Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Interview with Mark Dolan - Entertainment Newsline

“I’ve got a proper bloomin’ Hollywood smile now; I’m going to have to drink a few cups of black coffee to balance it out!”; As charming as he is funny, Mark Dolan’s effortlessly likeable nature emanates from him as he tells of his earlier dentist appointment.
Talking of how his career got started as a radio producer after working for free at a woman’s radio station, Viva!, it's clear that Mark’s passion for comedy and broadcasting was something deeply set from the start:

“I have always had a passion for people and entertainment is basically a people industry. Your main job is to hopefully, or at least sometimes, to make the audience have a good time when you’re there and that’s just something I’ve always found incredibly alluring.”

“It started as a desire to have an audience. I’ve always been drawn to a crowd and even though I was also quite a shy child, which is ironic, but also perhaps the reason that people become performers. Sort of a strange mixture of an appetite for attention mixed with shyness, I think is often a formula that leads to a performer.”

Sticking at comedy whilst earning a living from producing, Mark soon made the final of Channel Four’s ‘So You Think You’re Funny?’ at Edinburgh Festival. Being praised by the show’s experienced judges not only helped eradicate some of Mark’s humble uncertainty of his talent, but also was a platform for his long-running relationship with the channel:

“You know when people say that if you get through the semi final of something and you go to the final – you’ve already won - although it’s corny, I think in my case looking back on it, it was true.

“It was the first time in my life when I allowed myself to consider this as a career option. One of the hardest things about live comedy is that when a gig goes well you think you’re a genius and when a gig goes badly you think you’re the least funny person on the face of the earth…And there’s very little that can dissuade you either way. You’re a sort of emotional pinball in the machine that is the will of the audience.”

With a new sense of purpose, Mark continued gigging on the London circuit and soon was approached by two people from the television industry looking for faces for a new channel, E4. From that, Mark got his big break on a new show called ‘Show Me The Funny. Mark went on to make his name whilst presenting Channel Four’s ‘Balls of Steel’:

"Balls of Steel was a big highlight because it is a show that is so passionately loved by its fans and I get so much feedback from people wanting to to tell me how much they are entertained by it. I’m very impressed by the popular response to it."

Before long, Mark got offered the opportunity to present the new 2008 series ‘The World’s Most...and Me’. The show took him all over the world to find some of the most exceptional record-breakers; ranging from the world’s biggest pet, to the world’s smallest man. Although it was his first documentary series, he couldn’t have been keener to get involved:

“I grabbed it with both hands because it didn’t seem like too much of a leap for me. Although tonally different to a lot of the comedy I do, it still amounts to the same thing -which is people. And I’ve said before, I think comedy is a people business and my documentaries are about people and also still about entertaining the audience, as well as informing them. I really relished the opportunity and I was very enthusiastic about the subject matter.”

Having finished the second series, Mark reflects on what working on such innovative programme has meant for him:

“I think it taught me to be very open minded and less judgemental. I’ve often approached stories with a set of views and had to go back on the plane home, feeling very chasten having judged somebody before having met them, which is obviously what the audience and all human beings do too. One of the challenges of the show was to get out there and have my feelings changed.

“The other thing I’ve learnt is about the fortitude of the human spirit, particularly in the first series. Meeting the tallest women in the world, some of whom are extremely poorly, having severe health issues. Indeed, Sandy Allen, who was the tallest woman in the world, passed away a couple of months after the show was broadcast and she, along with a lot of the other physically extraordinary characters I met, had a wonderful mixture of vulnerability and strength.”

The popular series has meant that Mark has met some of the world’s most extraordinary people and visited some of the world’s most remote and unique places. But this has its pitfalls for the devoted dad of one:

“Being away from the family is the only downside of the job really because I am a very hands on and very attached dad. I’m one of these sort of new men that changes nappies and stuff. But it is very affirming about how much I care for them and sometimes, well just put it this way, I don’t think my wife minds a little bit of space…she doesn’t see to be complaining too hard!

“It’s also a great opportunity for me to assess what kind of parent I am and what I should be aiming for as a parent. Meeting the cleverest children in the world certainly showed me that a child’s intellectual potential is infinite and without wishing, from coming back from meeting Adora Svitak, to suddenly give my son a 12 hour academic day, it was hugely inspiring for me as a dad.”

With the latest series coming to an end earlier this month, Mark isn’t ruling out any more convention-breaking programmes for the future, remaining characteristically open-minded:

“I think if my wife can stand it, I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to a bit more globe trotting because I still think there are some amazing stories out there. Luckily we’re dealing with the human race so we could run forever frankly. I’m also looking to continue more live comedy. I’ve got a weekly residency at a comedy club in Soho on Saturdays and looking to expand that and hopefully do a solo show next year.”

Mark's innate ability to make people laugh and make people feel instantly comfortable is no doubt something that has driven his success and is a factor that means an exciting future for one of Britain's most loved funny men and broadcasters.

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