Tuesday 24 October 2017

'Relationships are tough - you've got to compromise' - Des Bishop opens up to Niamh Horan

Comedian Des Bishop opens up to Niamh Horan about love, monogamy, anger and acceptance, as he prepares to go on the road once again

Funny man: Des Bishop is now comfortable with self-reflection and includes relationships in his act Photo: Mark Condren
Funny man: Des Bishop is now comfortable with self-reflection and includes relationships in his act Photo: Mark Condren
TV show: Des Bishop with his Dancing With The Stars partner Giulia Dotta

At only 41, Des Bishop is approaching his 20th year of life on the comedy circuit and is in reflective mood. By his own account, he is wiser, more relaxed, less inclined to chuck out his opinion.

"Not because I am less confident in what I believe, but because I know that everything is more complicated than I used to think."

Two decades will do that to you.

He has felt both the highs (five best-selling stand-up DVDs, two plays, a critically acclaimed book, several hit TV series and worldwide tours) and the lows (drink and drug addiction, a broken engagement, his father's death from cancer, his mother's cancer and a cancer battle of his own in his 20s.)

So it's no wonder he is ready to enjoy life.

In a pronounced Queens accent, the native New Yorker says that if he had time he would go back and tell his 21-year-old self to do just that. So the title of his new tour is quite fitting: "One day you'll understand."

It deals with ageing and his Irish heritage. There's a family secret in there about the Magdalene laundries. And in the same week that the BBC defends its decision to air the Real Housewives of ISIS, a comedy show which depicts Muslim women taking selfies while wearing suicide belts as fashion accessories, Des says he plans on dedicating a sizable portion of his routine to "making fun of Muslims".

"Comedians often get asked why we don't make fun of Muslims, so I break that down in a comedic way," he explains.

He isn't a stranger to the controversial. One of the first comedians to joke about abortion in Ireland 15 years ago, he describes how, "The room would get real tight… It was like a subject that somebody brings up at Christmas and the atmosphere dies."

He still makes a decision on every joke based on one premise: "Is it worth the heat?"

The fear of getting it wrong grips him with anxiety. He describes the run-up to Christmas when a show aired in which he joked about HPV vaccines.

"I felt it in every fibre of my body… I was literally lying in bed thinking 'this feeling is so intense right now' and I have had it for so much of my life. But I didn't know what it was."

After battling drink and drug addiction, he is comfortable with self-reflection and his relationships haven't escaped his attention.

He has had one serious relationship in 15 years, which he calls "the biggy" - an engagement that sadly was broken.

On his reasons for remaining single, he says his job on the road has something to do with it.

But, he says, "I also left home at 14. I have been away from the people I am closest to for huge sections of my life so there is an odd comfortability with being away. I'm great on my own. My phone game is incredible," he laughs, "So possibly I am not the greatest guy in relationships."

Why do you think that is? "That's a deeper question."

He considers it for a moment and then says: "There's probably other things going on. It's not helped by the fact that I travel all the time. So it does kinda f*** up any type of relationships or friendships."

But he admits the logistics of travel are only partially to blame, because he is happy to do it.

Is there any part of himself that believes he works and travels so much because he is running away from something? "Of course, I always think that," he says.

He adds: "I don't particularly know what I am running from."

A newspaper once quoted an anonymous 'friend' as saying he wasn't into monogamy. Although he thinks the job brings more temptation, if he met the right woman, he believes he has it in him.

"I saw that quote. It's guaranteed nonsense. Monogamy is difficult to achieve," he laughs, "but I would like to settle down. I would like to have kids. That is clear. I'm dying to. I just not as confident on the relationship side. But that's because I am not in love at the moment...," he thinks for moment and then says : "Relationships are tough, man."

If he has learned one thing it's that: "You gotta f****** compromise."

If he could go back again he says: "I would have been so less into being right. Being right is a curse. You can be right when you're f****** on Prime Time. You don't need to do it the whole time in relationships.

"The other thing I would do is to walk away [in arguments] so much more."

Speaking about his temper he says: "If an anonymous quote from 'a friend' said: 'When Des flies off the handle, it's a sight to behold' then I would say a friend said that.

"I have a bad temper. People know. Ask the staff of the TV show Anonymous," he adds describing a particularly stressful day on set.

But he has relaxed more with age: "I don't think the after-effects are worth it. I hate that feeling: 'God I did it again'."

Still, despite it all - life on the road, the pressure of gigging, time spent looking for 'the one' - he has come to a healthy acceptance.

"I really do think you are who you are. Sometimes I'm stressed and I say; 'Admit it- you f****** love it."

"A counsellor once told me: "Why do you give yourself a hard time about all this sh*t? So f****** what you like the highs and lows of comedy? Big f****** deal. I didn't get it at the time but lately, I do."

It seems some things are always worth the heat.

Des Bishop's nationwide tour dates run from January 13 March 23. For more information visit ticketmaster.ie

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