In the weekly cycle of this reviewer Thursday evening is normally a time for collapsing and doing as little as possible.
So walking into Mareel at 7.45pm yesterday to see a stand-up routine felt like an achievement in itself. That I laughed throughout and left with something of a spring in my step is testament to the standard of Dylan Moran’s act.
From his initial attempt at Shetland dialect through to his surreal version of an erotic best-seller Moran’s rambling style endeared him to the sell-out crowd in the main auditorium.
He has been in Shetland before but this was the the first time he’d played to the “North Ness shed”.
Moran seemed impressed with new surroundings. His cynical deduction: “Oooh, somebody slept with somebody on an oil board,” or words, slightly more vernacular, to that effect.
He later returned to talk about the venue and the kind of people he is friends with – writers, painters, actors etc – who would say things like: “I love this ‘space’, it’s so … you know.”
They’d then order a cappuccino, “with no coffee … and no milk”.
Surely there’s none of those folk (what was it Moran called them?) around Mareel.
Away from arty-types, Moran’s act included the customary ribbing of a late-comer followed by a bit of politics. On learning that Shetland was historically Liberal Democrat, his analysis was “well that’s all over now”.
His thoughts on nationalism were coloured by the fact that he is, wait for it, Irish. That was an obvious joke, but it was about the only predictable line in the whole show.
His characterisation of political leaders was cutting and brilliant.
Nicola Sturgeon: “She’s a bit English.”
Ed Miliband: a political experiment that “ran away from the lab”. Surely whoever is behind that particular experiment will end it soon.
David Cameron: “I wear trousers, I have teeth, let’s work together.”
Nigel Farage: “A refugee from a 1970s sitcom.” That brought the first big applause of the night, brushed away by Moran who claimed his ego was big enough.
Sticking with politics he turned his sights on Islamic State who seem to “run a very tight ship”. There are times when some stand-ups try to push the boundaries for the sake of it. But Moran’s jibing of the extremists stayed on the right side of the ridicule versus openly antagonistic fence.
He revealed that he was sick of the news, but had decided which snacks were best suited to which sort of depressing reportage. Thai food goes well to counter the cold, dreary scenes of Ukraine, apparently.
A big chunk of his act focused on theme of family life, which clearly found resonance among the audience. His tales of middle-aged woe, lack of respect from his children, his ludicrous attempts at discipline and why Liam Neeson films are utter rubbish and at the same time comforting, were particularly good.
Moran is one of those truly talented people who can take a seemingly mundane topic and turn it into a gripping routine.
Ranging from the proliferation of beards like “those belonging to Victorian cricketers”, to the ludicrous flavours given to snacks or the explosion of Skandi Noir thrillers he managed to make a connection with the audience time and again.
But some of the best lines came as Moran bemoaned the fact he had put on weight since quitting smoking. Perhaps it’s because my belly is a little larger than optimum, but his assertion that he was only “European fat” was good to hear nonetheless.
The Americans, on the other hand, felt the full force of his venom, along with the admission that he possessed a particular anti-US prejudice.
The line that best summed up that antipathy was his description of an obese American as a “planet with feet”.
What did I say about ridicule and antagonism?