Two Pint Wonder: The Delightful Owen Dara
It’s rare that LA can offer me something that makes me feel right at home in Ireland again… Owen Dara’s delightful comedy show “Two Pint Wonder,” showing every Sunday in April at the Renegade Theatre in Hollywood, does just that. Dara crafted an extremely charming and, simply put, very funny show about the in and outs of growing up Irish and coming to America. For myself, as a child of immigrants from Ireland, Dara’s comedy possesses a particular type of self-deprecating Irish wit that feels almost nostalgic. Yet, whether you’re Irish or American, this show’s irresistible levity will make you laugh out loud. Dara’s “Two Pint Wonder” reminded me why good live comedy, like good live music, is so engaging and elating to see.
Owen Dara, is a multi-talented writer and performer who has delved in writing, acting, film, and music over the years. He penned White Horses: An Irish Childhood the book and one-man stage show, along with writing, directing and acting in 3-feature films. Meeting Dara was personally inspiring to me, as I saw a man who comes from a similar socioeconomic background as myself, who has consistently driven himself to pursue his creative goals. In our interview, he spoke of a poignant lesson he observed of his artist father during childhood: that “if you hide from your creativity it will seek you out… and drive you painfully into submission.” Dara is an intensely creative and prolific artist who has obviously submitted himself to the creative process body and soul.
View some of the opening night of Two Pint Wonder here.
What was the original inspiration behind this show? How long have you been preparing for it?
I have been working on the show on and off for a couple of years. The inspiration began with a desire to return to stand up comedy. I had been on a hiatus from stand up for a number of years, and even though my previous one-man show (based on my childhood) had some comedic elements, it also had its fair share of drama. Once that show had run its course, I really wanted to go back to making people laugh.
You are so multi-talented, what is your creative process like? How do you choose which medium (film, comedy, music) you are going to create with on any given day?
I generally have a single project at any given time that I make a priority. Initially it is inspiration that guides me to create within a particular medium–I’ll get a strong urge to write a song, or I’ll come up with an idea for a scene in a film or a bit for a show–and that is when the creative process is most exciting because I love working with fresh ideas. Once I have started, I will work nonstop on that one idea until I feel I have brought it to life to the best of my ability. That doesn’t mean that I will have finished with it; it just means that I will have reached a point where I cannot bring the idea any further along without first gaining perspective, which is usually my cue to begin working on an entirely different project. This “new” project may in fact be new, but more often than not it’s something that I had put aside some weeks or even months before in order that I might gain better perspective on that. I always do several drafts of everything I create, continually revisiting each project until I am sure that there is nothing more I can do to make it better. I find that the further along I get with a project, the more discipline I have to exercise through the process of bringing it to life. It’s as if inspiration initially brings me a gift in the form of an idea, guides me through the early shaping of that idea, and then sits back and demands that I work tirelessly in order to prove myself worthy of having received it.
If I have a deadline, I will continually push through a particular project, regardless of how much perspective I lack or what inspiration is telling me to do. As every artist knows, that is when the creative process is the most difficult.
This show is, in part, a comical look at about being an immigrant from Ireland in the US. Is there any cultural issue you’ve encountered that you did not include in the show… like anything that you couldn’t find humor in?
My experience as an immigrant has generally been very positive. People make fun of my accent sometimes, but I don’t take offense. While writing a comedy show, I try to find humor in all elements of my life, but of course that’s not always possible. That’s probably why I create through other mediums, too.
Why did you originally choose to move to the US?
Coming to the US had been a dream of mine since my early teens. I first came when I was 20 years old and found some work as a car mechanic and house painter. It was my first time living away from home, and it was a wonderful adventure. Unfortunately, I had to leave after about 6 months because I had limited time on my visa. I tried to get a work permit, but was refused. Over a decade later, while living in Australia, I heard that the US government was holding a green card lottery, so I entered and got selected. I had great memories of the time I had spent in California, so moving here seemed like an obvious choice. I miss Ireland sometimes, and I would like to be closer to my family, but moving to the US is a decision I have never regretted.
Have you had any American or Irish people respond to the show in unexpected ways?
Whenever I do a new comedy show, I always find some unexpected reactions. I generally have a good sense of where the laughs should come, but when I perform it for the first time, I’m often surprised to find laughs in places I didn’t expect. Whenever I find places where the laughs are not as big as I expected, I either rework the material or drop it altogether. With any comedy show I do, I try to make it as accessible as possible to people from both sides of the Atlantic. There are always some stories and jokes that are more popular with one culture than another, and sometimes I can actually guess where someone is from by how they react to a particular joke compared to how they might react to another. An example of this was on opening night of Two Pint Wonder. There was an Irish couple in the front row of the theatre that I noticed would sometimes nod their heads in recognition as I told a story from my childhood, and at some points, they even started laughing during the set up of a joke, simply because their journey had been so similar to mine. The Irish and the American humor definitely have their differences, but there is also a lot of common ground, so when creating a show that I know is going to be attended by people from both sides of the Atlantic, I try to bridge the gap as much as I can.
My father was an artist. During my early childhood, he made his living as a potter and also spent a fair amount of time writing. I observed at a very early age the satisfaction he gained from creating a piece of pottery or writing a story, and I later observed how challenging his life became when, for financial reasons, he was forced to put his energies into a profession that worked against his artistic nature. He never stopped being an artist at his core and always maintained a keen ability to see beauty in the simplest things, like a piece of driftwood he would bring back from the seashore or an old stone he would pick up from the foot of a hill. The most important lesson I learned from him was that creativity is not about money or recognition, but about self-expression. If you are an artist, then you are an artist and that’s all there is to it. If you hide from your creativity, it will seek you out and punish you, and if you defy inspiration, it will turn its forces against you and drive you painfully into submission.
That’s the way it was with my father, and that’s the way it is with me. I’m very grateful to have had him in my life, and it is through having known him that I gained a better understanding of myself.
As an artist, do you feel more American or more Irish?
At this point, I would have to say Irish. Even though I now call America home and live an American life, my mind tends to drift across the ocean whenever I create. My book and my first one-man show are exclusively about my Irish childhood, and even though my current comedy show was inspired by a lot of my experiences in America, a portion of it covers parts of my childhood as well. Also each of the three feature films I have written and directed is set in Ireland. This was not a conscious choice in the beginning, but for some reason each of the stories I came up with seemed to work best in an Irish setting. A lot of people tend to revisit their childhood during times of creativity, and for me that just happens to be a different country.
When you set out to pursue a creative career, did you ever expect to be at this particular place and time (with this show, and having done all that you have done up to this point)?
There were always a lot of creative avenues that I wanted to pursue. From an early age, I had a desire to become a singer/songwriter and also dreamed of working in film. I had never imagined myself as a stand up comedian, but then when I started doing it, I fell in love with the process. After several years of doing it, I began to lose inspiration, so I directed my focus towards other creative endeavors. I always knew that I would go back to stand up again, but I didn’t know when. To be honest, it was a much longer hiatus than I expected, but I think the long break has turned out to be positive because it has given me perspective and provided me the opportunity to fall in love with the process all over again.
You’ve written a book, film, recorded a CD, produced this show… Where are you going next in your creative journey?
After I finish the current run of “Two Pint Wonder” I will have to devote my energies to the postproduction of my new film (“Thou Shalt Not Steal”). I will be doing a lot of the editing and scoring for the film and will also write and record some songs for the soundtrack. I’m hoping to also find time to write and perform, but I know that the film will take up most of my energy. After postproduction has been completed, I’m not sure what the next project will be. I have an idea for a TV pilot. Maybe I’ll work on that.