As I recently got to see the fantastic Irish comic Dara Ó Briain live for the first time in October, it’s only natural that I should go through his DVDs that I have in my collection, just like I’ve done for a few other comedians this year. It’s been a lot of fun to rewatch them yet again.
Dara’s shows are always happy and jolly, with great energy and a convivial atmosphere. Even if he’s having a rant about something or having a dig at someone in the audience, it’s always with a light-hearted air. Indeed, chatting to people in the front row and elsewhere in the room is a regular part of his act that he very much enjoys doing. He has an excellent rapport with people, and is very good at instantly spinning anything they say into a fun flight of fancy and building on it, and he sometimes talks about particularly memorable people from other gigs too. Then, at the end of each show, he always makes a point of crediting each of the people he’s spoken to in a suitably amusing manner, and inviting applause for them, in order to acknowledge the contributions they made.
He also likes to post cryptic “You had to be there” references on Twitter after each show, which only those who attended will understand, while the rest of us can only guess what must have been going on. So he makes every show feel like a unique, engaging, intimate experience for each audience, even in huge venues.
All of his DVDs come with subtitles and extra features, and there are a couple of extras in particular that appear multiple times:
- There are live shows from Vicar Street in Dublin on 3 of his DVDs, which are edited down to remove any material that’s already in the main feature. They’re included because Dara always does some exclusive material for his Irish audiences, which include occasional words and references that non-Irish people won’t understand, but you still get the general gist of what’s going on. And there’s a lot of great chat between Dara and several of the audience members. So those bonus shows are well worth watching as well.
- Every DVD has an In-Vision Commentary & Drinking Game, where Dara invites one or two comedian friends to watch the show with him, and they take drinks every time Dara says or does certain things. They’re not as engaging or exciting as the main feature, and on the last couple of DVDs the drinking game element has pretty much been dropped so it’s really just a chat. But they’re all interesting features to check out, as they’re not very long, it’s fun to see the banter between Dara and his mates, and he gives some nice insights into some of his routines.
So in this post I’m going to briefly review each of his DVDs, all of which are a lot of fun, along with a mention of a show I once saw online. Plus as a bonus I’ve tacked on reviews of my Mock The Week DVDs as well, in tribute to that show coming to an end. None of this stuff is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy reading about it!
- Live At The Theatre Royal
- Talks Funny
- This Is The Show
- Craic Dealer
- Crowd Tickler
- Voice Of Reason
- Mock The Week – Too Hot For TV
As the name suggests, this 90-minute show was filmed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. The audience members he talks to this time include a planning technician, a student, and a guy taught to drive by the RAF. He also mentions talking to someone who was a Milkybar kid at a previous gig, before revealing them to be in the audience at this show as well. Meanwhile the rest of his routine includes chat about the TV shows Honey We’re Killing The Kids & You Are What You Eat, learning to drive, proving your identity, the reaction of Londoners to the 7/7 bombings (one of my favourite jokes of his as it’s very accurate), why he doesn’t believe in the Bible and God, technology, buying a bed, receiving a complaint about a Billy Elliot joke, Irish baguettes, national stereotypes, lifts, parenting and engaged couples.
The extra features consist of:
- A 30 minute set from Live At The Apollo, including routines about doctors on safari, Catholic & Protestant mixed marriages, English-Irish tensions, Australian heat and koalas, plus he chats to some students in the front row.
- 37 minutes of commentary and drinking with Ed Byrne.
- A quick 4-minute chat with John Cornelius, the Milkybar kid from 1974-78 who appeared in the show, including photos from his old adverts, some talk about other Milkybar kids, and what superpowers the Milkybar kid should have.
This 95-minute show was filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, during which he talks to several people in the audience including a planning engineer, a software engineer, a lorry driver, a student, a shoe repairer, and a man who chased a jewellery thief, plus he gets suggestions for things people wouldn’t want to see when moving into a house. And during the rest of his act he talks about pregnancy tests, razors, marketing, science & medicine, psychics, the gym, magicians, strange happenings in hotels, being Irish and the phonetic alphabet, among other things.
The disc also has the following extras:
- 50 minutes of footage from a show in Vicar Street, Dublin. His many audience interactions here include talking to a paper bag seller, a car salesman, a young man who works for O2, and a jewellery maker, plus he gets more amusing suggestions for unwanted things to see in a new home. He also talks about watching football in a bar, media attitudes to young people, being Irish in England, and Tayto crisps.
- A 30-minute commentary and drinking game featuring David Mitchell.
- A 2-minute clip called The Littlest Extra, showing a joke that Dara made to lead into the interval, as the break was naturally edited out of the main feature.
This 1 hour 40 minute show was also filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo, and is opened by Richard Hills playing the venue’s Compton organ, which descends below the stage just before Dara enters. The audience chat this time involves a builder, a handyman, a guy who claims to be a brain surgeon after taking Dara’s suggestion to make something up, and people who claim to have saved someone else’s life. He also talks about people’s fear of causing offence, getting a bike, visiting a chiropractor, saving a couple of lives in Piccadilly Circus Tube station, looking after his toddler, antenatal classes, bears, having too much cultural choice, video games, being asked to cheer up a crying woman, and the disaster film 2012 (including a surprise guest from the movie after Dara does a latino style dance at the end of the show).
There are four extras on this particular release:
- 40 minutes of extracts from another great Vicar Street show in Dublin. This time with the audience he talks to a language student, a green keeper and an aircraft engineer, as well as asking people about their celebrity dreams and life-saving stories. He also talks about the programme he starred in called Three Men Go To Ireland, the Irish recession and Irish blasphemy law. His routines about live-saving on the Tube and antenatal classes are also included, as there are a few differences to the Apollo show.
- A 30-minute commentary & drinking game with Andy Parsons & Ed Byrne joining Dara.
- A beautiful 10-minute performance by Richard Hills on the Apollo’s organ, playing Blaze Away (by Abraham Holtzman), Londonderry Air (a traditional tune) and Satyr Dance (by Edward German).
- A 2-minute clip showing a bit of poor quality mobile phone footage recorded by a young lad in the audience. Dara spotted him during the show and pointed out the futility of recording something that was already being captured by professional cameras for the DVD, but he kept filming anyway.
(Pronounced Crack Dealer, as Craic is a light-hearted Irish word).
This 95-minute show was filmed at the Edinburgh Playhouse for a change, and here Dara talks about the title of his show, the notorious Oban fireworks (available in the extras), Irish people moving to the UK, an ITV documentary about the IRA, corporate gigs, something for the dads, parenting, psychic Sally Morgan, astrology vs racism, explaining technology to people in historical times, trying to surf on holiday, Twitter, getting a burglar alarm, and people who want to want to take photos of him on their phones. And there’s plenty of audience interaction as usual, as Dara talks to a furniture salesman, an optician, a window maker and a carpenter, as well as taking suggestions for unusual nativity plays and how to scare off burglars.
The menus on this disc are very hard to read, with red text on a dark blue background. But it’s worth delving into the extras as usual, where you find:
- 30 minutes of clips from another great gig at Vicar Street in Dublin. Dara talks about being Irish in the UK, Twitter, and explaining technology to people in history, whilst among the audience he chats to a bank employee, an English teacher and a box printer, and gets more suggestions for scaring off burglars.
- Commentary and drinking with Lee Mack. This lasts just 24 minutes, and doesn’t involve a game element this time as Lee misunderstood what he was being invited for and so didn’t watch the show first. But it’s still a great chat between the two of them, as we learn about their different approaches to live stand-up performances, Lee reacts to Dara’s routines, and they have generally amusing banter throughout.
- The Littlest Extra – A quick 1-minute clip of Dara’s post-interval joke, as the interval obviously isn’t included in the main feature. Nothing exciting, but nice to have it on there for the sake of curiosity.
- The Oban Fireworks – Dara’s routine talks about the infamous 2011 display where a technical fault caused all of the fireworks to go off at once, resulting in a 20-minute extravaganza being condensed to just 50 seconds! So Dara’s included it on the DVD, and I’ve added it below. It’s quite incredible! The company behind it, Pyro1, put on a proper display free of charge later in the month to make up for it.
We’re back at the Hammersmith Apollo in London for this 90-minute gig, where Dara discusses being recognised when out and about, pulled pork, advice for the younger generation, family history, why he’s not good at being very sentimental or sincere, the Zambezi River challenge for Comic Relief (during which he had to be rescued), the brain, swimming, teaching things to kids, digging machines, learning things as a grownup, booking a holiday, buying jewellery, wine, male orgasms and sexy clothing. There isn’t quite so much audience chat this time, but he does have fun exchanges with a finance worker, a bookmaker and a video game maker.
There’s no Vicar Street show included this time unfortunately, but there are still a couple of extras on the DVD, which aren’t amazing but are still fun to look at:
- A 9-minute deleted scene where he bemoans having far too much choice of things to watch these days, and takes suggestions from the audience that he can turn into a typical plot for a Scandinavian box set.
- A 21-minute commentary on the show with Josh Widdicombe, where the two of them have a chat while eating a meal each, as Josh has to drive somewhere after the recording so he can’t have alcohol.
This show was a streaming release on Amazon Video instead of a DVD, but it’s unavailable at the time of writing. It was a cut-down recording of a show from Dara’s 2019 tour, consisting of extended highlights instead of being edited to look like a cohesive performance, and he gave an introduction listing some of the routines that were cut out. So it didn’t flow quite so well, and it would have been nice to see the full show, but it was still funny. Hopefully one day it will be made available again in some form.
Mock The Week was a very funny topical panel show, hosted by Dara, that has sadly now come to an end after 17 years on the BBC. There is a petition to save it, but so far no other broadcaster has offered to pick it up. But we can hope for the future, it wouldn’t be the first time a cancelled show has been resurrected.
The programme was created by Dan Patterson, who produced the classic improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and it had a great mixture of banter about current affairs, stand-up material and improvisation, as well as a great theme tune (News Of The World by The Jam). So it stood out as being fresh and original.
It also introduced me to several comedians who I might not have got into otherwise, as they often brought on relatively unknown stars of the circuit as well as more established names. Only last month I went to see Maisie Adam live on the strength of her Mock The Week appearances, and I finally got to see Dara live as well after wanting to do so for ages. Both of those gigs were fantastic, and there are various other comedians whose shows I own on DVD or would love to see live one day because of the programme. While stand-up showcases like Live At The Apollo are also good for seeing people do their routines, Mock The Week allowed them to demonstrate a wider range of comedy skills.
But of course, when you have a panel of 6 comedians all having fun together, there’s naturally a lot of great material that has to be cut when editing the show down to half an hour – as I experienced for myself when I got to be in the audience in 2017. Some people assume that the audience are just laughing at everything regardless of whether it’s funny or not, but I can safely say that isn’t the case here. There are indeed jokes that fall flat, while some get bigger laughs than others, and therefore the editors have to choose from the ones that had the best responses. And that’s not an easy thing to do, as they still have to reject a lot of good stuff to fit the time slot. It always seemed a great shame to me that there was never an extended version of each episode, like we get with Have I Got News For You and QI. But Mock The Week did include some deleted material in their end-of-series compilations, which made up for it a bit.
They also released a wealth of unbroadcast material from their earlier series on their trilogy of Too Hot For TV DVDs, which are really funny. They gave the programme-makers a chance to show us material that was too rude for broadcast – hence the title, and the fact that the discs are all rated 18.
Naturally, given the period covered by these DVDs, a lot of the rudest material comes from Frankie Boyle, and the show certainly entered a new phase when he left after Series 7, though not in a bad way. He was very much missed for sure, but his departure refreshed things a little bit as well, and it didn’t do the show any harm. The other regulars across these 3 compilations are Hugh Dennis (who was present throughout the show’s entire run), Andy Parsons (who appeared in the first 2 series, but was a main panellist from Series 3 to 14) and Russell Howard (who appeared in Series 3, then became a main panellist from Series 4 to 9). All of them show their capabilities for pushing the boundaries on these DVDs, as do some of the guests as well. It’s often quite hard for Dara to rein them in once they’re on a roll, which only adds to the humour of it all – telling comedians not to joke about something is just asking for trouble!
Each DVD contains an hour-long compilation of X-rated jokes, bloopers and other very funny moments that never made it to air, along with 3 complete episodes that have been extended to include previously deleted material, often with a bit of extra footage before the opening titles or after the closing credits. The extended episodes are from Series 3, 4 & 5, between 2006 and 2007, in no particular order, as you’ll see from the lists below. Altogether there’s over 9 hours of great comedy across the 3 sets, so you certainly get your money’s worth.
Too Hot For TV 1
- Compilation (1 hour) – Guests include Michael McIntyre, Mark Watson, Jo Caulfield, Lauren Laverne, Rhod Gilbert, Ed Byrne & David Mitchell. The range of topics includes politicians, tickling chickens, flooding, The Queen, tannoy announcements, Harry Potter, Britishness, Hugh cycling a stage of the Tour De France, pregnant women, Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paris Hilton, and suggestions of things that are serious, risky and heroic.
- Series 5 Episode 7: Putin, Henman & Konnie Huq (34 minutes) – Fiona Allen & David Mitchell join the panel as they tease Dara about fancying Konnie Huq from Blue Peter, Dara tries in vain to stop the teams saying the F-word too many times in one round, and there are discussions about topless photos of Putin and Tim Henman’s retirement, among other subjects in the episode. Topics during the Scenes We’d Like To See round are about bad things to hear on an aeroplane and the worst person to be married to.
- Series 5 Episode 10: Nuts, Pies & Nim Nim Nim (36 minutes) – Ed Byrne & Gina Yashere are the guests on this episode, where “Nuts on the road” and “Nim nim nim” become the catchphrases of choice, while there’s also a random discussion about genetically modified living pies. Frankie also brings in some gifts for the panel in a pre-titles sequence, and makes a joke that got cut during the Scenes round about unlikely letters on Points Of View that cracks everyone up, except Hugh who someone manages to keep a straight face. The other subject in that final round is about what a news reporter would never say.
- Series 5 Episode 11: Money, Sex & The Lib Dems (38 minutes) – Michael McIntyre & Ben Norris are the guests this time. After a pre-titles sequence about snacks in the studio, there’s talk about Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell, the Northern Rock bank, counterfeit Viagra, old people having sex and OJ Simpson, among other things. They also keep in an outtake where Andy messes up the start of his routine in the Wheel Of News. The Scenes round is about things a Royal correspondent and rugby commentator would never say.
Too Hot For TV 2
- Compilation (54 minutes) – Guests include Jon Culshaw, Mark Watson, Adam Hills, Clive Anderson, Ed Byrne & Jan Ravens. During this set of clips, the panel are told not to make blind jokes about David Blunkett, Dara makes several attempts to record trailers (including for the Anal Lube episode below), and they have to restart the Scenes We’d Like To See Round multiple times when Ed Byrne decides to mess around. Jan Ravens fluffs one of her jokes in a Scenes round as well. There’s also banter about the Labour and Tory parties, prison overcrowding, Jesus and The Pope.
- Series 3 Episode 3: The Anal Lube Show (42 minutes) – Jon Culshaw & Mark Watson are guests on perhaps the most infamous episode in the show’s history. Anal lube is randomly brought up during the first round, and the panel won’t let it slip through their fingers. They keep mentioning it throughout the show, with even Dara joining in when he accepts he can’t stop them talking about it, and after the credits Dara is told that all the references are making life difficult for the editors! But they do talk about various other things as well of course, including Tony Blair, school food, Richard Branson, global warming and penguins, while the final Scenes round is about ill-advised things to say in court and things a sports commentator would never say.
- Series 3 Episode 6: The Leg Show (44 minutes) – Adam Hills & Mark Steel star in this great episode, which is notable for Adam taking his leg off to show the panel as he talks about going through airport security, and Russell gets a bad case of pins and needles after taking some teasing for revealing he watched Brokeback Mountain with his dad. Other topics include Tony Blair, David Cameron, the British Army, the Rugby World Cup, a British Airways worker sent home for refusing to cover up a crucifix, Madonna’s adoption, animals to have as a show pet, and a tortoise that was given a wheel to replace a lost leg. The Scenes round is about bad things to say when leading troops into battle and unlikely things to hear on Blue Peter.
- Series 5 Episode 8: The Hedgehog Show (44 minutes) – In this episode, featuring Alun Cochrane & Ed Byrne, hedgehogs become a big topic as a result of a discussion about endangered species. Meanwhile, other subjects include John Prescott’s retirement, Camilla Parker-Bowles & Princess Diana and David Cameron’s crime policy. The closing Scenes round is about things an athletics commentator would never say and the worst things to say when running for US president.
Too Hot For TV 3
- Compilation (1 hour) – Guests this time include Mark Watson, Jo Caulfield, David Mitchell, Rhod Gilbert, Ed Byrne, Fred MacAulay, Gina Yashere, Clive Anderson & Jo Brand. Outtakes include chat about the drinks they’re having on set, Dara trying to record more trailers, an awkward start to the Scenes round when Andy fluffs his joke and Dara belches, and retakes of questions to try and get proper answers out of the panel. There’s also banter about the Clintons, Hilary Benn, the Olympics, mobile phones that can emit smells, terrorists, a boy sailing around the world, Sooty, a possible flu pandemic, the Beckhams, ITV Play, Douglas Bader, a fat dog, rain in Scotland, Lembit Opik and the Cheeky Girls.
- Series 4 Episode 1: The Elves & Testicles Show (47 minutes) – Mark Watson & David Mitchell appear in this episode, which starts with the title sequence being played twice because Dara messes up his opening monologue the first time. A round about items of luggage being stuck at Heathrow then leads to a lot of talk about elves and testicles, while other topics include Tony Blair, the Bee Gees, druids, Saddam Hussein’s hanging and train fares. The topics in the final Scenes round are things you wouldn’t hear on a driving test and what the Queen didn’t say in her Christmas message.
- Series 4 Episode 4: The Prison & Other Dodgy Stuff Show (47 minutes) – Gina Yashere & Ed Byrne are the guests in this episode, where a big topic is the John Reid scandal about prison overcrowding and offenders who have gone AWOL. Dara and Ed also have a few playful arguments (which often happens when they’re on the show together as they’re good mates), Hugh explains how he was once accused of being a flasher, Frankie talks about an operation he once had on his ears, and it’s revealed that there’s disturbing fan fiction online about Frankie and Hugh. The Scenes round features topics about what a TV chef would never say – during which Ed gets frustrated, as he can’t get to the microphone before everyone else – and bad things to say at the opening of the new Wembley Stadium.
- Series 4 Episode 5: The Johnny Blow Job & Bird Flu Show (41 minutes) – Rhod Gilbert & Jo Caulfield star in this edition. There’s an extended bit of banter before the show begins, while Dara’s talking to the audience, because he’s about to introduce the panel when a technician comes in to repair Dara’s monitor, earning the nickname Johnny Blow Job for going out of sight below the desk for a few moments. The guy then returns during the first round to turn the monitor off, as it’s constantly flickering. That first round is about bird flu and Bernard Matthews, while the panel also make jokes during the show about Richard Branson, new education policies, hippos and ejaculations. The final Scenes round invites the panel to suggest unlikely things to hear on Comic Relief and the worst things your new neighbour could say.
So all in all they are very funny DVDs, and it’s a shame they didn’t release more compilations. Perhaps they could look at making more DVDs now that the show’s finished. But old episodes are regularly repeated on Dave, and there are lots of clips and outtakes on the Youtube channels for Mock The Week and the BBC, so we can still enjoy a lot of the best moments that way. The final episode was a fun way to bring it to a close as well, with all the guests dressed very smartly, Dara taking part in the Wheel Of news stand-up round, and of course the last Scenes We’d Like To See topic had to be about the show itself.
So thank you to Dara, Hugh and all the guests on the show for 17 years of great comedy. It will be very much missed!
And that’s it. I’ll certainly be keen to see Dara live in person on his future tours, as he is one of my favourite comedians. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Mock The Week can be resurrected by another broadcaster at some point, as it’s been one of my favourite TV shows for a long time, which is why I went to see it in person soon after I moved to London. So I hope you enjoyed this set of reviews, and thanks for reading as always!