Talking with Dylan Moran can be a sobering experience. This isn't just because he's sober throughout the interview.
The Ireland-born comic is known for his on-stage persona of a slurring, pontificating lush, a chain-smoking, wine-digesting, tortured crank whose stream-of-consciousness rants sound exactly like the sort of absurd, acerbic diatribes you'd get from any drunk in an Irish pub.
But Moran also presents himself as a performer who talks very directly about his directionless (but brilliantly observational) standup style.
"Quite honestly, I don't have a plan," says Moran, 41, on the phone from Milwaukee. "All I can do is just try and talk about what I think is funny or is interesting or is engaging.
"I just cross my fingers and get on with it, you know what I mean?"
Even though he's not a highly recognized import around these parts, Moran has spent most of this year playing theaters in the States. While he's performed in New York and Los Angeles in the past, this is the first time he's hitting cities like Milwaukee, Cleveland, Atlanta and Raleigh, where he'll be performing at the Fletcher Opera Theater on Monday.
"I decided I wanted to find out what it's like, what's out there, what's going to happen, you know," Dylan says of his decision to go deep inside the U.S.
"You can't do research from a desk and imagine what it's gonna be like. You gotta go. So, that's why I go to all these different places. That's why I was in Poland. That's why I was in Serbia. That's why I was in Kazakhstan. That's why I go anywhere."
Whether he's in Serbia or Raleigh, Moran tries to take in the regional flavor, hoping to gauge his audience before each show. (That appears to be what he was doing in Milwaukee during our chat.) "All you can do is really walk around and talk to people and try and get some picture of what it is that you are in for in the local environment," he says.
Stateside cult-comedy audiences may recognize Moran from Black Books, the U.K. sitcom he starred and co-created in the early aughts, which Comedy Central briefly aired over here. (All three seasons can be found on Netflix.) In it, Moran played the boozy, misanthropic owner of a struggling bookshop. As that show received awards and accolades back in the U.K., Moran emerged as one of the British Isles' top comics. He released several comedy specials on DVD, which can be found stateside on YouTube. He also co-starred alongside fellow cult funnyman Simon Pegg in the movies Shaun of the Dead and Run Fatboy Run.
Even though Moran is a star in his part of the world, living with his wife and kids in Scotland, he still finds himself—like most Europeans—fascinated by what goes on over here. "We tend to blame Americans for a lot," he says. "I think we hold them responsible for a lot. And, of course, most Americans are getting on with their lives. Even if [Europeans] haven't been there, they have their own preconceptions and they have their own attitudes. Of course, everybody has an opinion about you, because you're the last empire on Earth. So what you think really matters, you know. They don't want their own elections—we want yours."
It's no surprise, then, to learn that Moran is developing another show, one that will have him dissecting both America and the world's view of it. However, what is surprising is that he's developing it for ABC—aka the Modern Family network. "It will be a comedy," he assures. "I hope to god it will be."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Getting on with it."