Sean Hughes: Noises Off

Sean Hughes

Sean Hughes: back at Kilburn's the Tricycle


By David Hennessy

The Dublin comedian Sean Hughes is recognisable to many from his stint as a team captain on Never Mind The Buzzcocks or his roles in The Commitments, Coronation Street and Round Ireland with a Fridge. However, it was stand-up comedy where Sean first made his name, appearing on the London circuit as early as 1987 and becoming the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Perrier Award in 1990.

His latest show Life Becomes Noises sees the comedian deal with the death of his father. Widely acclaimed for its laughs and heart, Sean brings the show to The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn in the coming weeks and tells the Irish World, it’s a run he is particularly looking to: “I love the venue. I haven’t done a run there before, I’ve done the odd benefit over the years but I purposely asked for that one, we managed to get it so I was really happy about it with its Irish background.”

Everywhere you look, you will find positive reviews for Life Becomes Noises. Has Sean been pleased with the response? “Yeah, it’s the first show where no matter what mood I’m in, I just adore doing the show because the reaction I get kind of goes beyond a comedy show and people just feel quite thankful for it. It’s a very funny show but it’s letting people deal with their emotions which I think people really want to in this day and age. There’s moments where I pull on your heart strings but not in a sentimental way and I always bring it straight back with a joke.

“I put so much work into it that the rhythms have worked and that’s more by luck than judgement. It’s very easy to write: ‘I’m gonna put a sad bit here and have a funny bit here…’ It doesn’t work that way as a writer. I started doing it properly in Edinburgh in August but I’d done a year’s work prepping before that. The next show I’m going to do in three months, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

Sean first told the Irish World about Life Becomes Noises over a year ago. Was it intended to be catharsis in his grief? “I don’t think it ever really was therapy. My comedy has always very much been about what happens in my life. I couldn’t ignore the fact that my father died and then rather than just do it as a routine, I thought: ‘It’s actually a much bigger subject’. I guess any writing is therapy in a sense but I decided I wanted to do a whole thing because there were too many facets to talk about and I needed to give it breathing space to make it real.

“I don’t find it cathartic but I love the joy. My relationship with my father is over, the show is very much about the living, that’s the whole thing. People say it’s about death but it’s about living. It’s the one thing that makes us all equal, we’re all gonna die. No matter how unjust the world is, this is the way it’s going to pan out. It’s a given we’re all gonna die, let’s just get on with it and live it. The show is very much for people who realise these relationships are quite precious. It’s looking at the father/son bonding which is a universal relationship.”

Sean is able to express himself in ways that not everyone can. Does he get people thanking him after the show for communicating feelings they didn’t know how to express? “Very much so but I don’t really hang out looking for those comments but there is twitter and the like. I remember one particular reviewer in Exeter. I think her dad had died a year before so she wasn’t really looking forward to the show. Then she really loved the show and at the end, she went home and had a little cry about her dad but crying for joy. The show at the end is just uplifting.”

Was evoking a wide range of emotions from tears to laughter always Sean’s intention? “There’s no problem mixing those two up. I do feel like I just hit lucky with this one in that sense. Some people will just see it as a comedy show. When I wrote the show, the reaction I wanted was- I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that play Death of a Salesman. I wasn’t looking forward to it, a friend dragged me along and at the end, all I wanted to do was ring my dad and tell him ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, I love you’ because we just forget to tell people we love them. I want people to have a good night and rather than going out and saying ‘that was a good night’ what tends to happen is people will cherish their relations and realise how easily things that we take for granted can be taken away from us.”

Sean sees the feel good factor as something that is very much lacking in a lot of today’s comedy: “People have forgotten, yeah it’s all about having a laugh, but comedy’s supposed to make people feel better about themselves. You go to see a bit of comedy and you might have a good time but it doesn’t make you feel any better about yourself and I think a lot of comedy’s forgotten that’s what it’s about. I think they’ve forgotten the joy element of it. It’s all very well having a bit of a laugh but you leave the theatre and that’s the end of it you don’t think about it anymore. I think good comedy should put a little glow in your heart for a while afterwards.”

For the full interview see the print edition of the Irish World 

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