By Tom Fair
Transcribed by Louise Roberts and edited by Emma Towers
Multi-award-winning comedian and creator of the Irishman Abroad Podcast, Jarlath Regan performed two shows at Leicester’s Comedy Festival. ‘Drawings’ at Peter Pizzeria on 6th February and ‘Notions Eleven’ at Firebug on 8th February.
Tom: Hello, this is Tom Fair with Demon Media and I’m here at the Comedy Festival Preview show with Jarlath Regan. So, you’ve got a show at the Firebug on the 8th called ‘Notions Eleven’ what’s that all about?
Jarlath: It’s a stand-up show about raising a little boy to be truthful and honest in a time and place where lies don’t seem to matter that much anymore.
T: Is it hard doing so?
J: Oh yeah, because kids talk such sh*t all the time, but like everyone says Donald Trump is like a big child, but he is so like a child – in that he’ll kind of start a sentence which is braggadocious ‘oooh let me tell you’, and my boy does the same thing and you’re looking at him and thinking ‘I know when you’re lying’.
But if you don’t learn that, you wind up being like the people who are full of shit. We all know people who ‘you can’t believe a word of’ or people who exaggerate, and essentially, we’re living in that, aren’t we?
We’re living in a place and a time where if you can exaggerate the news you people will click on it, and you can make a lot of money. So, what is the truth chat that you give to a kid in that reality? We were all told ‘lies are bad, don’t tell lies’ but we all know: some front and some message of the truth, is essential to move through the world.
T: Having that mask.
J: Yeah, well essentially like Instagram- exactly how true is your Instagram? It’s not real, is it? Not a real-world depiction of yourself, so you have to kind of get good at manipulating your truth. Which is an impossible lesson to teach any child, and so a lot of the stand up are the jokes I’ve been writing born out of that conundrum with a 9-year-old in my life. We protect our secrets and we have our state secrets as a family that we’re asking him to keep.
T: So, stand-up’s not your only hustle, you’ve got a podcast as well, called ‘An Irishman Abroad’. How did that all get started? And is this your way of staying connected with Irish culture now you’ve moved over here to England?
J: In a way it was. In another way, I moved here in 2013 without a clue, like so many Irish people before me. I got off the plane with a bag on my back and was like ‘where am I gonna live?’ There are very few guides to moving abroad.
It started with me speaking to the likes of Graeme Lennon and Sharon Horgan about how they did it, and particularly for your listenership, there’s a lot of talk about how we move to the next stage of our lives, but who’s giving the lessons? I guess we’re in the age of self-help videos, but the podcast was born out of, ‘I want to know from people who are successful, and that’s how it began.’
T: So, it’s quite like a long-format interview-type podcast.
J: Yeah most of them are about 60 minutes to an hour and a half.
T: Do you think we’re moving away [from the original style of a podcast]?
J: I think that both exist now, I don’t think we went through a period of short and snappy [podcasts]. People want a UFC knock-out. But people also want cereal; they want a long, deep dive. If I can tell you anything about podcasting, it’s [about] the room and the landscape. The format allows you to delve right down in the way conventional media won’t.
I think the long-form appetite is getting greater. I sat down to watch ‘Don’t F*ck with Cats’ last night and I thought ‘Surely this is one episode.’
T: Haven’t seen it, don’t spin me out on it yet.
J: It is awful, but long.
T: So, you tweeted recently that there should be a character called Jarlath in ‘Game of Thrones’. Who is the character of Jarlath in ‘Game of Thrones’? Build the story.
J: That’s not my job, that’s theirs. My name is so annoying and so Middle-Earth, that it should have been in ‘Game of Thrones’ and I will never understand why it wasn’t. I guess that came to me because I was watching ‘The Witcher’ with my wife. ‘The Witcher’ is just like ‘Garmadon from Ceratops’ and there are certain points I’m just like, ‘Oh this is nonsense.’ I was raised to believe it was nonsense. My father wouldn’t let us watch any American TV if it wasn’t rooted in reality. I didn’t watch ‘Star Wars’ until I went to university, which seems sacrilegious now to my son who owns every encyclopedia about those 9 movies. But I find that stuff very hard to consume, and the fact that I’m not in it makes a doubly hard.
T: Well Ed Sheeran got in it; you could be next! And he’s got a boring name.
J: Yeah! Ed! Well the names are a hollow bag of fish, aren’t they?
T: So, have you got any words of encouragement or advice for students living in a dark, mysterious fast-moving world?
J: You know from my perspective, I left college and wound up in a job that I thought was going to make my parents happy.
And we all tend towards that. 13 years after I went to university I launched ‘Irishman Abroad’ and they (my parents) were like; ‘You’re going to start a radio show? How are you going to make money off a free radio show?’ But they are on board now, 6 years later.
I think you have to lean into what you know in your gut. Like I’ve been collecting sneakers since God knows when. I’ve got deadstock sneakers that are locked up in an attic that will never be worn. I could have gone somewhere with the trend towards 90s fashion, but I didn’t have the belief in myself to say, ‘I can do something with that.’ I’m sure there’s a 90s podcast or YouTube channels out there. There’s nothing to stop me from doing that.
But that train has gone now, or maybe it’s not. I certainly jumped on podcasting when it was early in the game. Certainly, in terms of Ireland, I was one of the first.
T: 2013 wasn’t it?
J: Yeah, I mean, people say to me ‘the first podcast I listened to was ‘Irishman Abroad’.’
But your ideas, especially as media students, are going to be what pays your rent, writes your cheques, buys your car, gets you on holidays. It’s your ideas, the absolute raw originality which is why every comic that’s going on stage is up there. It’s because you’ve had a moment of ‘write that down.’ Write it down. As Mitch Hedburg said, ‘you’ve gotta spear it with a pencil or it’ll swim away, never to be found again.’ So, grasp your ideas with both hands and see where they go.
T: God, I’m feeling f*cking inspired right now! Have you considered motivational speaking?
J: I’ll just laugh at that question, thanks.
T: This is a special one. Would you rather turn into a jellyfish for a random 2 minutes every day, or would you rather have it at a set time but for 2 hours?
J: ‘Would You Rather’ questions are how my son and I spend our time.
We have a list of would you rather questions, and for me, the follow-up questions are the key questions. People think you can’t ask follow-up questions but there must be. You can’t ask a question like that without letting me if it’s for a period of time? Do I know where I’m going to land when I become the jellyfish? Is it just ‘I’m driving my car and suddenly I’m a jellyfish but then obviously it’s got to be a set time in the day?’ And, is the third option death, if I choose neither? Has anyone asked any questions or have people just said, ‘err whatever.’
T: No, the random 2 minutes is the more popular option so far.
J: The random 2 minutes?! F*cking idiots, that’s crazy!
T: Saskia thought nobody would notice on the tube.
J: That’s crazy, it’s gotta be a designated 2 minutes. Like most of the time, we all feel for 2 minutes of the day lifeless and worthless. [laughs] That’s the time, right? I mean, I go to heart yoga every morning and I would say that I’m always trying to get to a state of not feeling in my body and that my consciousness is all that I can feel. That you are just walking around in a spacesuit that your consciousness is what is within this thing that you’ve been given, if we could take everything away from you, it’s just your consciousness that’s left. So, I would take it, at 9:45 every morning, just at the end of my yoga class when I’m in Savasana – that moment would be f*cking amazing to turn into a jellyfish then back into your form. F*cking great right?