Last weekend one of our favourite Tallaght people Al Porter won the prestigious Rising Star TV IFTA. Then on Tuesday he featured on the latest show in the “Living With Lucy” series on TV3 which has been getting excellent reviews all week.
Currently on the road nationwide with “The Honeymoon Tour” 2016 has been massive for the 23-year-old comedian from Springfield and we were delighted to catch up with him recently.
In this first part of our interview we discuss his nomination for a much-coveted prize at the Edinburgh Festival, his work ethic and his plans for the rest of the year and beyond. Next week we talk to him about that IFTA win and the amazing response to “Living With Lucy”.
First up Al, congratulations on your nomination for Best Comedy Show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, even though you didn’t win you must be very proud?
Cheers, thanks it was mad to be nominated for an award that my heroes Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran were before, it was just very surreal. I was the first Irish person to be nominated in years so I was proud as the shortlist consists of eight comedians out of 4000. The judges had been to see me 18 times, I didn’t even realise they’d been in, which I prefer because I wanted the freedom to be able to take a risk every night every night i’d do something different and if you knew somebody was in you’d tend to stick to what works. If you don’t know they’re in you take a chance. I had nights where I dragged lads out to get me drink at the bar, or i got people to change seats or broke up families, swapped them around in the venue. I had a ball.
The excellent reviews you were getting must have helped put bums on seats in Edinburgh for you?
It was funny because I did 200 seats a night and I didn’t have one poster up, it was all just word of mouth. It was surprising because the trend in Edinburgh at the moment is intellectualism, which I don’t do. Richard Gadd, who won Best Comedy Show, is very serious, his show deals with his sexual assault. This year there’s very much a trend towards almost comedy drama whereas I just do funny shows that your nana could enjoy while she’s ironing. Its just a bit of craic. This year I’m getting all these great reviews from serious papers like the Guardian, The Times, The Scotsman, the Telegraph and they’re finding seriousness in me that isn’t even there. They’re like (puts on serious voice) “He’s very anarchic and subversive” and I’m like “Am I?!!! Or am i just silly? They’re looking for something that isn’t there, its like the emperors new clothes, its just gags.
Do you think then that comedy is really changing in the last few years?
Not really no because Mrs Browns Boys was voted Best Sitcom of 21st Century and I was nominated so Brexit really has set us back 40 years! We’re living in the 70s again with Frankie Howerd and Dick Emery reborn. I do love Mrs Browns Boys, it doesn’t make me laugh all the time but i still love it. Theres something warmly familiar about it, it’s pure panto which as you know is my background. I also really admire Brendan O Carrolls work ethic. He used to work in a restaurant but he used to write jokes on scraps of paper and deliver them to Brendan Grace, who would’ve been the main man at the time, for a few quid. I love that work ethic myself. I’ll do anything, radio, I write a column for The Star, I’m writing a play, I’m writing a book, I’m doing TV shows, a tour of stand up, writing and producing panto this year. I just do everything. Why not because one day nobody is going to want to employ you so while people do want you just do fuckin everything!
Aside from gigging, what else have you been up to since we spoke last year?
After I did Live At the Apollo I was on a new panel show called “Its Not Me It’s You” with Carol Vorderman and Kelly Brook. It was my first-ever panel show over there and it was just so much craic, it wasn’t like work. Kelly Brook took me out on the piss, she’s really, really dead on. She had laid on this lavish party in her own bar. It was great, a free bar, cocktails and she had all these models at it. I had never seen so many beautiful people in my life! I was also offered to be the host of another show which was starting up. It was for 8 episodes but I didn’t take it because I was worried as it had never been on television before I was worried if it wasn’t good it could be bad for me so i did a guest role. I also did a short film for Sky One called Al Porter in Ireland. I’m the Karaoke King who lives at home with his Nana. But then I get an agent, are my fortunes about to change? Karl Spain and I wrote it, Louis Walsh was in it, PJ Gallagher did the voice over and Pauline McLynn played my Nana. We now have a pilot script that we’re looking to do for Sky One. It would be their first ever studio sitcom. We’re going to record the pilot in November, whether the script happens I don’t know. We’re looking to maybe cast Joe Brand as my agent in my show which would be amazing.
I believe you got some career guidance off Uncle Gaybo last year. Did he scold you for drinking?
Yeah that’s right! He turned up at Vicar Street on a night that had the strangest guest list ever, it was the weirdest, most eclectic group of people you could get in one backstage. There was Louis Walsh, Panti Bliss, Caroline Downey, Harry Crosbie, Gay, Katherine Lynch, Brian Kennedy. I’d invited them all and they all came! Anyway, I had drank three pints on stage that night and Gay comes over to me and says “And are those real pints you were drinking?” and I said “yeah” and he was like “no,no,no,no,no,…you’re going the wrong way about things, you need to drink water. Dean Martin played the drunk but he did not drink.” and I’m like “I’m pretty sure he did!” He told me he loved the show, but then said, ‘Don’t drink on stage, it’s not professional and I don’t like it. You are in control, not the audience.”
On a more serious note now, I think your generation have been shafted by the older generation and seem to get a hard time in the media. What are your thoughts?
I think my generation is caught in this interesting dilemma of we’re told that we have all these options, almost too many options, People say “you can live anywhere in the world,” “you can be anything” and then we’re actually presented with less opportunities because actually the economy has contracted so much. You grow up being told you can be anything, then you go out into life and there’s no jobs, nowhere to live. I think that’s why I wanted to be a priest. I always wanted to choose a devotional lifestyle and what i mean by that is as opposed to just getting a job I always thought that if a person chose something that was your vocation that, for better or worse, you felt you just had to do, then you would never kick yourself over what opportunities you missed because you would feel “I have to do this.”
I’m friends with a priest and one time we had dinner and he broke down crying saying “I’m so lonely “ and I said “why don’t you just leave this fucking thing and go get a wife” and he said “I have to do this, I can’t leave, for better or for worse” and I feel the same about comedy. I’ve chosen it now and i still love it but in 50 years if I hate it i’m still going to fuckin do it! its become kind of an obsession. The way Conor McGregor feels about MMA is how I feel about comedy. I did a chat show down in Kilkenny and one of my guests was John Kavanagh, Conor’s coach, and we spoke about it and he said we have, not the same drive, I don’t have the same drive as him at the end of the day I’m fairly lazy, but we both have this obsessional thing about what we do.
I wouldn’t class you as lazy, what you do for a living is hard.
No farming’s harder, fighting fire is harder. I have a friend, Paul, who is a comedian and a fire man and he says definitely fighting fire is tougher!
Do you ever feel the pressure though of standing in front of a large crowd and having to make them laugh?
I enjoy it so much so no, not the actual performing but I do feel the pressure to put on a really good show, to deliver. My show is the same price or cheaper than every other Irish comedian and yet they got out through a black curtain and talk for 55 minutes to an hour. I can show you the texts on my phone from my tour manager “Do you want this type of curtain? Do you want these lights…” “when do you want to do the band rehearsal?” I have lights, confetti, an 8 piece band, two support acts, and I do two hours, I don’t do an hour! In regard to the economy of putting on a show yes I feel immense pressure, huge fuckin pressure. i know what it costs to put on a show. comedians who come from a middle class background don’t. i know what’s it like to not have the money to do things. If people are getting a babysitter, tickets etc it’s probably costing them 100 all in all. If people are trusting me with that money I do feel heavily responsible to put on a fuckin unreal night. Thats why it’s two hours long, my attitude is “you’re going to like something in this.” that’s why there’s fuckin songs and dancing and blah. But I never feel nervous about entertaining people no, whether its in the 5,000 seater theatre in Edinburgh hosting a show or the Jobstown Inn I’d have little to no nerves because I enjoy it so much. I don’t get nervous before I go on stage or anything, i get nervous before TV, just cause I’m worried about getting sued!
Are you still enjoying living with the folks in Springfield?
I am indeed it’s brilliant, I love it but I’m thinking of buying next year here in Tallaght, if I can get a mortgage. I’d considered Inchicore, Harolds Cross then I was like “Naaa!” It’s not home. The houses are nice but one of my favourite things to do is come to Starbucks in The Square and write and people who know me know it’s not a line, I’m always there. If I’ve a free Monday I’m in the Dragon Inn singing with the Keeley brothers. I would find it hard to live somewhere people didn’t know me in the shop, or if I couldn’t just pop down to the Square, or Molloys, or The Abberely, even knows me in all the pubs so living at home has been great.
Finally for now Al, what’s this I heard about you getting a deal with Universal?
I don’t know what did you hear?! (laughs) I’ve a deal with Universal Studios, they are putting money towards my shows, not much and it’s not money I pocket, it pays for the production blah, blah, blah… I have a really good deal with them as they don’t get my DVD’s, I get first option. So now my producers are my Irish agent Lisa Richards and Off The Curve, my English agency, Universal and me! Another one of my plans for next year is I want to do musicals so I’m going to try co produce my own musical Pink Tie Productions for the Olympia, not a personal musical about me, I’m just going to put something on. Like “Oliver” for the summer with me as Fagan, something like that.
Al brings his five-star show Al Porter At Large, The Honeymoon Tour home to Tallaght at The Civic Theatre on December 8th and 9th. For more details on Al’s Irish tour check out Ticketmaster’s website here.