ARDAL O’Hanlon’s parents wanted him to pick a ‘credible career’ - a politician or a lawyer - but he chose comedy and argues it is now more credible than either of the aforementioned professions.
Born in County Monaghan as one of six children of Irish doctor and politician Rory O’Hanlon, you can be forgiven for wondering how the self-confessed quiet Catholic found his way on to the stand-up circuit.
Ardal said: "From an early age, maybe 12-13, I was always writing poems or jokes, even though I was a quiet and shy kid.
"My mum and dad wanted me to be a doctor, a scientist or a lawyer or something and a huge emphasis was placed on education growing up.
"But I was always a bit of a dreamer and comedy came along at the right time - there was no work in Ireland so we did our own thing. First it started as a hobby but then it became a way to live your life.
"You look at some professions and they’ve been discredited to some degree for whatever reason - be it politicians or bankers, even the church - and I think, comedy is booming and is now a credible career."
It was while he was doing a communications degree in Dublin that Ardal would throw his first barbs, with the debating society the stage in which he and his friends would "take the micky and belittle" the competition.
He teamed up with friends Kevin Gildea and Barry Murphy to open Dublin’s first alternative comedy club, the International Comedy Cellar.
After taking his fledgling steps as a comic, Ardal upped sticks and headed to the bright lights of London where he went on to win the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition.
It was there he was spotted by Graham Linehan, the writer of Father Ted, who cast him in the role of Father Dougal McGuire which catapulted him into the spotlight and into the hearts of comedy fans.
Since then, Ardal has starred in sitcom My Hero, dramas, treaded the boards and even written his own book, The Talk of the Town. Yet he is often mobbed by Dr Who fans for a ten minute cameo role in 2007.
He said: "Dr Who fans are a particular bred - they like to stalk anyone who has ever appeared in the show, in a nice way of course!"
The father-of-three is also set to appear in Channel 4’s upcoming comedy series London Irish - which follows four Irish friends getting into mischief in London and is already attracting a bit of heat, with some even accusing it of racist stereotyping.
But the 47-year-old brushed that off, he said: "It’s brash, it’s provocative but its heart is in the right place. The fact the four people in it are Irish is irrelevant - it’s written by an Irish woman and is based on her life."
Despite the other strings to his bow, stand up comedy is where Ardal O’Hanlon feels at home. He’s just appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival fine-tuning his new live tour, which rolls into Aylesbury on October 11 and High Wycombe on November 24.
"My show tells of how I got into comedy, there’s stuff from my background, the church and things that inspire and annoy me.
"It went down very well in Edinburgh, the Fringe is great for a performer as it is a bit of a hot house and it really makes you raise your game.
"The comedy scene is amazing, it’s incredible. There’s a lot of stuff out there across a wide range of style. It’s very inspiring to see all this stuff [at the Fringe] because a lot of people only see what’s on TV.
"What can happen is you see the people on TV and think ‘I’d better do this or talk about that’, but there’s so much going on and, after doing theatre in recent years, I have become more animated on stage."
So much so he was a coach for a team of ‘wrestlers’ in the spectacular Fringe show, The Wrestling. Masterminded by former pro wrestler and writer Max Olesker, it pitted weedy funny men against man mountains.
But don’t expect to see Ardal changing careers to throw giant men around in a lycra suit anytime soon. He’s happy telling jokes.
He said: "It was way out of my comfort zone and it had a huge production value but it was amazing to be part of that. I’ve had two slipped discs in my time so you won’t see me in the WWE.
"Comedy is my first love; it has been the thing I have always done. It’s more than a job, it’s a way of life and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else."
Ardal O’Hanlon plays the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on October 11 - visit www.aylesburywatersidetheatre.co.uk for ticket information - and the High Wycombe Town Hall on November 24- go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk
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