Rising Irish star Al Porter is following up his hugely successful 2015 Edinburgh debut Al Porter Is Yours with a brand new show full of cheekiness, honesty & sparkling showmanship!
Al is a regular contributor on the Irish national broadcaster, RTE Radio and gigs at premier festivals like The Cat Laughs (Kilkenny) and Iveagh Gardens (Dublin). He's recently performed with comedians such as Jack Dee, Jason Byrne and Ardal O Hanlon and he supported UK comic Katherine Ryan on her London tour dates.
His standout performance at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015 led to him landing a coveted slot on the eleventh series of BBC’s Live At The Apollo and at just 23, Al has plenty of gossip and laughs to serve up in this feel good hour full of his trademark council-estate camp!
I didn’t get the chance to see Al last year, but I’m excited about seeing him this year, which is why I wanted to catch up with him for a chat.
What came first? The show or the title?
As you can notice from the title, it can mean absolutely anything! (Laughs) So I’m one of those lazy people who’s like “Give me any title whatsoever and I’ll find out what the show is afterwards!"
This is my second show, so this is that difficult second album show, so last year’s was Al Porter: Is Yours, which was kind of introductory, but this year, At Large, I just knew that I wanted to reference Dave Allen, ands TV show from the seventies called Dave Allen At Large, so then I thought OK, I’ll just do a tip of the cap to that.
And then I knew the new show would include a lot of travel stories because I’d been on a few mad holidays and I’ve been gigging in London more, I felt like I was out and about in the world a lot more, so that what where the idea kind of came from.
But then Jack Whitehall ended up doing a tour in England called Jack Whitehall At Large and I was like “Oh shit!” - now it just looks like I’m referencing Jack Whitehall as opposed to Dave Allen. (Laughs)
Presumably you know what the show is about now. What can you tell us?
As always, I suffer from chronesty, which is chronic honesty, so I’m a real over sharer and I’m always very personal and very conversational. It’s just a catch up with me, so it’ll always be about my family, relationships, dating, sex, religion, holidays, travel, growing up - it’s definitely coming of age, even more so than last year.
If last year was what it was like for a young gay man to grow up in a working class area, this is like what is it like for an adult gay man to live with his parents, aged 23 and struggling with being an actual man! (Laughs)
That little negotiation with still living at home but wanting to bring people back. Still struggling with your career and going for auditions and trying to impress comedy commissioners and making a show of yourself. All that stuff!
How long has the show taken to put together?
Well, when I came home from Edinburgh last year I didn’t start writing a new show because the show I did in Edinburgh I was touring around Ireland, right up until Christmas in theatres and stuff.
And then I took a break because I went into panto which is akin to going into hiding. Whenever I enter pantoland I always say that I hope I’m doing my career in reverse, I’ll start with panto now but eventually I’ll have a successful Eurovision career!
So it was only really in the last six months, that’s why it feels like it’s a really up-to-date, immediate snapshot of my life. Whereas last year’s show, your first show is always - I’ll pick my favourite gags from the last while - this show is definitely me in 2016.
How have the previews been going?
Previews have been great! Yeah, they’ve been really good fun. I had the first preview outside of London last night in the Bloomsbury Theatre, and I’d booked it on a whim and then ending up the other day realising that I’d only sold six tickets. So I was like, well - that’ll prepare you for Edinburgh!
So I put up a Facebook post being like “Friends of London, in a moment of overconfident hysteria, I may have booked a theatre in London”. Now I could say that there’s a handful of tickets left, but that’s not very fair to the six people that have bought them now, is it?
I had a good laugh about that on the radio in Ireland actually and at the end of the day, it’s only a 70-seater space, and we managed to get it up to fifty like, so it was fine. After I did my begging and my call to action appeal!
I’ve done previews in Ireland and what’s been good is that I was worried that turning 23, my life was going to get more serious and therefore the show was going to get more serious, but actually if anything it’s just as silly. Or more silly than it’s ever been!
I’m not a theme person, the only theme that comes with an Al Porter show ever is “Just have fun” - no matter what circumstance you end up in in life, just have fun. So it’s still a really silly fun showbizzy kind of show.
You mentioned chronic honesty earlier, do you find it easy to be so honest with strangers?
Yeah! I love it, because I think that everybody has been through the same shit, or knows somebody who has. Whether it’s one night stands sneaking out and never calling you back again, or going to therapy, that’s in there.
A lot of the times as well I think my stories are relatable and then people are like “You have a really weird life” (Laughs) And I’m like “Is this not relatable?” and they go “No, not everybody wanted to be a priest” or “No, not everybody wanted to sing in a folk band when they were 18” - which is one of the stories in the show and is actually true.
I treat every subject in the show with equal curiosity, equal casualness and it’s just a bit of fun. I assume that people will find it relatable and then afterwards I realise that they’ve just been sitting there looking at me like some exotic creature!
How did you find your first Fringe last year?
I actually found that preparation for the Fringe is panto, because I used to, and still do, four weeks two shows a day, and those would be two hour shows. When I went to Edinburgh, stamina wise I was kind of ready for it and really enjoyed doing so many gigs every day.
It was living on my own that was the struggle, because I don’t know how to cook or clean. The first week I remember going to Karl Spain, the comedian I was living with and ask him what I was meant to wear that night. He was like, “What do you mean?!” and I go “Well, I’ve worn all my clothes” to which he goes “You’re not supposed to bring enough clothes for the month like! You’re supposed yo wash them!” (Laughs)
So I was really childish, but he looked after me. He’s in his forties and he’s like my daddy you know. I really enjoyed all the comedians that I met and bonded over comedy with. I’ve never seen that much theatre or comedy in one space of time so that was really good, and you came home with a better show than you went there with. Usually after reviewers were in!
As an experience, I really enjoyed it, I have to say. Any chance not to live at home for a month is good fun for me.
How did you find the Fringe audience?
I thought they were great because I found myself finding new material by having to over describe things that I took for granted.
For example, in Ireland, I might just go "So anyway, I walking up for communion at mass" - whereas when I was saying that to an audience that was a mix of American, Scottish, English, Dutch - I would find myself saying that and having to explain what communion is.
And when you go through that process of explaining you're kind of looking at things that you used to consider very common, from an alien perspective, and you find that it's very funny.
"So communion is when you go up and get bread that has Jesus in it, but it's not actually bread, it's actually a wafer, and it's not really a wafer, it's more of a cracker..." - and it's just nonsense! They're looking at me like "What the fuck?!"
That was the most enjoyable part of a Fringe audience, and thankfully, last year I didn't get to sell out which is a shame, but it got to about 90% which is really good. So I was really really happy with that.
I just found that they were a proper festival audience and mixed age groups, and I would still encourage mixed age groups to come to my shows because there is a little something for everyone. It's quite cheeky as opposed to being blue. Especially this year, it's even cleaner than ever before.
Are you hoping to see anyone else up there?
Oh yeah! Well I want to catch up with some people I met last year, for example Spencer Jones, I would love to see him because I loved his very silly show last year. It just blew me away and I thought it was complete nonsense.
At Christmas in Ireland I was doing a Christmas Eve variety show TV special. It was a two-hour show from the Olympia Theatre in Ireland and I got Spencer Jones on it! That’s how good I thought Spencer was, that I thought people have to watch you on Christmas Eve in Ireland and be totally confused!
I remember the TV people in Ireland being like “I don’t know, it doesn’t feel very Christmassy” so I was like “When he starts whistling from his belly with the silly faces drawn on it, it’s going to be hilarious and it will make people’s Christmas!"
And it did, he was absolutely amazing. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Spencer.
I obviously want to go over and see my Irish contingent, my Jason Byrne, David O’Doherty and all that. With everything that’s going on this year, the one that’s probably having a freaker is Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho.
I remember journalists telling me that if they were writing for a Sunday paper, the worst thing is when they had a good story on a Monday and watch it disintegrate by Sunday and then they’d have to frantically write something on Saturday. I feel bad for Matthew who does Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho because he’s frantically re-writing as we speak! (Laughs)
I’ve no doubt that he will, but if he does keep it up-to-date with the Theresa May and Brexit stuff, then that’s going to be a very funny show. And it’s very camp and very gay and I love all that!
You recently supported Katherine Ryan on tour. What was that like?
Oh, Katherine was amazing! She’s just such a professional, constantly glamorous - I found myself putting on even more make-up than usual because I felt like I had to compete with Katherine Ryan! (Laughs)
She’s just really supportive and she’s like me, she’s quite gossipy and loves her pop culture and tearing people apart and I just revel in that. I just think she’s going to be around for years and years. I think she’s brilliant and she’s really supportive of me.
I did a show on Channel 5 the other day, It’s Not Me, It’s You and it went really well. I got on with Kelly Brook, I got on with Carol Vorderman who was also on that night and Katherine was texting me telling not to worry and it’ll be great craic, so she’s like my comedy mama.
We both did short films for Sky Arts recently and Katherine messaged me to say that she’s doing one as well so don’t be worrying, you’ll enjoy it. It’s nice to have that sort of support from her even though she’s really busy.
You mentioned It's Not Me, It's You, but do you have any plans for any more TV?
Look, I'm always honest that I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm hoping to do more panel shows because It's Not Me, It's You was really good fun.
I've kind of met the 8 Out of 10 Cats people and done a little audition for them so it would be brilliant if that came through, just to meet the comedians that are on it.
Having done the Sky Arts short, I would love to do another one, I could do a Christmas Cracker or something like that.
I am busy in Ireland because I've got a tour and I've got a radio show on Radio 2 in Ireland and I'm going to be writing for newspapers as well, a few TV shows so there's a lot going on there. But the more I can do over here, the better for me because it's a new challenge. The scale of it is very daunting, it's overwhelming, it's bigger, it's harder and that's fun. Fingers crossed I'll be coming over more and more.
And finally, how would you sum up the show in just five words?
Feel good over honest fun.