David O'Doherty

Don't mistake the Dublin comic for Chris O'Dowd – he's likely to lampoon you in musical form

David O'Doherty does well in a recession, he says, 'like heroin or McDonald's'. The Dublin comedian is the quintessential grumpy thirtysomething (36 to be exact) man. 'Age is just a number,' he mutters. 'It's also a very accurate barometer of how old you are.'

Whether railing against US television drama series, modern computer games, people who dress like they're 'either homeless or really, really fashionable' or the backwardness of his home country ('The only place in the world where parsley is a spice'), O'Doherty has finally found his niche.

Not as slick or as cruel as a Carr or a Boyle, not as unconventional as an Aczel or a Munnery, instead O'Doherty ambles about somewhere in between – the perfect mix of silliness and smarts.

He charts his rise through the Belfast live scene, from an open-sided truck to the Black Box to the Empire to tonight's nearly sold-out show at the Ulster Hall. He is thrilled to be playing the legendary venue, not because of its illustrious history or its standing within the Northern Ireland arts community, but because it has the tallest stage he has graced to date.

Elsewhere, O'Doherty admits that comedy is just another throwaway job in a less than inspiring employment history. Before stand-up, he worked in a Spar, then in a bike shop, and then in telemarketing.

He also discusses recent efforts to secure a US visa (during which time he had to come up with justification for the classification of 'alien with extraordinary ability') and what it's like to do gigs when he's sad or bereaved. These personal tidbits are interesting to hear.

As ever, though, much of the set is given over to quirky songs performed on his trademark cheap keyboard.

'Party Song' complements O'Doherty's newfound grouchy persona, boasting some nice deadpan lines about his ire for people who stand around in the kitchen at parties gushing about The Artist ('It's alright, but it's no Jaws'). He also recalls the unexpected results of pumping the party host's dog full of helium ('He didn't float up or bark high-pitched, he just became? Violently ill').

Some more of the old whimsy remains. There's the usual unnecessarily long offstage intro, O'Doherty later reads daft entries from a Cosmopolitan pamphlet of sex tips, and he plays a slide show of absurdist shark-related 'facts'.

O'Doherty's world is still populated with characters like the elderly friend who wears an expansively pocketed World War II marine's coat in order to take 10kg of luggage onto a Ryanair flight, and the one protestant friend he had growing up, who was known as 'The Protestant' and lived in 'The Protestant's House'.

There's less celebrity name-dropping than before, and precious little audience interaction, and the evening is all the more enjoyable for it. A few gags are repeated from last year's Empire appearance, but the likes of O'Doherty's encounter with a racist in a Dublin Chinese takeaway and the time he confounded a multi-lingual train ticket inspector in Germany by speaking in pidgin Irish are worth hearing twice.

The two-hour set climaxes with an updated version of the comic's much-loved 'My Beefs' (watch above) song, now titled, er, 'My Beefs 2012'. In it, O'Doherty rants about such offbeat targets as beauticians who dress like nurses and people who mistake him for Chris O'Dowd, which he claims happens at least once a day, though it may soon be the other way around.

On current form, the next time we see the shaggy-haired southern funnyman, he will be spouting a 45-minute version of 'My Beefs' from the roof of the Odyssey Arena.