Star of award-winning TV sitcom Father Ted, Ardal O’Hanlon is gaining himself a devilish reputation as a stand-up without the dog collar. He tells Danny Wallace there is more to life than religion.

0 here’s a little story . . . small-time lrish comic gets fed up with performing to no-one in particular in Dublin’s best comedy club. Well . . . Dublin’s only comedy club. Disheartened and dejected, the irish comic decides to make the move to London - where he’s heard the comedy scene is thriving and the streets are paved with gold and soon he feels his chosen career has finally found universal justification. All is well with the world.

He becomes a favourite with the locals. His talent gains him a couple of much-coveted national comedy awards. He wins a central role in what must surely rank as the greatest British sitcom since Blackadder. Things go well. and the irish comic is happy. And that’s the end of the story. At least. that’s the end of The Story So Far. . .

Funny. but more or less exactly the same chain of events has led to (Irish comic) Ardal O’Hanlon becoming one of the quickest rising stars of the comedy world. His arrival in London proved him a professional, accomplished. disarmineg charming addition to the circuit. he won the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year Award in l994. a British Comedy Award for TOp Television Newcomer in I995. and was granted the role of the incessantly stupid Father Dougal in Channel 4’s award-winning sitcom Father Ted.

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So. Is he happy. then? ‘l’m never happy.’ he says. happily. ‘l’ve never even met a happy human being. That’s my goal in life: to meet someone happy. I mean. l‘ve seen game show hosts on television. and they seem happy enough. but I’ve never actually met one in the flesh. And l’ve met my granny. who was mildly

‘I recently had loads of people asking me to quote a line that wasn’t even in Father Ted, but they were convinced it was. They were tollowing me back to my hotel going: “Crack cocaine Ted! Crack cocaine Ted!”.’

happy. but then she was on drugs. There arejust moments of happiness. glimmcrs of happiness. and the rest is misery. It’s terrible.’

However much he’ll deny it. though. Ardal O’Hanlon seems to be happy. He’s made a name for himself he’s completed a small West End run at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. he’s appeared in four films. and his television work has more or less guaranteed him a high profile

Ardal O'Hanlon: look, no dog collar

when he appears at The Gilded Balloon for this year’s Fringe. But it’s this very profile. borne of the inch-perfect character-acting he showed the world in Father Ted. that's started to bother him slightly.

‘l find nowadays. from doing my shows. that a lot of the audience is there simply because of the TV show.’ he says. ‘So they're sitcom fans first and foremost. and have probably never been to a stand-up show before. I don’t know what they expect. i don't know if they know what they expect either. so it’s just a case of doing the best show you can. and being as funny as you can. and hoping that they get the picture.’ And although he’s made a conscious. concerted effort to divorce himself as far as possible from Father Dougal. it‘s proved a harder task than it sounds. ‘Well. I don’t make any reference to it during the show. but sometimes the people watching start heckling me with lines from Father Ted. and you have to at least acknowledge that. i recently had loads of people asking me to quote a line that wasn’t even in it. but they were convinced it was. They .were following me back to my hotel going: “Crack cocaine Ted! Crack cocaine Ted!”.’