Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: We catch up with actor and comedian Conor Grimes

By Simon Fallaha

The Co Tyrone-born actor, playwright and comedian (46) is currently taking to the stage in Big Telly theatre company's One Sandwich Short Of A Genius at The MAC, Belfast.

Q: What attracted you to this new play then?

A: It is utterly original. Creators Zoe Seaton and Shelley Atkinson have workshopped this play based on a premise that in every paragraph or half page, something wholly unexpected must take place. It's about a dysfunctional family trying to come to terms with a father who has walked out on them.

My character is called Real Dad - he's the only "real" person in a crowd of manic oddballs, and he's the reason why they're that way!

Q: Did you pick up the performing bug from your parents, and do you think you've passed it on to your kids?

A: My father was a businessman, and my mother a housewife. However, both my grandfathers were extroverts. One was involved with Co Tyrone's Primroy Players in their early days and the other was a very mild-mannered entertainer and jokester. So it's probably in the genes.

But I do hope I haven't passed it on to my three lads. Still, why would you become an actor unless it's a passion you can't help? Everything's very unpredictable: one moment, you're hot, the next, you're not, and when you're not hot, you'll be hot sometime again.

Q: You once provided the "actor's voice" of Gerry Adams on news reports during the Troubles. How do you look back on that today?

A: The interesting thing is that Gerry Adams has a really deep voice and I don't. So for me to do his voice was an anomaly in ways, though I think that's what the BBC wanted. They didn't want a mimic. I'm actually amazed that it even happened, that I had such access to a world I'd never experienced before: the BBC newsroom, in all its then chain-smoking glory. You could almost do a movie about it.

There was so much drama going on around the ceasefire, in and out of the newsroom, and I was part of it, as a young actor who'd just finished university, earning the money that would help me fend off doubts about whether or not a career could exist for me in Belfast.

Q: What inspires you most in your work?

A: Every happening and every little nuance about the way people walk, talk and behave every single day. James Joyce once said that he never met a bore, and I empathise, because I find boring people really funny!

In a recent play we gave one of our characters a really drippy way of speaking, like not moving his mouth or lips when he talked; and the slower and duller he was, the more hilarity ensued.

Q: What's your proudest achievement with writing partner Alan McKee?

A: The History Of The Troubles (Accordin' To My Da), without doubt. It's serendipitous in so many ways. We'd been writing a few sketch shows, and one night, playwright and now-producer Martin Lynch came up to us and said, "You're nearly as funny as me, do you want to do something together?"

Q: Where are you happiest, writing or performing?

A: In one way, writing. There's less pressure. Me and Alan have great fun, but in the rehearsal room, it all starts getting serious, and on stage it's do or die.

  • One Sandwich Short of a Genius is at The MAC, Belfast, tonight and tomorrow, before going on tour around Northern Ireland. For dates and venues, visit http://big-telly.com/

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