■ The acerbic Irish stand-up, 46, talks about his new approach to comedy and why panel shows aren’t funny — they’re death
You’ve got a new live tour in the works called Dr Cosmos — who or what is Dr Cosmos?
An idea. There are a lot of snake oil salesmen around trying to sell you one big idea that explains everything. People want solutions that will make sense of things around them — it’s a dangerous time.
Who are you thinking of?
It depends what you’re interested in. You may have decided that Brexit’s the answer to everything and will restore Britain to what you might imagine its heyday was. Or you might be a young person who thinks Jeremy Corbyn will deliver the social justice that’s being denied to you. The point is, it’s not going to be any of these individual ideas or people who will save you. People are looking to be saved and they invest very heavily into the figures of the day. That’s the idea of Dr Cosmos. I’ve been doing the tour in America. I started off in LA and it’s changed and it will carry on changing as I do it in Europe. It’s all still forming.
You’ve performed in Russia before. Are you going back?
We’re talking about it but it depends on what’s going on at the time. I like performing there. When people talk about Russia they mean the Kremlin, not the Russian people. Everyone forgets that. They’re just people trying to live their lives and forget about their government.
Have you performed anywhere so culturally different the material didn’t work?
That’s the big concern that can put you off doing it but you’ve just got to jump through the window and see what happens. Twenty years ago I did a gig at a restaurant in Milan when people were eating and that didn’t go well but that’s because of where it was, rather than any cultural differences. I’ve played in Kazakhstan but people are people whether they’re in Moscow or Cleveland. The primary motivations in people’s lives are the same everywhere — they care about their families and try to negotiate their way through the world the best they can. We’re all pitted against the same forces. If you’re beyond your mid-twenties, you’ve seen it all before anyway — although the cynicism that’s around now is pretty bad.
Black Books was just repeated on TV. Did you watch any of it?
No. The thing with telly is they put everything on again because it’s cheap. It’s 100 years ago now. I don’t remember any of it so if it was in front of me I’d watch it for a few minutes. Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig were hilarious in it so I’m always happy to watch them working when I see them in anything. People used to make things and it would go away — now there’s a very good chance you will bump into it again. It’s like orbiting space junk.
How has your approach to stand-up changed?
I’ve really changed my approach with my new show. I used to have a mountain of notebooks and I used to try to bring it all on stage with me, this huge amount of stuff. Now I don’t worry so much. I throw it all up in the air and play what comes out. It’s more improvisational. I’ve got a bigger set list than I can play so I grab a bunch of tunes and do that rather than worry about what order I do them in.
What lessons has your career in comedy taught you?
People are stuck in their own heads and they don’t realise how much so. We all walk around obsessed with our own bulls***. We’ve all got our own breaking news and hot news agenda every day and it’s always the same s*** and we all think it’s incredibly urgent. Comedy isn’t what most people think it is. Most people think comedy is jokes or the s*** you hear on Radio 4. Most people think comedy is a bunch of panel w***ers sitting around, slapping each other on the back, laughing at the same stuff. That’s not comedy. That’s death.
Slow death. That’s the opposite of entertainment and comedy. It’s ‘fun’ that is designed to crush you.
Do you have a favourite panel show?
Yes. I particularly like the one called What A Bunch Of F***ing W***ers. That’s what I like.
Have you ever done a panel show?
I have never done any. I’ll do one if they offer me £4.5 million paid up front in single notes.
Do you have any other unfulfilled comedy ambitions?
I’d just want to do panel shows all day long, ideally. Or maybe a musical. I’m working on a couple of pilots now — one about a psychiatrist. I’ll do another programme in the next couple of years.
Moran’s new show, Dr Cosmos, can be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe in August then on UK tour from September, dylanmoran.com