It is been three years since Dara O’Briain last hit the road.
So it is with great delight that venues welcome back the much-loved comic back for a major nationwide tour — calling at Leeds Grand Theatre in March.
After a spell on the small screen making shows including Mock the Week, The Apprentice: You’re Fired! and Star Gazing Live, Dara will returns to his first love this spring: live comedy.
And he couldn’t be happier about it. You see, there is nothing he adores more than a theatre.
In preparation for his 65-date Crowd Tickler tour, Dara said he cannot contain his excitement about treading the boards once more.
He said: "The other day, I sat in an empty theatre thinking, ‘I just love these rooms.’ I’m on the board of the Theatres Trust in order to protect these wonderful buildings. It’s not about nimbyism; it’s because I adore these places. It still gives me such a thrill to walk on stage."
Dubbed “the king of audience interaction”, he excels at rapid-fire exchanges with his fans and delivers a dazzling mixture of witty, daring, thought-provoking anecdotes, winning praise from the critics.
The Guardian declares that: "These are classy routines, that assume the audience's intelligence and condescend to no one".
While The Times described Dara’s live show as 'typically brilliant'.
Dara, who grew up in Dublin and was named Britain's favourite Irishman by the Irish Independent, says that he couldn’t resist returning to touring because live comedy is addictive.
"When you arrive at an empty theatre, the potential is immense. You think, ‘This is going to be magical’," said Dara.
"Then, when the show starts and you hear those waves of laughter in the auditorium, it’s just so enjoyable. It’s a huge rush."
He's no newcomer to stand-up, with four DVDs under his belt — Craic Dealer, This Is The Show, Dara O Briain Talks Funny Live In London and Dara O Briain Live at the Theatre Royal.
Dara, 42, relishes the sheer spontaneity of stand-up and swapping off-the-cuff quips with his audience.
He said: "I love the fact that you can shape the entire evening by thinking on your feet. If Plan A doesn’t work, you have to come up with Plan B immediately."
Father-of-two Dara added that his improvised riffing with the audience creates 'a tremendous frisson'.
He said: "It’s like walking a tightrope. The audience love it because they can see you’ve got nothing up your sleeve and that things could very easily go wrong. They realise that this could go anywhere. You’re not given any easy ride.
"When I’m questioning the audience, my stance is not, ‘how can I mock this person?’ It’s, ‘I am an eight-year-old meeting this person for the first time. What aspects of them do I want to talk and enthuse about?’"
The comic, a mathematics and theoretical physics graduate from University College Dublin, has drawn on that background to present such TV shows as Dara O’Briain: School of Hard Sums and Dara O’Briain’s Science Club, said his audience never lets him down.
Click below to watch a clip from Dara O’Briain: School of Hard Sums
"Everyone has something to give me," he said. "The other day this guy in the audience told me he had a very dull-sounding job in HR. He said he was the comptroller – no one ever knows what that means. But it then emerged that in fact he worked in HR for a chocolate company.
"So I came up with the idea that he would put a large bowl of chocolate down on the desk in front of a potential employee, and then turn away. When he turned back, if the potential employee hadn’t got chocolate all over his face, then he’d get the job. If you can survive in an arena of grab-able chocolate without taking any, then you’re the man for the job."
He added: "I then thought that his friend might work for a toothpaste company. How great that they could put aside their differences, despite working in jobs that nullify each other. It would be like a tobacconist being friends with a lung transplant surgeon. As long as they don’t talk about work, they’ll be OK."
Dara has outlined the themes that he will be discussing in Crowd Tickler.
He said: "I’ll be talking about the awkward conversations we will have about grandchildren about all the resources we’ve used up and all the wonderful advances we’ve casually wasted, like Concorde and the space shuttle.”
"[There's also] an angel therapist who is leading a campaign to remove fluoride from the water in Ireland because she thinks it’s poisoning the nation. For sheer energy, you have to admire her campaign."
Dara, who was both a nominee and the awards host at the 2012 BAFTA Television Awards, added: “I always enjoy demolishing idiotic arguments. It suits comedy. If you take it to its logical conclusion, it’s madness. It’s a reductio ad absurdum."
But despite the intelligence of his routines, the comedian jas underscored that the show is first and foremost about jokes.
Dara, who has made a huge success of hosting 13 series of BBC Two's Mock the Week, wants the audience for Crowd Tickler primarily to roar with laughter.
"It’s great to tackle subjects that are more thought-provoking," he said, "but I have this dread that people will go, ‘Oh Dara’s show – there’ll be some bit where he bores us with some science thing’."
"I hope they’re unable to talk because I beaten them over the head with so much humour and punched them repeatedly in the face with jokes – that’s my aim!” he laughed.
I want them spent. I want them silently driving back home absorbing it all, while I’m left in the empty theatre quietly wiping the make-up off my face in a mirror surrounded by light bulbs."
"I make points here and there, but that’s secondary. Above all, I hope that it’s a great night’s entertainment. I hope people walk out and say, ‘Dara’s still got it. I hope he doesn’t leave it another three years!’ If they do that, then I will be delighted."
Crowd Tickler comes to Leeds Grand Theatre for a three-night run March 25-27.
Tickets are on sale now, priced from £24. To book, visit the website or call the Box Office on 0844 848 2700.
Click here for details of the Crowd Tickler tour.