Ardal O'Hanlon: The Showing Off Must Go On
- Jay Richardson
- 22 November 2019
Mild frustration and satirical edges flesh out a stand-up show about life's absurdities
More than 20 years after Father Ted finished, the clerical sitcom still defines how Ardal O'Hanlon is perceived, much to his impotent pique. That at 54 he's still judged by the juvenile dementia of his character, Father Dougal McGuire, is a source of continuing frustration. O'Hanlon gets so anxious not to appear foolish that even when he's unquestionably messed up he'll put himself to extreme inconvenience not to reaffirm his image.
But then the Irishman has struggled with such perceptions since childhood. Local suspicion was aroused by any hint of airs and graces, so that his mother's experiments with Italian cuisine remained the family's dirty secret. Showing off was especially frowned upon, and O'Hanlon has retained an ever-present sense of the ridiculousness of his profession and himself, informing his routines' gentle absurdism.
His arrested development, reflected in the suggestion that most performers feel they don't receive enough attention, fits nicely with his grumpy old man shtick; his teenage kids ignore his hypocritical admonishments about alcohol and his wife effortlessly outwits him whenever they argue. O'Hanlon's grouchiness can occasionally feel too confected, as when he rails against the downsizing of airport Toblerones. But elsewhere, he neatly spins his aversion to carrot cake into a witty commentary on Catholicism.
Linking the out-of-touch conservatism of Donald Trump and Jacob Rees-Mogg to their distant fathers isn't that much of a psychological reach. Yet O'Hanlon occasionally displays an unexpected satirical edge, applying exquisite sarcasm to English colonisation, and taking advice on masturbation from dogmatic Muslim clerics to its logical end point and beyond. Damned by the public's fondness for Dougal and an innate lovability, O'Hanlon's rants are always going to seem more exaggerated than deeply held. But by holding a mirror up to the performative aspect of his craft, he cannily arrives at a sort of truth-telling.
Ardal O'Hanlon: The Showing Off Must Go On is on tour until Saturday 7 March. Seen at Tramway, Glasgow.