Interview with Neil Delamere | Dela Mere Mortal
Now a household name due to his regular TV appearances on shows such as The Panel, The Blame Game and Republic of Telly, Neil Delamere is kicking off 2013 with his latest stand-up show Dela MERE MORTAL. The comedy show is set to tour the country, playing Dublin's Vicar St for three nights. Aoife Ryan sat down with Delamere and talked about mortality, youth and age. You know, the light stuff.
How would you describe your new show 'Dela MERE MORTAL'?
My brother told me I'd lived longer in Dublin than I had in Offaly so I was trying to figure out which is the better version- the first sixteen or seventeen years or the second sixteen and a half or seventeen years. So I found footage of myself at that age and threaded it throughout the show trying to figure out which would be the better version-Neil one or Neil two. You would want to see what people looked like in the mid nineties, including Ray D'Arcy. There does seem to be nostalgia for the eighties and nineties now... particularly in Kerry where drink driving seems to be the nostalgic gene.
Where did the name come from?
Well if I was lying to you I would say it's come from some deep and meaningful thought about the reflection on youth, mortality and age, with the name Dela MERE MORTAL being the phrase we try to parody. Really though the Edinburgh Fringe festival begins in August and in February you are asked for your name in so you make up anything that could cover all bases. You make up some sort of pull on your name and then hopefully you will figure out some tenuous link with the show's material at a later date. I got lucky with this show and the name and that's the truth. You can quote me on that. I have slightly changed my name and used various different pronunciations for shows before. I did have 'crème de la mere' before. Dela MERE MORTAL is slightly cheating but when you're doing the fringe festival you need to grasp at any straws hanging around.
Your show looks back on your sixteen year old self. Do you think there is any difference between a teenage boy and a man in his thirties really?
Put it this way, when you go on television now the makeup is somewhat less I think. I remember being on a show and the makeup lady looking at all our faces and thinking lads it'll be like painting bubble wrap. So I think maybe physically we've changed, we look much more haggard or wrecked but in terms of maturity I don't know if it's gotten any better.
Does this show differ greatly from your previous shows in any way do you think?
I suppose it the first show that has video in it and it also has a little sketch at the end where I get people back together seventeen years later. It has more structure than previous shows and it has been great fun to do. You try to say what you aim to achieve at the beginning of the show and hopefully by the end you have done them. It's been great craic. I did it in the Edinburgh fringe festival as I said but to do it in front of an Irish audience that recognises the theme music before it comes on, the host and me. It's just been good fun to walk that memory lane I suppose.
There's a lot of audience interaction in your show. Do audiences react differently in different cities or countries? Everyone's always saying Irish audiences are amazing but is that just buttering up the crowd?
I always have a chat with the audience; mess around with them for various reasons. One, it makes everything individual, and two, if you're doing a long tour it keep your mind active. It keeps every show different. It's as much for them as it is for me I suppose. If people are going to a show, I'm touring around the country, I'm playing Vicar St and on the third night Feb 22nd the audience may get on the TV if they go to that particular show. We are doing a new documentary. We did a historical documentary last year and we are doing a new one this year. The stand-up portion of that will be filmed in the first half. If you want to get our mug on television go to that. The Dela MERE MORTAL is the second half of that show then.
There are definitely differences in crowds when you travel around. Not so much within Ireland, though Northern Ireland is slightly darker and crueller which suits certain comedians including myself. There are definitely international differences alright. There are different sensibilities, in my experience, in Australia, and in Denmark and Finland...lots of different places. The one that was very interesting to me was I watched South African crowds. They seemed to have reached the stage where you can say anything about race and the audience reacts well to it whereas we are not quite there yet. The vast majority of the audiences I played to were black and the comedians were black and white. They've gotten to a point where they have gotten through their famous and torrid history. It's very interesting to watch. This side of the world you would have to be careful talking about those kinds of things. You may be able to talk about religion though, in the North.
What got you into comedy originally?
University was where I saw loads of comedians and it was there I became familiar with the scene and aware that this is a viable thing people do. So I just tried five minutes of it in a club, and then again and again. You just build up slowly over time until hopefully you get somewhere. When you start you want your break immediately and it's funny because if you got it you wouldn't be ready for it. The ideal would be you would get a break after four or five years. Maybe after three or four years you have a good bit of material so it would be a good time to get a tour or an appearance or something to build your profile. You need to have enough stuff to do it. Some people get big too soon and don't have the wherewithal to keep going then.
In terms of TV it's a fairly small scene and if a TV producer is looking for a comedian they can just go to a handful of clubs and ask a handful of agents. They can see who is playing the Kilkenny festival, the Edinburgh and Montreal festivals. It's not that hard to research. Hopefully your name bubbles up to the top of the pile and you get a shout out. I was very lucky. It was a time in Ireland hen there was a good few TV avenues and big spots on those avenues. At the same time there were five spots on the panel and three or four on naked camera. Eight or nine slots at any one moment on Irish TV for comedians is pretty good going. You could have had to go through the eighties or even now when there really isn't the same amount of availability so I was very lucky that I found something that suited me and I really enjoyed. The same thing happened in Northern Ireland. I've done a panel show there in 2005/2006 so you can just get very lucky and thankfully I have been.
Do you still get nervous going on stage or did you ever?
It depends on the gig but oh yeah. Say you are recording for a DVD or doing new material for a show, or playing in the UK or somewhere you haven't played, you definitely do get nervous. The thing is, it's a bit of a cliché but the day you stop getting nervous is the day you stop doing this. Otherwise you should go back to doing your normal job whatever that may be.
How do you deal with heckling, if you get any?
When I started doing stand up I didn't even realise there was a difference between certain types of heckles. Sometimes people can just be encouraging and agreeing with you. You are so panicked with heckles when you start out you just slam them. They might shout out something like 'oh I agree' and you'd just automatically shout back 'oh yeah? Well I fucked your ma'. After a while you learn the difference between ones that are destructive and the ones trying to be constructive. It's not the same as when I was playing in a room above a pub for a room full of locked people but it can still happen alright at the festivals and stuff so you have to keep your wits about you. Keep your arsenal within reach just in case.
You are known for going off in hilarious tangents. Do you find it easy to return to the planned material?
I'd like to say its part and practice but sometimes you forget your place. The great thing about stand up is you can stop and ask the audience where you were. People are very au fait with stand up now as it's been around for a good few years so they know that it's a bit of a loose form. You can ask once or twice but probably no more than that or you'll wreck people's heads. Hopefully it comes together seamlessly, uncontrived and without any mishaps but that's not how it always happens.
Do you have a preference for TV or stand-up?
Oh the one true love is stand up. You do all those other things because they are fun, but mainly because they feed into what you really want to do and what you want to put your time into. You also don't have to deal with anyone else. If a stand up succeeds or fails it's largely on your back whereas TV by its nature is a collaborative effort and responsibility is delegated out and with the loss of some responsibility is the loss of input too. If you asked me to choose one thing tomorrow, TV or stand-up, it'd be stand-up. I hope you don't ask me that though anytime soon.
Obviously this love of stand-up would cease if I won the Euro Millions lotto. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't love anything if I won the lotto. If I had eight million quid, I'd just walk into a store, not HMV obviously, and I'd just buy everything on box set and watch everything for a year and a half. Then I'd decide what to do next. You know those people who say 'Ah no I don't know, that's too much money.' There isn't such a thing. It might be too much money if you have no imagination whatsoever. I'm telling I could spend any amount. People saying 'Fifty billion! What are those Russian oligarchs doing with fifty billion?', if I had fifty billion it could be gone by the weekend, I'd just widen my horizons. I'd start buying countries and islands. I'd have no money left but I'd own Belgium. Have a bit of craic with it.
Who are your favourite comedians?
I go through different phases. It's as much fun discovering new ones. Kilkenny festival is a great place for finding new ones. Bill Burr is a brilliant stand-up. The pyjama men, a sketch duo, are unbelievable.
If you want a household name Tommy Tiernan is the one. He's just consistently brilliant; I don't think I've seen anyone better throughout the years. He's as good as anyone in the world. He's like the Katie Taylor of Ireland. Sometimes you look at Tommy and think that man is not a whole lot different from the raw Celtic ages, channelling the spirit of Cu Chulainn. I wouldn't be one hundred percent surprised if Tommy came out one day on stage in a tunic and road off in a chariot.
Dela Mere Mortal is playing in Vicar St. February 8th, 9th, 22nd and 23rd, with tickets on sale now priced €25. Dela Mere Mortal is also touring the country in February and March. Details at www.neildelamere.com
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Monday 28th January 2013 | Comedy