Beastly Fun

by Alison Benney

Published in Irish Eyes, May 2005

So I ask Colin Murphy, have your children made it into your show yet? "Of course," he says, "that's the only reason comedians have kids. They run out of material so they have to have a kid." As he has two small boys, one with teething problems, I ask how big a family he was planning. "That's it - I've got more than enough material, in fact I'll need a vasectomy next." Pause. "And I'll get more material out of that!"

Yet charismatic Belfast native Colin Murphy doesn't seem to need much material to keep his sold-out houses in stitches. In our 20-minute interview, he is warm, funny, spontaneous, takes the moment and explores it, juices the fun there, pokes but doesn't jab. We were discussing his upcoming gig with Laughing Matters at La Java on 17/18 May. It is the first time he plays Paris, although not for lack of effort by Karel Beer of Beer Necessities. Multi-talented Murphy's sparkling creativity keeps him in constant demand, and for more than just a stand-up comedian. He started out as a professional illustrator for such clients as Elle and Cosmopolitan (which explains his well-designed personal website), then as an award-winning actor in theatre, film (The Most Fertile Man in Ireland), radio and TV, notably as host for two series, The Blizzard of Odd and The Panel. He has also headlined shows in challenging venues like New York, Montreal, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Wherever he travels, he visits the local zoo. "It's weird the way different countries treat the animals," he says, "and the way the public view the animals. In Barcelona, they were there for their entertainment. In Australia, people are in awe. I went to a zoo in Melbourne, to a wildlife park, and it was fantastic, even though it only had Australian animals in it, which I thought was a bit cheeky, really. All they did was build a fence, all the animals were there already, just walking around on the other side of the fence. You think it's a zoo, but it's not, it's just a fence, and you're paying to see it, it's a fantastic con."

He continues, "At Belfast zoo, on the other hand, there are not too many animals really, just cages and signs up for the animals, that say they're all nocturnal." He hasn't yet been to a French zoo, despite having visited Paris a number of times, including on his honeymoon. "My aunt brought myself and my sister to Paris when I was 14, I loved it, smoked Gitanes for a week and my tongue went green. In art college we came to Paris - which pissed me off because it was the only place I'd ever been and they brought me back to it. The other group went to Moscow!"

So what does he like about Paris? "I like the fact that everyone thinks Parisians are rude. I don't find them to be so, I think they're great and they've got a reason to be rude, they live in Paris; it's the coolest place in the world, I would be rude if I lived there. It's this notion that you're surrounded by all this Stuff that's there, and you're going to work every day right next to It in a shop or something."

It seems to me that it would be difficult to adapt humour from one country or culture to another but, of course, Murphy plays to anglophones. "Generally I know it's going to be an expat audience," he explains, "so it will be mostly English, Irish, American, Canadian, Australian. It is pretty terrifying if you walk into a room and they're all Singaporean!"

Just before we hang up, he noted another reason he's looking forward to Paris: "In Ireland we got the smoking ban, so it will make a change being able to smoke on stage!" Colin Murphy visits the Paris zoos this month, so don't miss him at La Java. For a preview, check out his scripts from The Blizzard of Odd on his site at www.colinmurphy.org.

La Java, 105, rue du Fbg du Temple, 10e, reservations: 01.53.19.98.88.