David O’Doherty

Despite a 'gaggle of noisy women', the Dublin comic ingratiates himself with the Empire faithful

Outside the Empire Music Hall, Egypt is in turmoil, politicians are debating whether prisoners should be given the vote and the country is mourning the victims of the Cork air disaster. Inside, David O’Doherty is hammering a child’s keyboard and reading out made-up facts about pandas. The Irish comic certainly doesn’t let current affairs interfere with the business of being an amusing fellow.

Wearing a €15 charity-shop jacket, a holey sweatshirt and scruffy jeans, O’Doherty is like the awkward indie kid who refused to grow up. His hair resembles the roof of a thatched cottage in Donegal, and he stumbles about the stage as if he had just landed on Earth this afternoon. Indeed, during the show he describes himself as looking like ‘a cross between the guy from Quantum Leap and ALF the alien’.

O’Doherty is in no hurry to get started, and spends a good five minutes announcing his imminent arrival from backstage. Eventually, he plonks himself at the keyboard and bashes out a couple of tunes, fiddling with the mic stand and occasionally tripping over his lyrics.

Later, he attempts to extricate himself from his jacket, but manages to get stuck in the sleeves and ends up in a crumpled mess, surrounded by plastic bags full of props and a mug of Lemsip (he’s got a cold).

If this all sounds like O’Doherty might be the most annoying comedian alive, well, really he’s not. He’s actually very entertaining, belying his shambling appearance to deliver upwards of two hours of engaging, insightful and often properly laugh out loud stand-up.

Sure, there are flights of fancy (a handful of hit-or-miss ditties, the aforementioned panda schtick), but for the most part the 35-year old Dubliner offers winning humour in a traditional vein.

There are gags about diffusing a racist attack in a Dublin Chinese takeaway, dodging train ticket collectors in Germany and encountering 'knackers' on the streets of the Irish capital. In most of the stories, O’Doherty comes off worst – the classic underdog.

Elsewhere, he slips in a few anecdotes about his recent celebrity shenanigans (O’Doherty co-starred in A Film with Me in It with Dylan Moran, and has hosted Never Mind the Buzzcocks), yet he’s careful not to come across like too much of an Eddie Izzard. There is no name-dropping here.

Perhaps aware that his quirky approach is at odds with the Empire’s raucous reputation, O’Doherty amps up the sex and drugs references, likening Lemsip to Rohypnol and musing over past sexual shenanigans. However, his paranoia is unfounded, as the audience are clearly here to enjoy themselves – especially the gaggle of noisy women on the balcony who seem to think the rest of us have paid £14 to listen to them discuss their weekend.

Interruptions aside, O’Doherty steers the evening to a rousing climax with a rendition of ‘My Beefs’ – surely the funniest comic song since 'Weird Al' Yankovic last strapped on an accordion and took aim at popular culture. In it, O’Doherty has a cleverly constructed go at everything that’s been irritating him this year, proving there is more to this guy than just whimsical noodlings about black and white bears.