Irish stand-up Deirdre O’Kane is currently out on the road touring her “A Line of O’Kane” show and, ahead of the show coming to the UK this month, we spoke to Deirdre about how much her kids inspire her material, her appearance on Dancing With The Stars and much more.
1. You’ve done TV, acting and comedy. How did your career start?
“Well, as a straight actress, I did about ten years in theatre then I went along to the Cat Laughs Festival in Kilkenny which is an international comedy festival. I went down to it as a punter and I’d never really watched any stand-up before. This was about twenty years ago and there was about forty comics on the bill, thirty-seven of them were men and three were women. I was really taken by it all and I had this moment. I’d done so much theatre which was all rules and etiquette and I was just really taken by the anarchy of it. I had a moment where I thought “I could do that”. I’d done comedy as an actress so I knew there was a funny bone in there, I just hadn’t ever sat down to write. I spent four days watching standup then wrote a load of jokes on the drive back home and played the festival the following year so it was very fast. It wasn’t my intention and, in fact, it was probably an unemployed actress moment but it just really took off by itself.”
2. Who were your inspirations and what was it like as a female comic in Ireland?
“I guess that, when I look back at it, I was really on my own. I really set the mark and I had people like Aisling Bea telling me they started stand-up because they saw me doing it on the telly. There was advantages and disadvantages to it. I got a lot of press attention because I was the only one. That was obviously an advantage for me but the disadvantage was that I was always the only female in a club and, I get on great with all the other comics and I love them to bit but you’re just slightly out of it. The approach is different too. They all have this alpha male approach to dealing with things like nerves where we’re very open about it, they’re very macho and don’t really deal with their nerves. I just lived in a very male-dominated environment and just rolled with it.”
3. You’ve got some shows coming up, what can you tell us about the material?
“Well, I took part in Dancing With The Stars, which is Ireland’s version of Strictly Come Dancing, the year before last and I got to the final. It was so intense and so mad that I just sat down to write about it afterwards and it just poured out of me because there was so much insanity. Before I knew where I was I had an hour of material. Also I just turned fifty the day before the final and I was more than the combined ages of the other finalists so it just seemed that there was hilarity in how broken and in absolute ribbons I was compared to them. So that’s pretty much it, turning fifty, having a teenager and hormones flying all over the house and that’s kind of mostly written about it.”
4. You’ve mentioned Dancing With The Stars. What was that like and are you a good dancer?
“Well, put it this way, I was good enough to get to the final and I certainly wouldn’t have thought so going in. I was also very green going into it as I hadn’t watched an awful lot of the show. I’d watched bits of it over the years but, God, I wish I’d watched more of it so I knew what I was getting myself into. That being said, if I’d known what I was getting into, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s a double-edged sword really – ignorance is bliss in a way. People don’t realise the intensity of it. I was so innocent I had a standup show four weeks after that show and thought I could do four hours in the morning writing for that then four hours dancing in an afternoon. Well, that became eight hours then it became ten hours dancing and it was insane. This show also has a psychological element as it’s live in front of an audience with all the voting and talking about you and the press talking about you. There’s so much I managed to get a show out of it [laughs].”
5. One of the things we’ve seen from your show reel is that you’re very supportive of the Irish Film industry. How healthy is it in 2019?
“It’s very healthy. I guess because shows like Game Of Thrones and Vikings are made here we now have a very competitive crew here so big productions feel confident to come here and make stuff. How good it is I don’t know but, in terms of the crew and the industry people it’s very good and the tax breaks out here are very healthy. It’s a nice place to shoot as well because we have an interesting landscape.”
6. In terms of the Irish comedy circuit are there any up and coming Irish comics we should be looking out for?
“There is loads but they’re all in London. The circuit here has kind of gone as I think the recession killed the comedy circuit here and now people have crossed over away from the club circuit. The younger comics who are trying to make it are having to move over to the UK I think. There are some here but, if honest, there is not enough at the moment. There are people like Eleanor Tiernan is really funny, Chris Kent, Jarlath Regan and Joanne McNally, she’s fantastic.”
7. Curveball question. If you were trapped on an island and could take three things excluding food, drink or clothes, what would you bring?
“Does that include alcohol [laughs]? Books. Fire lighting material.. matches… and a bottle of gin.”
8. You have two children now. How difficult is it to juggle a working life with being a mum and, more importantly, how much inspiration do they give you for your material?
“I usually get about 30%’s worth of material from them [laughs]. At the moment Holly is fourteen so I’m sure I’ll get a load of routines about how oestrogen is coming into her life and leaving mine and we’re still living in the same building. You might as well declare war in the house. Daniel still adores me and that’s all in the current show!”
9. Other than your family and your work, how do you like to spend your spare time?
“Walking and reading. I’m happy to do very little. So much of my time is on the go that when I’m at home I like to do things like cook and read and catch up on Netflix or whatever and give my kids my time.”
10. Thanks for your time, you’ve had a busy 2018, what are your plans for the year ahead?
“Well, the shocker is that I have to write another show. I’m just coming to the end of this show and it’s just at a time when it’s polished and beautiful like a diamond that it is ending. That’s the downside to living on an island, if I lived in America, I could tour it forever. I’ve bought myself a writing shed… imagine that… I’ve reached the age of fifty and have finally bought myself a writing shed. I’m looking forward to that. I have telly sketch show coming around the track soon but until I sign the contract I can’t talk about that much but there are a few nice things coming up.”
To get more information on where Deirdre is playing, check out her tour dates here.