Poking Fun; Comedian Dara O'Briain Finds the English a Bit Odd, Says Alison Jones

The Birmingham Post (England), May 13, 2010 | Go to article overview

Poking Fun; Comedian Dara O'Briain Finds the English a Bit Odd, Says Alison Jones


Byline: Alison Jones

Contrary to inflammatory headlines in the more conservative press we are not a nation besieged by knife-wielding, trouserdropping, ASBO-holding youths or benefit-blagging, job-dodging asylum seekers.

We are, however, a nation that likes a laugh, though our favourite target is usually ourselves. We are nostalgic for some Utopian moment in history that quite possibly never existed and pessimism seems to have become our default position.

At least these are some of the conclusions drawn by Irish comedian Dara O Briain, who has found himself championing the English after carrying out an impromptu survey on national characteristics while on his last tour, recording his findings in his book Tickling the English.

"A kind of striking feature of the media over here is that there are those who will profit from basically depressing the hell out of people," he explains. "We don't really have that industry in Ireland, of people telling us how bad the country is.

"But it's a stance that is very difficult to argue against because English people just won't hear it if you say things are fine, things are grand.

"In the first debate Cameron made some points about how the cancer remission rates in this country are worse than those in Bulgaria. The fact is people live longer here and they have to die of something.

"You're the only country in the world that would take pushing back the Grim Reaper and treat that news with the headline 'Pensions Timebomb'.

"That says everything to me about this country, you cannot see the upside about stuff, publicly anyway." He feels that young people get a particularly rough ride. This, he believes, is due to natural generational misunderstanding combined with an overreaction to hyperbolic headlines.

"They are treated as though they are happy slappy morons who all get As in their exams," he says indignant on their behalf. "It gets to the stage where if you meet someone with their 18-year-old and they are polite and charming, you are tempted to go 'How did you do that? You managed to weave him through this nightmare of British youth'.

"Irish people talk up young people. We are always talking about how great they are, whereas in England you talk them down.'' Not that Dara is joining in the criticism of his adopted homeland - he lives in London with his wife and daughter - which he believes is best suited to his chosen profession. …

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