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Circuit Training 65: Jarlath Regan's green card

Jarlath Regan

One comic you won't hear complaining about the horrors of festive gigs is Jarlath Regan. This is the Irishman's first Christmas working the UK circuit, having moved across early in 2013, and just being busy is clearly a joy, given how tough business was back home. Regan was an Irish TV regular but spent a harrowing couple of years sleeping on airport floors to get a decent foothold in the UK, before bringing the family over full-time.

Those experiences have been put to good use. As well as a couple of themed Edinburgh shows, the likeable chap recently picked up an iTunes Best New Podcast Award for An Irishman Abroad, his weekly venture which has already attracted guests like Graham Linehan, Chris O'Dowd and Dylan Moran, as well as a surprising array of figures from other fields, the likes of singer Lisa Hannigan, writer Paul Kimmage and former footballer Tony Cascarino.

Regan has another outlet for his dry wit during the festive season too, a series of outrageous greetings cards (much darker than his stand-up), that he's been selling at gigs, online, then in proper shops for years - in fact I interviewed him about them for Metro in, ooh, 2008? Things have certainly changed since then.

You moved to London earlier this year - had you considered moving before?

When I started doing stand-up in about 2004 I said definitely; that just seemed the obvious thing, you've gotta go. Then you realise what you're up against and I think I got afraid. And things started going well in Ireland.

You did some nice TV there very early on?

That was a three part documentary about going to the Edinburgh festival. It seemed like a lot of money at the time and a great opportunity - in hindsight it wasn't a lot of money and isn't the thing I'm most proud of, but it seemed a big deal, getting a TV show after two years. But there was so much money in Ireland at the time, they were literally not developing TV shows [the traditional way], they were throwing money at them, see if they develop on TV. And that continued for a good while, then dried up fast.

Jarlath Regan

That show sounded useful experience at least, you interviewing big-name comics - is it still on YouTube somewhere?

Ah, I took it down. I talked to Graham Linehan about it recently and he said that there's an urge for a lot of people to put their older stuff up online, but really you only want to be putting the very best of the best on. Less is more sometimes.

Would you have stayed in Ireland if the Celtic Tiger was still healthy?

Who's to say? Certainly there'd have been more money in TV to do things, and probably there would have been more people coming to shows, you could have built your reputation a bit faster and further. But all I know is I was coming to Edinburgh every summer and building an audience there, then going back and forwards to London and getting invited to do things there.

Having built that rep in Edinburgh, you had the odd experience of being well known to us media types and other comics, but having to start from the bottom on the British club circuit. Hence those long periods away from home?

Yeah, I lived in Joe Wilkinson's place for a lot of 2012. Joe would let me stay if I was anywhere nearby: sometimes you'd just find yourself with nowhere to go and I really owe him a debt of gratitude - probably financial as well! Joe's an exceptionally talented man. He was on the other side of it as well, in that he'd thrown himself into stand-up then realised that he wanted to be a writer, so it was great to have a guide who was like 'it's not all about comedy in that way, there's a million ways to pursue it.' And ever since I started I've tried to keep as many plates spinning as possible.

How did the greetings cards come about?

I just used to send them to people who I knew would get the joke. Cards can be so throwaway and thoughtless, but if it's somebody that you really get on with, you share the same sense of humour, you should have the facility to send any joke. A lot of the cards are off-colour, meant as jokes that only certain people would appreciate.

Jarlath Regan's Christmas Cards

When did you start doing them?

This was 2006. I was doing stand-up, and the guy that made them with me, he printed them up as A3 boards and I started to do them onstage one night, a new material night. They went down so well that people wanted to buy them afterwards, and within a couple of performances it became clear that I could sell them. A couple of months later I started bringing them to shows, and you're walking away with no more cards left and money for your petrol home.

It's nice. We've got two published books now. The cards are still primarily sold in Ireland, but next year I hope to get them into shops here, see how they go. But stand-up will always be the main thing.

How do you look back on 2013?

My life's completely changed in the 12 months since I moved over. I've worked really hard, had a couple of lucky breaks, and we haven't looked back. It's definitely going to be a happier Christmas this year.

It's your first experience of the UK circuit at Christmas though - a lot of comics find it traumatic.

I don't buy any of that. I can understand why certain comics aren't suited to those sorts of shows, but for me, this is like taking your stand-up into the broadest marketplace. If you can make those crowds laugh, it shows you whether there's any commercial future for it. I don't like this business of looking down on people, 'Oh, it's a bunch of fucking nutters out there.' They're the people. It's your job to entertain them. And on some level, they're your boss.

I did a function for a mining company last weekend - they're miners! They want to have a good night, and get very drunk, and ideally if someone's set the night up in the right way, the comedy is the perfect complement for it. But this is my first year doing Christmas here. Talk me to me in three years, I'll probably be like 'it's a load of fucking bollocks, Si, forget it, I'm taking December off from now on!' But for now I'm delighted to have it, given the situation that I was coming from.

Jarlath Regan

When I last bumped into you in Edinburgh you were just launching the podcast - quite a success then?

It's been by far the most instantly successful thing that I've ever done, in that we put out three episodes and people wanted to come on board as sponsors, and the listenership was really high right from the start. It helped that Graham Linehan was so giving to get involved in the first one, and that paved the way to ask anybody. A lot of the guests, I'd never met them, and a lot of them, like Dylan Moran, they're hard interviews, but I've probably learned more in these 15 episodes than I've learned in such a short period.

You get some great stuff out of people. It's rare to hear a serious hour-long interview like that.

It is a real buzz, feeling like you've got the interview that nobody else got. I'm really proud of them to be honest with you, it's no easy thing interviewing these guys who are so jaded by interviews, bored of hearing their own voice.

The only problem is, you've hit so many big targets early on, won't you run out of relevant interviewees?

I've got 24 other guests we're actively in the hunt for, and they're big household names: it's a case of finding the time. The nice part of my show is that I didn't limit myself to comedy, and 99 per cent of the interviews are not actually about being Irish.

But people still complain. Someone complained on iTunes recently that there's too many Irish people on the podcast!

For details of all Jarlath's activities visit

Published: Friday 20th December 2013

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