Chris O’Dowd has made it in film, TV and Broadway but now he's steeling himself for fatherhood.
We have a problem. Chris O'Dowd doesn't like fish. And we are in a fish restaurant. "All these fish here," says the Hollywood-via-Boyle superstar. "I don't want them to have died for no reason." He settles on the battered cod. "That may feel very safe, but for me, it's not," says O'Dowd. "I don't eat fish really but I should. I just don't like fish for some reason. I should be eating more fish, it's good for you."
O'Dowd is in town with his long-time friend and co-writer, Nick, to promote their first Moone Boy book. It's a bit like having lunch with a couple of teenagers. There's a lot of one-liners, a lot of whip-smart banter.
We're in Super Miss Sue, on the corner of Dublin's Drury Street and Stephen Street, which serves superb fish and even O'Dowd has to agree when he tucks into a starter of crab and mac'n'cheese. It's a suitably American dish for O'Dowd and his writing partner, Nick V Murphy, as both of them have now settled in LA.
O'Dowd peruses the menu a bit further. "Should we get anything else? How about the baby beets? We're just baby mad, aren't we Nick?" he says, a reference to the fact that both men's wives are currently pregnant. Nick chips in, "Something new is beginning. . . and everything else is over."
"I am worried about that," says O'Dowd. "I'm not going to lie. I don't know how prepared I am for that." Fears aside, O'Dowd says he is really excited about becoming a father with his wife, the writer and TV presenter, Dawn O'Porter.
"I really am excited. I'm not 24. I think I'm ready, I'm waiting for the next part of my life to start now. I've been working really hard for 10 years and that's been going well and the next part is a big challenge that I'm ready for.
"I think there is science behind the seven-year itch," he says. "Our lives all seem to operate on the basis of seven years into this, something happens; psychologically, we can only really remember seven things. . . There's something about seven. I had a seven-year relationship before Dawn, so I feel like I was well taught, but I don't even mean romantically, it's more that thing of keeping moving and keeping challenging yourself."
O'Dowd certainly can't be accused of not reinventing himself. Having achieved success in the UK with Father Ted-writer Graham Linehan's IT Crowd, he could have stayed in London and reaped the rewards of that show's cult status. Instead, he moved to LA to find the work he really wanted to do.
"I loved doing the IT Crowd and going and doing someone else's jokes, but you do feel like a little bit like a puppet after a while. To an extent, you mess around with stuff, but you're very much there to do your job and say the words."
O'Dowd wanted to try his hand at the American tradition of improv comedy. "I don't think I ever thought I'd be living in LA. As time goes on, you're just doing your stuff and I was watching people doing the stuff I like, people like Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, and I thought, I'm not going to be able to do that here, that tone of comedy, I don't know how that would work here. Look at Knocked Up, it's absurd but it's not surreal. It's relationship comedy and I was quite attracted to doing that and I probably felt it was what I was best at.
"I liked doing the IT Crowd, but I felt silly doing really physical jokes. I didn't feel it was particularly me or playing to my strengths. That was the push to go and give it a go over there rather than 'I want to be rich or famous'. It was more a kind of, 'where are my best creative bedfellows?' I felt it kind of made sense. I've always thought the Irish brand of humour is more closely aligned to American humour than it is to English humour. English humour is more sardonic, like The Office. The two versions of The Office are a perfect portrayal of what I'm talking about. They're both brilliant but, tonally, very different. The English one is cringey, the Brits do awkward comedy brilliantly. I don't think that's an Irish thing. Here, there isn't a big improv thing - the schools just aren't here. That's a huge part of American comedy.
"Even the UK is still more about stand-up. It's just not a big part of the culture. They actually have [improv] schools in America, which is bizarre. I think it is a skill. It's more of a skill than stand-up. It's something that can be taught more than stand-up. If you think about Will Ferrell to Kristen Wiig to Judd Apatow and Saturday Night Live, they're all improv guys. It lends itself better to collaboration.
"Stand-up is almost a personal journey. When you're producing and working with loads of poeple, changing your job around, that is creatively very useful. I find going between all of those jobs is definitely something I'm going to keep doing. I'm writing something at the moment that I won't be in. I can't really talk about it, but another sitcom set in Ireland for Ireland and the US and England and everywhere."
How O'Dowd and Murphy work on Moone Boy together is very much a collaborative process, and has been for their first spin-off book, Moone Boy: The Blunder Years.
"It's not defined," says Murphy. "We craft it together. We brainstorm a lot of stuff. . ." He is cut off mid-sentence as a female fan approaches O'Dowd to say, "You're GREAT!", then realising she is interrupting, she whisper-screams, "Sorry!" and scrapes away. O'Dowd smiles and nods and Murphy continues as if nothing has happened, which might suggest it has been happening all the time since the pair arrived back in Dublin for their publicity tour. "We outline all the episodes or chapters and do the hard stuff - the writing - separately, then swap and revise each other's work. So it has a consistent voice that is neither one of us. The book freed us up in some ways. When you're trying to make a 22-minute show, it's compressed, and the book gives us room to breathe."
O'Dowd is clearly enjoying not having to do all the talking in the interview. "It really takes the burden off. I can have Nick speak intelligently and be incredibly verbose and I can just do a fart gag." They both dissolve into giggles. It's a bit like having lunch with two teenage boys and the fact that they are long-time friends clearly shows.
The pair met through university drama societies and stayed in touch when O'Dowd moved to London. "Nick sent me a script to look at and I really liked it and didn't realise he was such a good writer. Then the Sky thing [Moone Boy] came along and we went from there. The pair have a lot in common, and say their upbringings in Boyle, Co Roscommon and Kilkenny, were very similar.
"I'm two years older than Chris," says Nick, "so we have similar memories - Italia 90, The Joshua Tree. The 80s and 90s was an interesting time." I wonder if it's not just a fact that everyone remembers that transition from childhood to adolescence very acutely. O'Dowd agrees. "I feel I can remember that period of my life very well and almost nothing from when I was 15 to when I went to college. I remember reading a study that your memories between the age of 10 and 14 are very vivid because of whatever period of development your brain is in. I think puberty probably kills those functions of memory. Pre-pubescence is an interesting time. It's just before everybody gets ugly."
Is he revisiting the child he was with his Moone Boy character Martin Moone? "I don't know if I have the ability to revisit a previous version of myself. It's almost like an acting job, where you ask yourself, what would this character do? All memories are visual really, so you kind of set these vignettes. One thing I do remember is just becoming consumed by whatever passion. . . you would get obsessively gripped by it and then move on to the next. And we do that on the show too where Martin is obsessed with golf or football. . ."
O'Dowd is firmly established in LA now, having lived there for seven years, and he and O'Porter bought a house there just over a year ago. Does he think it's important for actors to make the move to LA if they want to make it?
"I think, if you want to make it in films that the masses are going to see, probably. There is brilliant stuff on Irish television but only Irish people see it, so I think that's very difficult to sustain yourself commercially. Or it's a hard graft. Loads of people here are amazing at what they do, but to make a decent living from it, you have to be amazing. Whereas in LA and London, you can get away with just being pretty good," he says, before adding, "pretty good and lucky."
As for how this Roscommon boy finds living in LA, he seems to have settled right in. "I don't know what preconception I had about LA. What I found odd is it's not a centralised city, there's no 'I'll meet you in town' feeling about it. That can be kind of odd. I love that it's so low-rise. I have found New York claustrophobic. Hollywood is more like Roscommon. You can see the sky."
Moone Boy: The Blunder Years is published by MacMillan.
Born: 1979, Boyle, Co Roscommon.
Big Break: Graham Linehan's 2006 Channel 4 sitcom, The IT Crowd, saw O'Dowd become a well-known comedy actor alongside Richard Ayoade.
Second big break: In 2009, he bought a one-way ticket to Hollywood and two years later had his first major role in the global hit, Bridesmaids, alongside actors like John Hamm and Kristen Wiig and produced by Hollywood powerhouse Judd Apatow.
Married to: Dawn Porter in 2012 and are expecting their first child.
Likes: Improv comedy.
Dislikes: Fish and paparazzi.