Dara O Briain interview

Suavely suited and booted, Mock the Week's Dara O Briain's tongue is as sharp as a jagged razor blade. We chatted to the big man (he's 6' 4'') about college, cartoons and off-the-cuffery.

Dara O Briain

You studied maths-physics at University College Dublin - were you one of those geeky types?

I was abnormally nerdy, but I was probably even nerdier before I went to college. As soon as I started doing my degree I knew I'd never meet a woman again. So I joined the debating team, ran from the maths thing and then took up stand-up.

How did you get into kids' TV?

When I started doing stand up I had a lot of time to kill and no money coming in. I got into kids' TV presenting during the day while I was trying to be a stand-up at night. Children's telly was like my office job. It was alright. It's the only kind of telly you get when you're 22. I don't think I was a particularly good kids' presenter and I certainly didn't look like one - I was already balding. I looked like a weird uncle.

We spoke to Ed Byrne recently and he said how gratifying it is to take the piss out of you on Mock the Week.

Yeah. He loves taking the piss out of me. He loves every bit of grief I get. It's particularly irritating as he stays at my house after recording the show. He lives in the countryside so when he's in London he crashes at my gaff. It's become so common that we've ended up discussing things like, "Oh we must get a new mirror for Ed's bathroom". I love doing Mock the Week. It's not short or painless - it takes two and a half hours to record - but it's grand.

What's the wittiest thing you've ever seen or heard?

Oh for f**k's sake. What, ever in my life? You can't expect me in a second to sum up 36 years of hearing occasionally witty things. If I say one then I'll regret the one I picked and actually it'll only be the third wittiest thing I've ever heard. Then I'll feel like I've misrepresented some guy who once said a thing that was even wittier. Bloody hell that's a difficult question.

What's your favourite word?

Defenestration. It's an act of political aggression whereby you throw someone out of a window. It's a really good word as it literally explains what they do - they f**k you out a window. That's what defenestration is. [It's a Latin word; de (from; out of) and fenestra (window or opening)].

How do you go about writing a stand-up show? Where do you start?

You kind of have to write it at the last minute, so you sit in a room with three bottles of wine. The best stand-up is written on panic.

Dara actually called back an hour later to say...

Do you know what I think is really, really witty? That somebody in a f**king cartoon studio in America in the 1930s decided that if a cartoon character runs through a wall it leaves a hole in the wall the shape of its body. That is brilliant! The American's must have been like; "Yes of course when Bugs runs through the door he will leave a Bugs Bunny shape hole in that door." The fact somebody thought that up is hilarious. That's the wittiest thing ever.

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