As soon as I hear Ardal O’Hanlon’s voice over the phone I have to bite my tongue. A hundred quotes from one of the best loved TV series of all time come into my head and I have to remind myself that Fr. Dougal Maguire - the wide-eyed priest made famous by O’Hanlon in Father Ted - is not a real person.
Still there is something warm and comforting about talking to the man who still makes appearances on frequent re-runs of the hit series on TV. But does it annoy him that even though the last episode of Father Ted was aired 15 years ago?
“I don’t mind it,” he said - “I think I did for a while, but I loved Father Ted and I have come to realise that I owe an awful lot to that show.
“But I’ll be honest it’s good to get back to where I started with the stand up.”
His stand up has matured as he has - he says himself he no longer delivers material in “a quirky way, like some wide-eyed eejit”.
“I still generally tell stories - and real stories at that about things I’ve seen or experienced - but over all the style of my comedy has evolved.
“People seem to really be taking to comedy at the moment - enjoying that shared experience of hearing something they can relate to. People are looking for a bit of light relief.”
While it has been a long time since O’Hanlon graced our screens in the likes of Father Ted and My Hero, he has remained exceptionally busy. He stepped away from television work for a time (“I was sit-commed out,” he said)- but returned not only to his beloved stand up but also to drama and the theatre.
But he admits stand up is his one true love. “I still get nervous,” he said. “You always do. Just a little. You have doubts about how it going to go down and they stay until you get on stage and things settle down.”
Having last toured in 2010- O’Hanlon says his 2013 tour will be a “marathon” effort - and he kindly says he is looking forward to bringing the show to the Millennium Forum on October 6.
When he asks me “Are you guys still the City of Culture?” I have to use all my will power not to reply “That would be an ecumenical matter, Father.” Fr. Dougal Maguire will always live on.
To book tickets contact the Millennium Forum Box Office on 71264455.