Interview with comedian Jarlath Regan: ‘With this game you have to show up and prove yourself’
London’s Pleasance Theatre in late July, and comedian Jarlath Regan looks on as a crowd of familiar faces gather. Author Danny Wallace collects a ticket, Russell Howard chats to fellow comic Richard Herring at the bar, and various industry bigwigs flutter expectantly. Sadly, they’re mostly here to see the show before Regan’s at this double-header of Edinburgh previews, the return of David Baddiel to live performance. “They’ll probably all have gone by the time I come on,” says the Irishman, with a wry smile.
Regan moved to London earlier this year, relocating from Dublin where his profile was at that in-between stage: “Four or five times a day someone would say ‘how do I know you?’” Right now the likeable comic is concluding a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, where he’s also a familiar face, famed for selling out shows by personally flyering people beforehand. But soon he’ll be back in England, still doing free gigs around the country to show his worth.
“It kills my wife. Kills her. She’s like ‘you shouldn’t be doing any more of these’,” he says. “But I’m not too proud to do it. The thing with this game is, you have to show up and prove yourself.”
A few years ago Regan was living “very comfortably,” gigging around Ireland and making regular TV appearances; but the Celtic Tiger’s decline hit the entertainment industry hard, and forced him to begin again. The move to England was prolonged, and traumatic. Having recently become a father – after a hugely worrying period in which both mother and child were critically ill – he spent two years travelling back and forth, two weeks here, two weeks there, trying to establish a strong-enough foothold to bring the family over.
“It was like a tour of duty in many ways,” he says, “walking around with your bag on your back, two shirts, two pairs of trousers, going from couch to couch, hostel to hostel. Wherever the gigs were, literally anywhere, I’m taking it. I can remember sleeping on the floor of the airport a number of times, just in the pits, and trying to then go on stage and be the happy fun-times guy.”
Perseverance is paying off for Regan though, and one definite benefit of such a mighty change: it’s all good for material. His Edinburgh show, Djarlo Unchained, is an upbeat affair about the move to London, and he recently began a regular podcast, An Irishman Abroad, kicking off with Father Ted creator Graham Linehan and fellow comic Ed Byrne. The mood has certainly shifted.
“Last year’s Edinburgh show was about how terrifying I found London, the tubes, the vastness, the slight aggressiveness on the streets, the fact that nobody gives a shit about you here,” he says. “Now that you’re here and have dealt with that, there’s a confidence that comes with living in a big city. It’s not a big deal to me now.”
So is he a trendsetter? Will more Irish comics be heading over? “There already are. Tons of them already here, tons on the way,” he smiles. “So get ready.”Tagged in: edinburgh festival, Jarlath Regan
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