Dara Ó Briain, Touring – a comic book in top form

Some people learned how to make sourdough bread during the pandemic lockdown, while others discovered the joy of Zoom quizzes. Dara Ó Briain, meanwhile, wrote this brilliant show, So where were we?his most personal to date.

He starts off by referring to the lockdown, but what follows isn’t a series of hacking observations that sat on the back burner for two years. On the contrary, in describing the pangs of homeschooling, it is to make a subtle point about the different way the Irish and the British view our shared history, or when he talks about the knee surgery that he suffered last year, it leads to a light fare on the differences between walking sticks (functional) and canes (fancy) – but also a scathing observation on the absurd lengths private doctors go to avoid using the word “fat” about their patients.

For much of the two-and-a-half-hour show, he follows the pattern that Ó Briain established several shows ago, loving audience ribs, landing on a wide range of topics, taking tangents and offering flights of fantasy as he talks about – among other things – the perils of stardom as the “moderately famous” host of Make fun of the week, a family trip to Alton Towers and a magic toilet. And of course he does a great job in the front row with, among others the night I saw this show on G Live, a Heathrow security guard, an Argos assistant and a housewife. Ó Ó Briain’s quick thinking makes this element of the show great – but the IT guys, as always, get a pass…

In the second half of the evening, things shift gears as master storyteller Ó Briain talks about his recent search for his biological mother – juxtaposing it with the surgical one for his undescended testicle when he was a teenager.

It’s genuinely moving, but never cutesy as he weaves in and out of his biological mother’s story to throw in some modern Irish history (his inhumane adoption rights laws were only recently changed ) and several tiptop gags about monorchidism – including one that is worth the price of admission on its own. And just so we have time to dab our eyes after the emotional rollercoaster of the second half, Ó Briain ends with his signature crowd chat earlier. A triumph.

Daniel K. Denny