Colin Murphy:‘I am really quite shy - I can’t do small talk at parties’

Comedian Colin Murphy
Comedian Colin Murphy

It’s Big Time for Colin Murphy as he prepares for his upcoming tour. He chats to HELEN MCGURK about prevarication, panic and why women used to scare him senseless.

Long before Colin Murphy was tickling the nation’s funnybone with his wry musings and inspired nonsense on television shows like The Blame Game and, more recently, Panic Room, he was pursuing his other passion - art.

Special guest Deirdre O'Kane with The Blame Game cast, (from left) Colin Murphy, Tim McGarry, Jake O'Kane and Neil Delamere.'Photo by Trevor Lucy Photography.

Special guest Deirdre O'Kane with The Blame Game cast, (from left) Colin Murphy, Tim McGarry, Jake O'Kane and Neil Delamere.'Photo by Trevor Lucy Photography.

On leaving art college, the Downpatrick-born comic admits he ‘‘did nothing for years’’, but at 50 he’s back painting again - even attending night classes.

‘‘It seemed like a bit of a waste not to do something with it (art), so I thought I’d start and that’s what I’ve been doing.’’

When we chat at 11am he’s in the middle of a self-portrait.

‘‘Nobody else will sit for me so I have to sit in front of a mirror and stare at my own stupid ugly face,’’ he laughs.

And, no, his creations do not adorn the walls of his home.

‘‘ I just bin them. I’m not precious about things.’’

The comedian, writer and now documentary film maker is back on the road in 2019 for a 14-date tour starting with the Garage Theatre, Monaghan, on January 19.

After a sellout run of his Bald Ambition Tour in 2018, his upcoming Big Time tour will be packed with brand new material and stories to tell, whether we survive Brexit or not.

‘‘I’m trying to think of a way of talking about Brexit without talking about Brexit, because people are sick to the back teeth of talking about it - and I’m sick talking about it on The Blame Game. But it’s going to have to be in the tour, if it happens at all. The news is changing day to day, so we’ve no idea what’s going on,’’ he says.

Murphy is well known for his quick-fire wit and playing up the absurdities of Norn Iron life - so aside from Brexit, what else can people expect if they go along to one of his new shows?

‘‘Ah, that’s a good question, because I’m still writing it,’’ he cheerfully admits.

Talking to the comedian, one can’t help but feel he is winging it a little bit, or at least pretending to wing it.

Take the name of his new tour, for example, did he ponder long and hard over this?

‘‘It is called Big Time because like most comedians I prevaricate an awful lot and when people ring and ask ‘have you got a name yet?’ and I don’t, but go ‘yeah, big time’. So it was a spoof - then I went, ok that’ll do.’’

Colin is endlessly amused and amuses us with his dissection of our colloquialisms - and ‘big time’ is a play on that too.

‘‘But they use ‘big time’ in other places, which I didn’t realise. I Googled it and it’s not just peculiar to here. We think that we invented everything, but we didn’t.’’

There will also be ruminations on sex, attraction and the metric system in the upcoming shows.

‘‘There is a lot of stuff about love and sex and relationships and stuff about here and us and the way we speak to each other and our turns of phrase and the little verbal tics that we have.’’

Murphy will, of course, be sharing his observations on midlife man’s travails - not novel stand up territory, as there are plenty of comedians in the grumpy-old-man herd, but he will be sure to find his own idiosyncratic angle.

‘‘The last tour (Bald ambition) touched on that (ageing) because I was turning 50 and this time it’s about feeling a bit more comfortable in my own skin, even though it’s a bit saggier.’’

Does he feel like a curmudgeonly old duffer now he’s reached his mid century?

‘‘Well I couldn’t get more curmudgeonly than I am. I am trying to be less curmudgeonly.’’

But surprisingly for a self-confessed grump, this miserablist is looking forward to Christmas and all its tinsel-tinged jolliness.

‘‘Yeah, I love it and always have done. I am not a religious person in the slightest, but I just like Christmas.’’

But there will be none of that Christmas jumper malarkey in the Murphy household.

‘‘ We don’t do that. I hate people doing it ironically, that really annoys me,’’ he says, with just a tinge of grouchiness.

In Colin Murphy’s recent BBC series Panic Room he threw the spotlight on things he used to worry about when the was a teenager - like the Cold War, UFOs and nuclear Armageddon.

But looking back, what really panicked him was the fairer (and scarier) sex.

‘‘Women - that was definitely my biggest fear. I wouldn’t say boo to a goose when I was young - I was very, very shy and that is not a good thing to be.’’

For one who comes across on television as so self-assured, he admits he’s still very socially awkward.

‘‘I am not very good in social situations, like parties. I am really bad at them. I am quite shy and don’t like small talk.’’

He also hates watching himself on screen.

‘‘I probably should watch myself because everyone has verbal tics and facial tics that I probably should be aware of, but I’d rather ignore them.’’

For Big Time tickets and details of performances visit www.thatcolinmurphy.com<http://www.thatcolinmurphy.com>. Contains adult content, recommended audience age 16+.