Q&A: Patrick Monahan
On his Irish-Iranian roots and Jonathan Ross
Your family background sounds like the set-up to a joke: did you hear the one about the Geordie comic with the Irish father and the Iranian mother?
When I was starting out, some experienced comedians took me aside and said, "you're great and you obviously enjoy it -- but the audience is confused: when they see your name, they expect to see this Irish guy". But I had a funny look and a strong Geordie accent. It was totally confusing. So I started working it into my set.
In what way?
Well, early on, I'd play on stuff like: my father is Irish, my mother is Iranian... we used to spend most of our family holidays in customs. Now I'm getting more experienced and I'd do stuff like comparing Irish culture and Iranian culture. For instance, despite the Troubles and everything, British people feel a close connection to the Irish because we know about their pop culture, whether it's U2, The Corrs or Jedward. Whereas, with Iran, one of the reasons they are scared is because they don't know anything. That's because, since 1979, pop culture has been illegal in Iran. If you are caught dancing in the street, they'll cart you off to prison, two, three days minimum. Not even a fine or something.
You must have been very young when your family fled Tehran. Can you remember anything?
I was only two or three. I can remember the warmth. I've seen pictures and they stir little memories.
Why did the family leave?
As soon as the Revolution happened in 1979 and the Shah went, literally in a matter of months, the Iran-Iraq war began. The town my mother was from was literally on the border between Iran and Iraq. And she was half Iraqi. My dad was a westerner so he would have been all right. But there wouldn't have been any work.
Have you been back?
No, and my brother and I would like to. We'd probably be okay. Tehran is like any other big city in many ways. Mind you, they are very suspicious of Westerners at the moment. We would be seen as a bit dodgy because we left. People would ask, "why did you go and why have you come back now?"
You were the warm-up man on the Jonathan Ross show before it got canned. Any celebrity anecdotes?
One night I was standing at the side of the stage, watching, and I noticed this big square-jawed bloke and a women standing behind me. I turned around and it was Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. They were literally next to me. I should have hugged her -- that's how close I was. Normally, you'd never have an opportunity like that 'cos she would have minders everywhere. I should have gone for it.
While you were headlining Clonmel Comedy Festival in 2009, the town was knocked sideways by flash floods. Aren't you tempting faith by returning?
Last year, there was this massive river going through the town. It was like you were living in Delhi or something, like you were on the banks of the Ganges. There was a car floating down the river. It was mental.
Patrick Monahan will perform at the Bulmer's Comedy Festival, November 18-20, at O'Keeffe's Clonmel, visit www.clonmelcomedy.com