Jarlath Regan: sick of being the nice guy
Andrew Mickel7 August 2011
Jarlath Regan is sick of being a nice guy. This year, he's bringing something a little different to Edinburgh. He tells SSP about presenting kid's TV, bringing stand-up to kids, and what he thinks about being nice...
Tell us a bit about the show this year.
It's the most honest thing I've ever done. It's about how I went into presenting young people's television in Ireland, and during that time my wife went into hospital to have our first child, but due to a complication she ended up staying there for a significant amount of time. So it's basically about how you hang on to your sanity while presenting children's TV and getting through a crisis pregnancy at the same time. It's been a challenge to find the funny in that, but it's been pretty carthatic stuff as a result.
That's pretty gritty stuff, is that a reaction to the reputation you've got as a nice comedian?
I do have that reputation and it's hard for that not to bother you a little bit. I've only ever done material about my life and I've not had too much hardship in my life. I suppose you can only write about what you know. This has been probably the toughest year of my life so the gritty realism of it is different. But it is going to be nice to tell a very honest, real story that doesn't necessarily have a happy ending, unfortunately.
The other half of the equation is hosting kid's TV. The nice reputation has to help, they're not going to take on someone with a mescaline habit. What's it like being upbeat through that sort of thing?
It is a challenge. When I started doing it I had to think carefully about why they wanted me to do it. Was it because I had a reputation as a nice guy, or was it something else? I had a fun interview and was hopeful. But like anyone who's taken a job and thought it was going to be one thing and it turns out to be something else, I was in a position where it was not any different to most young people's television.
Jokey, smiley, hands waving – it was soul destroying, particularly when you're in the middle of one of the biggest crises in your life with your child's life on the line. You can't immerse yourself in your work when your work is discussing whether Katy Perry and P!nk could be considered frenemies. I've certainly tried to include a bit in the show about what it's like behind the curtain of smiley faces in kids TV.
I take it you're not still doing kids TV.
Well, you'll have to come to the show to find out...
Are you a bit worried where you're doing a show saying all this stuff and it could be your future?
Well, yes, there is only one national broadcaster here and you do hope that in future they'll write cheques for you. I guess I do have to walk a line during the show about saying this is really difficult to do...but a big part of the show is realising that when you're becoming a father that this whole world is not about you any more.
A lot of my problems with young people's TV was about thinking it was all about me. And in fact in young people's TV it's kind of a noble profession in some ways, as you're specifically trying to entertain kids. It's that realisation that ran parallel to the birth of the child. So there is a serious strand, but there are fun stories along the way.
Have you got any temptation to do stand-up for children?
There was some talk about going into secondary schools. When I was growing up there was a feeling that if you couldn't write your funny in an English essay, then there's nowhere to put it, because the school had no idea what to do with it if you had a talent in that direction.
I always thought that was a little bit sad. I have been pitching an idea for a while to go into schools, going into schools and getting kids to get their funny out there. We haven't seen kids doing stand-up – it's a skill that would really benefit them in future life, being able to observe and critique life around them.
How has the preparation for the Fringe gone?
I've done gigs up and down Ireland at the arts festivals, and the reception's been great. A big part of the show is about sacrifices – we all make them – the sacrifices you make because of the recession, or the things that life throws at you.
Presenting children's TV was a sacrifice for the sake of my son. I think there's a lot of humour to be found in what you're willing to do, and I think that's connecting with people at the moment. And it's hard for people not to appreciate the honesty.
It's been the first year I'm not too concerned about the critics because at the end of the day, this is what happened, this is my life. If you don't like it, there's nothing doing with that. I'm not going to apologise for it. If there was one reason to go to the show, it would be just to hear the story. Even without jokes it's compelling.
This nice comedian label – everyone has a thing in you where you want to be liked – and I've probably been guilty of wanting to be liked too much and not being real enough and saying, fuck it, this is who I am, take it or leave it.
What do you make of Edinburgh as a whole?
I adore it, couldn't live without it. It's the focal point for my year. It's like the world trade fair of comedy and if you're not there, then you don't exist as a comedian in many ways. It's an essential thing. And it's the most inspiring thing in the year.
I always go up with about 90 minutes of material and then write another half an hour while I'm there. I think it makes me better. I don't think I'd be as good without the Fringe experiences that I've had.
Given that you share the nice comedian tag, what do you make about the attacks on Michael McIntyre in the UK?
There's an old story about Bono in Ireland where he said there's a different approach to success in the US, where if someone is doing well, with a big car and big house, people look at them and think, maybe someday I'll be that guy. Whereas in Ireland and the UK, they see the guy and think, that guy, someone is going to get that fucker.
I think there's a bit of that when it comes to Michael McIntyre. If you don't enjoy somebody's stand-up, that's honestly a matter of taste. There's going to be resentment. If I was him I would think the backlash is partially a result of him doing well.
Jarlath Regan is appearing in Shock and Ahh at the Gilded Balloon
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