Dylan Moran is perhaps most well known for his comedy series Black Books, which he wrote and starred in, as misanthropic bookshop owner, Bernard Black. For several years his talent for stand-up has been one of the hidden highlights of British comedy. Shunning panel shows, Moran is not quite a household name - unless you happen to be in a house with excellent taste in comedy, in which case the mention of his name is likely to release a torrent of compliments about this Irish comedian. On top of this, he's appeared in many films, the brilliant dark comedy of 'A Film With Me In It' (one of my favourite films, everyone should go and watch it immediately) and as unrecognisably different characters in 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Run Fat Boy Run'. Clearly broadly talented (he's also writing a book) his stand-up is a real treat.
Looking around me, the audience members are from a variety of different demographics; largely it seems young students, but also some middle aged ex- students. It is perhaps a cliché to say that the atmosphere at the Bristol Hippodrome is one of palpable excitement, yet the hold Dylan Moran has on his fans is evident.
The stage is the same set up as on Moran's previous tours, a chair, a table with a wine glass, a screen with his drawings projected on and a microphone. As he walks on stage we all cheer, smiling, he waves and grabs the microphone; the loud "hello!" causes the audience to suddenly fall quiet, expectantly.
Clearly at ease, he begins. Everything he says immediately feels fresh and as though it's just occurring to him - joking about Bristol being a great place because it feels like it's "run by 23 year old Rastafarians", and his knowledge of the area and its stereotypes, traditions and habits is refreshing, he clearly knows where he is.
Moran tackles similar subjects to his past comedy shows. Middle age, love, youth, ageing, death, sex, politics and society in general, all fall prey to his razor sharp observations. It never once becomes a rant, his voice rises at times, increasing in volume until it seems that he can't possibly be following a pre-written script, he must be making it up on the spot....and then, with a disarming grin, he almost starts to whisper, as the previous point links beautifully to his theme. His bizarre analogies and quotable comparisons on DVD are certainly funny, but the clinical atmosphere of a recorded live show makes them seem perhaps less brilliant. Live however, it's clear that this humour is genuine, nothing he says is there to make us laugh for the sake of it, and every sentence carries a hidden weight.
Which brings me onto my favourite thing about Dylan Moran: he jokes about women and men, and not always in a particularly complementary way. He asks the audience with a small frown "who wrote Frankenstein?" and it's difficult to be sure if he's really forgotten, or is just making us feel more involved (the latter being more likely). The quick echoed reply of "Mary Shelley" perhaps proving something about the type of people that enjoy his comedy. This leads him onto a routine in which he compares men to The Creature and women to Dr Frankenstein/Mary Shelley. Such a comparison could easily alienate either all the men, or all the women in the audience but at the bottom of it all, a question remains about our society and the roles of gender within it. Not the easiest thing to do in comedy without being 'offensive'. It's unbelievably uplifting to spend about two hours in the power of such an intelligent comedian, and at no point feel uncomfortable, particularly when he by no means steers away from topics that could lead to offence. Instead, his disarming charm and perfect delivery mean that the audience are completely within his power and as it ends, it feels like barely ten minutes have gone past.
He ends saying, "the thing is....I don't know what the thing is" , apologizing for not having any more to say, although whether that's because he has forgotten to say something, or because the audience are so clearly hungry for more, is difficult to say, he wanders off with another wave, glass of wine in hand, leaving a projection of his unusual and amusing drawings and one of his silhouette alone on the stage.