This October, Dylan Moran brought his new standup show Off the Hook to America. His New York gig took place at the same time as the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Moran made a point to thank us for attending the show and not being in front of the TV. The election was, after all, “between the man everyone hates and the woman nobody likes,” he said. He then went on to compare the fakeness of Trump’s tan to the underbelly of a dead walrus and to blame Brexit on the country’s moment of feeling Trumpy.
The American election is an easy target. But I have to remind myself that despite a few stumbles into deconstructionism, Moran is not an alternative comedian. His style of observational comedy, as well as his topics, are extremely mainstream. As a comedy snob, I feel conflicted in admitting this truth because I usually turn my nose up at the mainstream, but I also believe that Dylan Moran is one of the funniest comedians working today.
All of Moran’s shows are, in a way, about aging. Off the Hook is very much about being middle aged because as a result of quitting smoking, he has gained weight, and this made it more obvious to him that he is now middle aged. He then goes on to talk about food for most of the show, not unlike other popular comedians, such as Jim Gaffigan. Having replaced nicotine with food, he recounted all the ways he lies to himself: he’s still European fat, not yet American fat. Drinking wine with cheese is just “culture.”
Like one of his previous shows, Like, Totally, he has to comment on different groups of people. Wrapping it in the narrative that New York is like People Soup, where all cultures are represented, he has a go at Finland for nothing being in Finland, plus Russians, Scots, Americans, and the Irish. As an Irishman himself, living in a post-Brexit U.K., he comments on Ireland’s fear of immigrants, even though the Irish have been spreading out all over the world for decades. “You can’t move to Ireland. Ireland is the jumping off point!”
Of course, he has to talk about the differences between men and women because that is probably the number one most observed observation in observational comedy. He’s done this topic before. This time, he uses his wife as an example, contrasting the way she wakes up in the morning with the way he does. Her eyes open like flowers blooming and she looks like she wants to have sex with the sky. His eyes open audibly: spludge, spludge.
One of the more poignant parts of Moran’s act commented on a man’s place inside of a family. There is some frustration here, that a man is expected to provide no more than entertainment within his household, but at the same time, he reinforces this system by claiming that wives control the future: where the family is going and when; whereas all men have is a “lollypop of now.”
This is the main reason I believe that Dylan Moran overpowers all other mainstream comics: diction. In What Makes Dylan Moran Funny, Ryan Hollinger says:
“He claims much of his style is less comedically influenced and more so by literary writers including Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett and Serbian-American poet Charles Simic, and just listening to his words, you can see how he dabbles in linguistic poeticism.”
Although his persona implies that he’s speaking stream of consciousness, it’s clear from his precise choice of words that his act is very finely combed. With his diction, he paints pictures in your mind. For example, he walks into a cafe where he “was the only person there who didn’t look like he’d just invented the hot air balloon.”
Although awkwardly timed (35 minutes, 25-minute intermission, another 35 minutes), Off the Hook was a great progression of Dylan Moran’s usual themes, bringing them further along the route of the middle-age bus.