'I'll never be a famous face. I'm an ugly bloke!'
Dara ó Briain may look more like a mafia goon than a male model, but the comedian is a hit on both sides of the Irish Sea, writes Richie Taylor
'Yes, I suppose I have to honestly admit that I do look like one of Tony Soprano's henchman, but I've no problem with that," admits comic Dara ó Briain in regard to a recent description of him in the British press.
"I've never been a really famous face and I don't think I ever will be. I'm basically an ugly f***er! Living in London I probably only get recognised about once a day. And that's okay by me. I'm not a celebrity. And I certainly don't see myself as one."
These days, London-based Dara does a lengthy stand-up tour every second year, along with plenty of television appearances and stints as MC at numerous award ceremonies, some as bizarre (in his eyes) as the annual Newspaper Advertising Awards, which he did last week.
Just some of his major TV appearances to date include stints on Don't Feed The Gondolas, The Panel, Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week.
He also jokes about how his car was once nearly more famous than him when it appeared on RTE's Crimeline after it was stolen and used in a robbery!
It's hard to believe two things about Dara ó Briain. First that he's only 35, and secondly that he started his career as a cuddly children's TV presenter on RTE's Echo Island.
This happens to be one of Dara's "on" years, and he's doing seven live shows in Vicar Street this month alone, as well as hosting the Meteor Ireland Music Awards in the RDS tonight.
Between Ireland and Britain, he expects to have completed 50 live shows by the end of 2008.
A notoriously private man, bald and bulky Dara steadfastly refuses to discuss his private life. The words "stone" and "blood" come to mind while interviewing him.
All he will, reluctantly, admit to is that he is married, has no children and recently bought a rather large new house in London, where he has mainly been based since 2001.
His wife is a doctor, whose name he will not reveal, but who, according to different websites, is either called Susan or Sarah.
"I adore London. I think it's one of the world's greatest cities. It's a great city for sporting events, with everything from the Tour de France to Wimbledon on this year. And then in four years time it's hosting the Olympic Games.
"In fact the only thing I dislike about London is the terrible traffic there," he added.
A true sporting fanatic, Dara steers clear of the celebrity scene and studiously avoids nightclubs. He currently has a strange relationship with Dublin, claiming that he doesn't really get back here often enough to make a judgement on it and the Celtic Tiger beast.
"I feel like it should be what it was like back years ago, like when I was 28 years old. Where is all the old gang gone?
"When I come back, I feel like Oisin coming back from Tir na nOg! But I can usually muster enough troops for a good night out. But I don't have any real sentimental feeling for it," he says.
And the one thing he does genuinely miss is Croke Park.
"I miss it in a seriously big way. I absolutely love to go there. I love hurling and I wish I could get back for more of the games. There's a love of familiarity about it. There's nothing like going to a good match and then having a few pints with friends after it.
'That said, I do have lots of friends in London. I've been there long enough. But you know the funny thing is that Irish comedians are still emigrating to London. They have to in order to make it.
"But I don't subscribe to this thing that some people have about having to move back to Ireland to bring your children up, as if there was something wrong with England; there isn't," he states.
Dara says that presenting the Meteor awards, which he will do this year and has done several times in the past, is a really strange job.
"It's a weird audience to impress. I believe in keeping everything moving along very smoothly and very quickly. It's a combination of young music fans and jaded older music business people.
"It certainly keeps you on your toes. And all they really remember is the last thing on the programme, which this year will be the Saw Doctors performing after getting the Lifetime Achievement Award."
Future plans include the possible publication of a book -- though not necessarily an autobiography.
"You can take it that it won't be of the Russell Brand variety, but it's certainly in the pipeline. It's definitely not going to be misery memoirs or tales of hookers, I can tell you that."
Dara O'Briain hosts the Meteor Awards in the RDS tonight. Watch them on RTE2 tomorrow at 9pm
Have I got news for you: Dara trivia
- Dara bizarrely claims that the most famous person in his mobile phone address book is Stephen Gately of Boyzone, who he once had to coach in presenting an awards show.
- If he was languishing on Death Row, his very last meal before the big day would "probably be a lamb shank".
- "I think that technology is getting so powerfully stupid. For example, my iPod can hold 3,000 albums, but I only own 90," he states.
- He has appeared a record four times as guest presenter on the hit TV show Have I Got News For You.
- Dara hates nothing more than being confused with the journalist Daire O'Brien and has never forgiven this writer for doing so many years ago.
- "My surname is a Gaelic form of O'Brien. My dad was involved in the Irish language movement and changed it. Even Irish people are now confused by it," he admits.