Sunday 11 December 2016

Al Porter: 'My parents have heard me talking about sex that went wrong in my shows, so they know very intimate details of my personal life'

In Conversation with Andrea Smith

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

Al Porter. Photo: Naomi Gaffey
Al Porter. Photo: Naomi Gaffey

He's hilarious, outrageous and bold, and as we've seen with his recent appearances on RTÉ's Cutting Edge, comedian Al Porter (23) is also fiercely intelligent and socially aware. He grew up in Tallaght as the youngest of Mick and Marian Kavanagh's three children. Al's nationwide tour 'Al Porter At Large' runs from September to December, including six nights at Vicar Street.

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Not thinking before you speak can sometimes be a really positive thing. It has really helped in my comedy career, as when you're speaking from your heart and people know where you stand, you get a reputation as a straight-talker. Then again, at other times, it can get you into trouble or get you sued.

Friends are the most important people in life. Good ones are really hard to find. You have to work at those relationships when you're busy, but if you do, you'll have wonderful and supportive people with you on the journey while following your dreams.

School taught me to develop a thick skin and not to take myself too seriously. I was different because I wasn't into sports or girls or going to clubs or listening to the music the other lads liked. I realised that if I got a bit of a slagging, there was usually no malice involved, so I just had to give it back. I learned by first year that, for better or worse, you have to be fearless to get on.

When I decided to drop out of college, I was sitting in a library. I decided that rather than reading about other people's really exciting and vivid lives, like Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, I needed to go out and live my own life.

When it comes to being a gay teenager, an important tagline that they use in America is, "It gets better," and that's very true. It's a much bigger deal to you now than it will be when you're older - and you're going through a difficult, awkward transition in life anyway, going from a child to an adult.

You're not unique or extraordinary for going through a hard time. That's normal. While you're worrying about whether you like girls or boys, everyone else is going through their own stuff and worrying about their bodies, their career paths or getting on with their families.

Young people can take confidence from the marriage referendum outcome. It has been proven that this country is a warm, accepting one, so it's much easier to come out now. Even so, it's always going to be a much bigger issue for you than the people you tell.

Having a laugh: Comedian Al Porter.
Having a laugh: Comedian Al Porter.

We don't live in a world where people have the energy to hold a grudge against you over your sexuality. I don't mean that everyone will accepting of it, but even those people who aren't won't have a problem for long. They'll have so much s*** going on in their own lives, they'll probably be able to care for half an hour or a week max, and then they won't have the energy for it any more.

At 23, I have a great relationship with my parents compared to when I was 19 and in college. We were very much stuck in our roles then - they were there to give advice and money. Due to the nature of my job, they've had to listen to me talking about them on stage and joking about them. They're great and I really enjoy their company and would definitely go on holidays with them now.

I've had the benefit of not having to have awkward conversations with my parents. They've heard me talking about sex and dates that went wrong in my shows, so they know very intimate details of my personal life. That has given us a very strong bond, because I feel there are no secrets between us. They're finding out all sorts of things that you wouldn't naturally volunteer to your parents.

When love is good, it's incredible and there's nothing better. Life is exciting and thrilling, and it brings out a beautiful selflessness in you as everything becomes about the other person. But when it's bad, it's awful, and you often love the wrong person. Sometimes that's because there's something about yourself that you don't feel good about, and you want the other person to come in and fix it, and they can't.

Love is sometimes about walking away, out of love for yourself and that person. I hope there is no such thing as "The One" because I think you can love many people in equally passionate ways. I also really hope that there's such a thing as longevity in love.

Sometimes I worry about how to retain privacy and be authentic at the same time. If you go on Cutting Edge and reveal that you were drinking a bit too much, ended up having sex in the Phoenix Park, and then decided to go to therapy, you're giving away a lot of yourself. But I've discovered the more I give, the more that can still flow out of me and the more I discover about myself.

It's important to me to be honest with an audience and bring up topics that are a bit taboo or cringe. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, I can guarantee other people feel the same, so if you don't shy away from talking about it, they won't either and we'll all benefit.

Campness can be unfairly viewed as "gay bimbo". There can be a perception that if it's shiny and glittery and mincing around, there's probably not much depth to it. So when I was being serious on TV, I liked showing that, as Quentin Crisp once said, I am "deeply shallow".

I worry that people might think I've gone all serious and am now a social commentator. That's not the case at all. It's still all about songs and dances and gags and laughter for me.

'Al Porter at Large' dates are on facebook.com/alporterofficial.

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