“Sell poetry as a hit, the way you sell coffee or chilli”


Black Books, Channel 4, 2000-2004

From The Guardian:

Even after escaping school, Moran’s late teens were miserable. “I was trying to figure out what the hell to do. I didn’t have any qualifications and I was pretty desperate. I wrote, I read, I bit my nails. I was kind of worried that I wasn’t more worried – I was a bit of a slacker about it. But it did give me time to think.” When he got to Dublin and tried standup, “It was like a throwing my cards in the air type of thing – trying on a suit that fits and it’s just perfect.”

And the turbo-charged reading jag of those teenage years had laid down the literary seam that nourishes his comedy. Those artful hesitations and the gleeful dyspepsia share DNA with Beckett’s rambling, rumbling voices in the dark, while the surreal inventiveness and wordplay echo the spiky humour of Flann O’Brien. Moran was also an obsessive play reader, forging his dramatic sensibility and sense of timing without leaving his bedroom (“comedy is all about the division of time, rhythms, the fall of language”). He remembers his father handing him Pinter at 15; he then flew through “all Ibsen, all Chekhov, Edward Bond – I’d even read all Noël Coward”. These days, though he tips his hat at Edward St Aubyn (“he’s our Waugh”) and is intrigued by Nicola Barker, he reads only poetry: Charles SimicFrederick SeidelFiona SampsonSharon Olds.

“Publishing should wake up to the fact that people’s attention loops are shrinking by the second,” he says. “Sell poetry as a hit, the way you sell coffee or chilli: you get a linguistic bang off this thing.” He has put out pamphlets of his own poems (“vanity publishing, self-published, whatever you want to call it”) and also posts them on Instagram, along with the trippy cartoons that form the backdrop to his live shows. “They’re just jingles and doodles, but people like them. It’s like a clearing desk. Every day I write, every day I draw. It’s all I’ve got.”

The verbal fun of standup is much more like poetry than prose, he says, “because a lot of it is about elision, suggestion, inference, the white space around the words. They’re much closer than people think, poetry and jokes. Look at haiku, koans … dense, rich word forms. That’s where I live. I live in that.”

In fact, Moran spent a long time feeling guilty that his love of standup was getting in the way of a literary career. “For years, I thought oh, this is terribly annoying, I’m on stage, I should be writing books, I should be staying at home and not leaving the house.” After decades of promising that a book was in the pipeline, he has finally realised that “I don’t have to write novels. What a terrible problem to have, eh?” He laughs at his own ridiculousness. “‘I feel so liberated now I’ve cast off that yoke of having to produce novels!’ My novel hell, I should call my memoir.”

“Dylan Moran: ‘Britain is sending itself to its room and not coming down’”, Justine Jordan, The Guardian