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Dara does not do regret

'I'VE done two interviews already today, and both times they've asked, 'What regrets do you have?'," Dara O'Briain sighs.

Out of context, it may seem like a slightly random question to put to the 34-year-old Irish funnyman. But, take into account he is hosting a brand new show Turn Back Time, in which he invites famous faces to talk about the moments in their life they would change, and suddenly things fall into place.

In fact, it is a poser I'd been intending to put to him too.

"Of course you were," he laughs. "That's the sensible question. I'd ask it, for God's sake. But I can't come up with anything.

"There's no one thing where I go: 'You know what, I would change that'," he continues. "I'm not hugely into regret."

And that really does seem to be the case. Always affable and laid-back, O'Briain seems to take life at his own pace.

"If something goes wrong, at the time I just tend to go: 'God, that was a stupid decision, but what's happening now?' And I do something else instead. I'm fairly stoic about things not working out, because in my career I'm constantly in the situation of, 'Got that job, couldn't get that job,' and it's a fairly dynamic kind of thing."

As such it seems that if there was one thing he could change about his life right now, it would be to come up with a better answer to this 'regret' question.

"I said I wished I'd danced more to the person who was interviewing me this morning," he chuckles, "and they jumped on it. 'Oh God, really?'. Er, I didn't mean that seriously.

"Basically, this show is a comedy and we've got people on like Phill Jupitus, Vic Reeves and Johnny Vegas, where they throw an idea, I knock it back, then they knock it back and so on. It is biographical but it can also be nonsense.

"With Barry Humphries it actually became more like a living obituary. We were jumping continents as he talked about himself.

{How it was growing up in Australia and how he reacted against that. Things in London with the Establishment Club and Peter Cook. And on to finding success in America with Dame Edna. So sometimes it becomes This Is Your Life, but with bullets in the gun." For O'Briain, it gives him the rare chance to play the role of interviewer.

"I admit, in the first couple of shows I was finding my feet," he says, "and it was kind of, 'How does this work?' "

Nonetheless, he has been able to bring his experience of appearing as a guest on panel and chat shows to bear.

"I know from being the interviewee, nothing drives you more insane than a host who doesn't listen. You're talking and the other person waits for you to finish so he can read out the next question on his piece of paper.

"It doesn't happen that often, but it used to really drive me mad. I know a couple of TV hosts who are famous and still hanging around who, while you're talking, are looking down to see what the next question is.

"I know they're not even listening to a word I'm saying. If I suddenly introduce an elephant into my answer for no reason, they won't even respond! 'Oh, right, yeah, so anyway, how did you first get into comedy?' they'll say. What, are you not even going to ask about the elephant? So I'm listening to every word my guests say, looking for anything I can make a joke from."

When he's not on television, O'Briain is out on the road, playing to bigger and bigger audiences as a stand-up comic. He is famous for picking on people in the crowd for comedic potential, but concedes some find this practice a bit uncomfortable.

HE admits: "It's awkward, yeah, and I do a lot of it. But it offers something you know will not occur at any other gig. It means the audience are getting a show that no other night on the tour will get, because it includes references to people who came along on the evening.

"Plus, they also get the chance of seeing me doing what is in some ways a party trick, but which a lot of people still appreciate - working off the cuff.

"But some folk do think it's victimising people in the audience. The thing is to do it in as warm a way as possible so you don't alienate anyone. However, there are times when you see someone in the front row going: 'Oh my God, I'm going to be next'.

"I should probably put people on notice generally that in my shows it is an enormous part of what I do."

And regrets? I give him one last chance at mustering up something half-decent to tick the box.

"I've been learning to drive," he muses, "and I suppose I regret not doing my driving test earlier. That, and learning to cook.

"These are all the things I should have done before now. Can't cook, couldn't drive, what a mummy's boy I was." Then he suddenly explodes in mock outrage.

"Ah, this whole show is a crock," he rails. "Why did I do it? It's just an excuse to get into the studio and tell a lot of jokes. It's not the psychologist's chair."

Wednesday's opening show in a series of six, features former Python Terry Jones, who reveals his allergy to kissing men with moustaches and explains why he regrets the Spam sketch.

• Turn Back Time, BBC Two from Wednesday, 10pm

The life of o'briain

Real name: Dara O'Briain

Birthdate: February 4, 1972

Significant other: "I never talk about that for a number of reasons"

Career high: Hosting Have I Got News For You to huge critical acclaim Career low: The first run of Mock the Week was not judged an unqualified success Famous for: His warmth, and sharp wit Words of wisdom: On Hosting Turn Back Time: "It is a difficult thing. There's no autocue and you can't hide behind a couple of panellists and let them take the strain."

 
 
 

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