We has Covid to thank for So Where Were We? be a more intimate show than we expect Dara O’Brien. Nothing happened for two years, says the man himself – so he was forced to look inward for material. Intimacy is of course relative: Mock the Week man is not an #oversharer, and even the most confessional tale tonight, of hunting down his birth parents, keeps much of its emotional significance for O Briain under wraps. But that hardly hurts a nice, funny story, in a show that has funny stories to spare.
O Briain establishes his skilled raconteurship straight out of the traps with the tale of his frantic and not particularly dignified return to Britain when the lockdown was declared. His dignity is important to O Briain, he tells us – but only to heighten the comedy of all these stories, where it is repeatedly undermined. There’s the misunderstanding that finds the 50-year-old trying to shoot a free news toilet, or the time he moved around Alton Towers after knee surgery.
O Briain takes the brunt of most of these jokes, though his mother and father also get a look in, as a handful of childhood stories lay the groundwork for what’s to come in the second act. And it’s not just about our host’s self-deprecation. There’s fine crowd work, as always from this source, and some choice joke writing – particularly the one the Wicklow man is rightly proud of, about the disadvantage of only having one testicle.
But the standout routine concerns the adopted O Briain’s efforts to trace his birth certificate (a just then denied him by Irish law) and his birth parents. It’s a set piece you might classify as comedy Kafkaesque, given the obstacles Irish bureaucracy puts in O Briain’s way. But the story also gains impact from being set in the context of his home country’s shameful history of babies being removed, abandoned and sold. If O Briain reserves the privacy of his feelings when the answers are finally unearthed, this remains a poignant tale in a show that proves that introspection is perfectly compatible with O Briain’s standup.