Danny O’Brien is genial stand-up, although the standard for geniality in comedians is pretty low. He isn’t wilfully negative or aggressive, possibly because his material is too middle-of-the-road. Still, O’Brien’s pleasant, engaging manner is refreshing. While not all his jokes are startlingly original, he’s got some very amusing bits and appears to genuinely enjoy interacting with the crowd.
He may be a youngish comedian, but O’Brien is worth seeing for those who enjoy traditional stand up.
Back to Hills has a vague theme – Danny returns to his childhood home in the hills of Wicklow, Ireland after a bad breakup. He moves in with his granny and sets about writing new material for the Edinburgh Fringe. The set opens with a slideshow showing the green hills of his Irish home and Danny’s various attempts to emulate his hero and fellow Wicklow native, Daniel Day Lewis. This is a pretty decent opening and sets up the best and freshest part of the set - Danny’s anecdotes about small town life and his eccentric grandmother’s antics. O’Brien is at his strongest when he goes for personal, unusual topics, such as his granny’s term for breakfast cereal.
The second half of his set is less inspired - O’Brien still attempts to make things personal by relating them to various anecdotes from his life and travels, but the jokes centre around general, overdone topics, such as the Scottish referendum and strained Irish/English relationships. O’Brien’s warm stage presence never falters, but there isn’t much new humour on offer here. Also, on this particular night he played extensively to a stag party seated in the back row—while the jokes about female anatomy were framed in a self-deprecating fashion, they still came across as a bit tired and uncomfortable.
This stand-up set is mostly enjoyable, though, and O’Brien’s overall lack of bile is exceptionally pleasant. While his set may not be the most original in form or content, O’Brien’s sections on family life in Wicklow are solidly funny. He may be a youngish comedian, but O’Brien is worth seeing for those who enjoy traditional stand up.