“I don’t envy anybody that position. Don’t blame previous incumbents for mismanagement or like Time magazine credit our current leader for any better,” he says.
“I’ve no doubt they all do the job as best as they can in impossible circumstances. But really we are the mercy of forces beyond our control. The big challenge for our taoiseach is to reduce the debt burden on the state by securing some sort of write-off.”
What was it like growing up in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan.
“I had a happy childhood and still have lots of family in the town. The deadpan nature of the people definitely inspired my comedy. I don’t think anybody in the history of the place has ever given a straight answer to a question,” O’Hanlon says.
“I also wrote a love/hate coming of age novel, The Talk of the Town, which was heavily influenced by my experience of growing up in such a border town.”
Why is O’Hanlon’s spirited and witty banter still so important to the Irish?
“There is something restless and curious about the Irish. Like everybody else, we want to make money and make our way in the world but it’s not the be all and end all. We also want to have fun, we want to make friends, make connections, share stories. Banter is a great way of breaking the ice.”
Why does he think be never learned about his paternal grandfather Michael O'Hanlon and his Irish Republican Army activities during the Irish War of Independence? It took a TV series called Who Do You Think You Are to reveal all that. Why do Irish families filter out their history?
“I was dimly aware of his exploits but because Ireland is such an intimate society and because memories are long, people generally didn’t talk much about the civil war, not wanting to open old sores. Also people are innately modest in this country,” he says.
“They don’t want to be ‘bigging-up’ their relatives. That’s fair enough. Now that most of the people who were around then have passed on, it’s easier to talk about it.”
Back in the nineties O’Hanlon was instrumental in setting up Dublin's first comedy club. What's the atmosphere and audience like for standup there now?
“It was a tiny scene when we started out in Dublin. One small club and a handful of comedians, more like a drop-in center for misfits,” he says.
“Now despite the recession there are literally hundreds of comedians, most of them making a living. Comedy is booming. There are clubs all over the country. International comedy festivals. The bigger names can pack out proper theaters and even arenas. It’s big business.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching that transformation over the years and adapting to changing times. You can quibble about the quality, the apparent descent into boorishness, the more mainstream nature of audiences, but overall there is great variety and invention out there and a great appetite for comedy. Long may it coninue.”
Irish celebrities seem to always want to retain their private lives and usually the Irish let them -- is that true for O’Hanlon?
“I certainly never saw myself as a celebrity. I don’t like the word and don’t like to be described as such. For your own sanity it’s vital to separate your family life and your working life,” he says.
“I love stand-up comedy, acting, writing and accept any attention, good or bad, that comes my way as a result of that, but it’s possible to live a very normal and satisfying life as well as long as you don’t get carried away with yourself. You are allowed to say no occasionally, no to every panel game and chat show, no to advertising, no to Twitter and Facebook. You don’t have to be switched on all the time.”
What does O’Hanlon want people to know about his new show for the Craic Comedy Fest in New York City?
“It’s a fairly lively and robust show, quite silly in places, pointed in other places, about dealing with the minutiae of everyday life against the backdrop of a world falling apart,” he says.
What could be funnier than that?
The opening act for O'Hanlon's show will be Irish American headliner Kevin Flynn (Comedy Central), the only son in a close-knit Irish-Catholic family with the scars to prove it. Don't miss this one night only event. For tickets call 917-373-6735 or visit the website here.