscule that I haven’t noticed them. I think I still get something from the original broadcaster but I’m certainly not aware of any Netflix van driving to my house and unloading a load of cash into my front yard.
BYT: Would you be interested in doing a show for Netflix?
DM: Yeah, I’ll work for whoever wants to hire me. Even the jewelry channel. I’m actually working on something right now. I’m bringing a script with me when I come over.
BYT: Do you still get to do dive bar open-mics?
DM: I’m doing one tonight actually–you’ve just reminded me. I’m doing 10 minutes at a small place. It’s very different from doing theatres. I think of myself as a theatre comic instead of club comic because I tend to talk for a bit before I start being funny. I don’t really do the one-liners and five second bits or whatever. But it’s good to work stuff out sometimes.
BYT: Have you ever looked at the trivia section of your IMDB page?
DM: No. I’ve got better things to do than read rubbish about myself.
BYT: I’m going to read out some of the entries to you, can you tell me if they’re accurate?
BYT: Is a fan of the British musician, PJ Harvey, and often uses her song, “50ft Queenie”, as intro music at his shows.
DM: I have used that song and I’m a big PJ Harvey fan. I think she’s fantastic.
BYT: Got married in London on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral, in a church just around the corner.
DM: Yes, that is true.
BYT: After leaving school, it has been said that Moran spent four years unemployed “drinking and writing bad poetry”.
DM: That’s a rather flippant quote from me. I mean, I said it, but I was doing other stuff too. I certainly didn’t manage the full stretch of four years.