“THERE’S no talk of Troubles, no talk of politics, just good, old-style stand-up,” says Jake O’Kane of his new show.
“I’ve got a fair bit of mileage out of the Olympics, boxers, our wonderful golfers, and then more mileage out of all the topics standups usually talk about, relationships, religion, modern life...and being ginger.”
The north Belfast comedian, who first stepped up to the mic at The Empire in 1993, ‘decommissioned’ his Troubles materials with his 2010 Tear Gas show at the favourite comedy venue, going over all his tried and tested gags about rioting, balaclavas, Ian, Peter, Gerry, Martin, barricades and security checks, the Irish language and paramilitary murals - both sides of the divide, to his immense credit, satirised with equal focus. (O’Kane is nothing if not an equal opportunities satirist, with a particularly scathing line in sending up politicians.)
So now it’s time to move on, time for new comedy material; new time, new place etc, this is 2012 after all. New show Mouthful sounds broad in reach and O’Kane is happy to deliver something that allows for meandering observations.
“Tear Gas was great to do but it was a very linear show,” he muses. “I was tied to an accompanying slide show of archive photographs and if was very much A,B,C,D.
“But my brain more works more like A,D,G,E - I jump all over the place and that’s where the connections are made and where it gets fun. I love going off in tangents, getting stuck in cul-de-sacs and then trying to find my way back. This keeps things interesting and it allows me to interact with the audience in a much more direct way.”
What is an average day in the life of a comedian like?, I ask, imagining a glorious routine of him laughing hysterically at his own jokes for hours and watching box sets of other comedian’s work for inspiration until he’s laughed out and orders a takeaway.
“It’s get up with a hangover, get a cure, travel to next city, do a show, get drunk, wake up and repeat. It’s a tough life, I think. Stand-ups are like modern day troubadours. One day you’re in Manchester, the next it’s Edinburgh, then it’s Dublin.
“The idea of me doing a January gig in Dubai was put forward recently. They told me they had a date for me to do somewhere and I was thinking it would probably be somewhere in Scotland. They came back and said Dubai. I thought are you insane, Dubai? I’m ginger, I’d last about an hour! Spontaneous combustion - I wouldn’t get off the plane.”
Being ginger is something that seems to cause O’Kane a lot of concern.
He writes his comedy while busy being a father to his five-year-old and three-year-old children and running a small business.
“I don’t have so much free time, it can be hard to fit it all in.
“I’d love to be the kind of stand-up who could sit down and do two hours of writing every day, but I can’t, I’m too lazy and disorganised. Quite often what happens is that I’ll feel inspired last thing at night, or it’s when it’s most incovenient, like when you’re in the shower that an idea comes to you.”
He feels cool and collected on stage and would like it to stay that way.
“I’m weird because if I walk into a room with five people I don’t know in it then I immediately turn into Forrest Gump. I am actually shy - I don’t find social stuff very easy.
“But if I walk out on stage at the Waterfront or wherever then I feel fine. It’s very strange.”
Tear Gas covered growing up and surviving the Troubles, Jake’s latest show covers everything else. Expect immense insolence.
n Mouthful: February 1, Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen; February 9, Strule Arts Centre, Omagh; February 18, The Alley Theatre, Strabane; April 5, The Braid, Ballymena; April 6, Old Court House Antrim.