I was thrilled to get to speak with award-winning Irish comedian Dylan Moran while he was in New York City on his new North American tour, Grumbling Mustard. Even more thrilling was getting the chance to see Dylan performing in New York City at an intimate theater. Moran’s fans know how exciting of an opportunity this is. Dylan is beloved around the world, and the chance to see him working on new material, taking chances, and playing with format is exciting indeed. And he did not disappoint. On a swelteringly hot New York City night, fans crammed into the theater to hear his take on the world in 2017 including American politics, middle age, technology, religion, family and as always, the everyday absurdities of modern living (including the aforementioned sweltering heat of a New York City night). Nobody can turn a phrase quite like Dylan can. Accompanied by his whimsically dark illustrations, and a penchant for veering off course into unpredictable detours that always end with something brilliant, hilarious or both, Grumbling Mustard is required viewing for serious comedy fans. Whether he’s covering the big political issues facing humanity, or the minutia of everyday life, Dylan is always thoughtful, sharp, and brutally funny.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Dylan on stage, you may know him from his film or television career- he’s starred in the hugely popular films Shaun of the Dead, Run Fatboy Run, Notting Hill and the 2014 film Calvary, and of course his critically lauded U.K. television series Black Books.
After a sold-out run in New York City, the tour is traveling through Washington D.C., Boston, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Des Moines, St. Louis, Austin and New Orleans. Future dates for the tour’s second leg are being planned for 2018. You lucky bastards, go grab tickets before they’re gone.
The Interrobang: The last time you came to New York, we had had the chance to talk and your show was during one of the Presidential debates. We were talking about what a crazy thing this was that he (Trump) was running. I don’t think either one of us ever thought for a minute that this could really happen and take place.
Dylan Moran: No, no. I would’ve … No, we would’ve discovered that possibility very quickly. No, no, that just would have been like a colorful media story, you know? It was a sideshow.
The Interrobang: But it’s not a sideshow anymore, is it?
Dylan Moran: No, it’s the main feature. And all day, every day, all over the fucking world.
The Interrobang: I love how you address it in your show. You get it out there right away and get it done with. Do you feel, in your head, that you have to talk about it, or is that something you think the audiences need?
Dylan Moran: Well, imagine you’re meeting an old friend, but they happen to have a spear through their head. You kind of have to mention it when you see them. I’m afraid there’s just no damn way around it, you know.
The temptation to not talk about it is just to give people a little bit of let up, and the fatigue of his ceaseless hail of bat-shit that he’s raining on everybody alive. It’s really just to offer an umbrella for a little while, to get it out of that. You gotta talk about it because the atmospheric conditions that we’re in, you know? It’s not like it’s everything, but that’s the atmosphere of what we’re inhabiting right now. That’s the political biosphere, so we have to deal with it before we can talk about anything else. Because it puts everything else in context, you know, our usual concerns and so on.
I was just thinking this morning, actually, how you know, he’s so … All this saber rattling, and all the belligerence and all the loose talk around pretty serious matters of international diplomacy that could lead to death on a huge scale. But you know, he shoots off his mouth about this sort of stuff, because of course, with a mentality like his, you know, war and conflict and at least setting all those conflicts off and bashing them together, making them … letting the sparks fly, it’s preferable than the difficult, complex, multi-leveled problems of peace.
Because those problems are always more interesting. You know, they’re a bit of a challenge. What do we do with all our freedom? What do we do with all the wealth we have, how do we distribute it more evenly? How do we make life better for more people? These are really hard problems. When you’re in conflict or at war with somebody, your only concern is how to defeat people who threaten you. So it just, it simplifies everything, and it appeals to his toddler mentality.
The Interrobang: Do you remember how you found out that “he” won?
Dylan Moran: Yes, I was in L.A. at an election party, waiting for Hillary to win, like everybody else, you know? And it’s not that I’m the world’s biggest Hillary Clinton fan, I’m not, but, I mean, there’s just no comparison, it’s like, choosing between, you know, who do you want to be running the country? A human being or, you know, this enormous pile of personality problems in search of a character?
The Interrobang: One of the other themes that you are talking about on this tour is a shift in … I guess, being in that middle period of life.
Dylan Moran: Well, I want to talk about … by the way, as a sidebar, I have to say, I love the way you say middle period, and I’m absolutely fascinated with the American horror of aging. Because I’m calling it middle age, and you’re calling it middle period. I have yet to reach middle age, because I just think that, in America, youth is a religion, in a way. And when you see people who are, you know, have clearly had lots and lots of cosmetic surgeries and so on, and all of the food supplements, and the whole deal. It’s amazing, because I’ve been coming to America for years, but I really feel like I’m only now getting it. So much of it is about keeping the energy up, and the sense of possibility and play, and for that to happen you’d better appear young and dynamic. People are hilariously loathe to admit, “I’m a little bit tired, or that hurts, or I want to sit down now, can we stay in tonight?”
The Interrobang: I wanted to talk also, about religion. Your observation that we have replaced God with our telephones is just fantastic.
Dylan Moran: I do think something like that’s going on, you know, with phones and tech industry. The world got small so fast; it’d been going the same way for years and years, and then, suddenly, everything was cubed, the acceleration was just, sort of, cubed in its progress. And I think one of the side effects that people feel is, “Wow, you know, the world really is much smaller, we really are much more alike.” But, what have we got to define ourselves?
The Interrobang: Well the bit about people needing to be watched was something that really stayed with me all night, and I couldn’t even start to scratch the surface on why that would be.
Dylan Moran: Oh, well that’s a bit of a big one, I think. I think there’s a lot of … there’s lots of awe in that. It’s the same way the kids want….. It’s like, “Look Ma, no hands!” with a kid on a bike. If it wasn’t witnessed, it didn’t happen. It’s like you need to witness it, so you’ve got proof that you were here.
The Interrobang: This is your third tour of New York. It’s a very different show than the last time you were here. How would you describe this show?
Dylan Moran: Well, I’ve got to be honest with you… what you saw last night was a real … God, that was not even work in progess, that was just on the move, that was like flying through the air, because I did stuff I’d never said before, to anyone, not even the night before. I do stuff I just found that day or I had forgotten about. I did stuff for this show that I’ve been writing, and I talked about a couple of things from way back as well. So it’s a real mix of a thing. All I know is … I float along. I float along kind of, okay? I just want to get the show at a certain kind of pace just sets in and then … yeah okay, this is working now. I can write it, but I feel like I’m still sort of fiddling around with the saddle and the bridle a bit.
The Interrobang: Audiences seem to prefer to be at a show where things are changing. You can actually feel ‘live-er’ than ‘live’ because it’s evolving.
Dylan Moran: Well I actually think that’s a very good description and I like that. I like watching where you’re going to go on and look at a finished picture, but I love to see the sketches that worked up to it. I really like seeing somebody work and fix things and move things around and you know, deal with this and adapt and be in the moment. That’s great. So, I don’t know where I’m going. What you saw last night, as you can probably tell, is I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do next. I’m serious about that, because that is something I’m after, that you described, that ‘live-er’ than ‘live’ feeling. Because if you go and see somebody live, and you know that they’re just sort of using their physical presence there to email you the show, fax it out through their face, that’s not really live. I mean, there has to be a little bit of danger it’ll go wrong, you know?
The Interrobang: Let’s talk about your slideshow; the photos, the artwork that was behind you. Where does that come from?
Dylan Moran: Oh, I don’t know, I used to draw a lot, but sometimes I do it to help me figure out what it is I’m thinking about; sometimes I do it to avoid writing, and I’m supposed to be writing. I just thought I might as well use it, you know. I was doing them when I was supposed to be writing the show, so it became part of the show. I think it… I think initially, it was sort of a little bit weird to people, and then people expect it now, in a way. I think they’d be annoyed if they weren’t there. I think it does create a sort of an interesting dynamic.
The Interrobang: You talked a little bit last night about growing up and what it was like being in the country versus in the city. What were you like growing up? Were you quiet? Trouble making?
Dylan Moran: I think I was pretty quiet and kind of a bit pouty, probably, when I was young, sort of small. I remember other kids coming to the house, knocking on the door and saying, “Come out to play.” And me going, “No.” And then I got a… you know, as a teenager, I think I got in … yeah, I got in a bit of trouble, yeah. Not too much, it wasn’t too bad. Nobody died. I didn’t hurt anybody or anything, but yeah, I had my moments, you know. School and everything.
The Interrobang: When did you figure out that you had this kind of gift? This gift to be able to speak about things differently than other people?
Dylan Moran: Oh gee, I don’t know. I don’t really draw on that or think about that too much, I just try and get up there and have a good time and enjoy it and make sure everybody else has as good a time as possible. I remember I saw people do a show in Dublin and I thought, “Oh, wow, that seems like it’s fun.” And at probably 20, 19, I think I was 19. And that was it, you know, and I must admit, I don’t have a great deal of exposure to working down a coal mine or anything.
The Interrobang: Well, you have, especially in the year 2017, just an incredible vocabulary, but you’re not somebody who’s sort of bound to any kind of language rules, you’ll create your own. So it’s just such a unique mix of skills that you seem to bring to the stage.
Dylan Moran: Well, you try to use whatever you’ve got, that’s comfortably within reach, you know, that you can mix it up and surprise yourself and everybody else. I think surprise is part of the whole thing as well. I love Americans popular speech or common speech, or whatever you want to call it, because it’s incredibly expressive when you’ve got such fantastic phrases. I love American idioms like when you can tell when somebody’s drunk. I’m completely fascinated with all that. So it’s just sounds and tones, really, you know, to get a different sound, you know the way people were kind of playing boogie-woogie piano, you just mix things up.
The Interrobang: I guess as a world we’re going to be losing those differences in speech patterns and language as we go forward in the world becoming smaller and smaller.
Dylan Moran: Yeah, yeah. Well that’s part of the big debate that’s going on right now. You’re absolutely right to pick up on that, that is part of it. You know, that’s what’s drowned in all that stuff, all these people are saying, you know, “We must remain separate, we mustn’t co-mingle our cultures, the identities and all that stuff,” and I personally … I just think that, coming from a country with a big history of nationalism, I think that’s all bullshit, you know, what’s going to happen is the angle of history … that’s what it is. Everybody is going to be more and more mixed up from here and from there and they’re going to become your neighbors, so that’s it, deal with this.