THE NEXT CHAPTER
The man who gave Black Books a cult following has some strong views about today’s hyper-connected world and what it’s doing to the next generation
There’s something nostalgic about the sight of Dylan Moran. The tousled hair and, let’s say, dad-bod seem to predate the manscaping and gym-going aesthetic that have afflicted so many males of his generation (he’s 43).
The cigarettes are gone, but he still has a glass of wine on stage. You probably won’t find him glued to an iPhone.
Off the Hook, the title of his current tour – which heads to the Gold Coast next week – harks back to the old kind of phone and speaks defiantly to the need to be constantly connected, always available.
“My son’s only a child but he’s already pining for predigital days, because he’s so bored by the zombie-like effect it’s had on everybody,” Moran says.
“He said the other day, ‘When I think of fun I think of my phone, and that seems creepy’, and he’s only a child.”
Moran’s comedy series Black Books, in which he played the gruff, customer-unfriendly, modernity-resistant owner of a ramshackle bookshop, now looks positively sepia-toned. Times were already changing when he started making it, with co-stars Tamsin Greig and Bill Bailey, in 2000.
“It became clear by the last series (in 2004) that all of that world was becoming like a set that was being taken away and something else was coming in,” he says. “The digital revolution.” A big reader in his youth, he says even he reads differently now – “there’s no time for long fiction” – and that it must be almost impossible nowadays to be the kind of child who is always sunk in a book.
“In rural environments children are probably going to be fine. But if you’re an urban kid, you’re in the middle of a pinball machine already; so to have the motherboard add another layer means you’re in a popcorn machine inside a pinball machine. I don’t see how you’d have the serenity of the hour or half-hour you’d spend with a book available. (A book) is your little boat and your oars and you’re off into the sea of your imagination. But now it’s like opening the wardrobe and it’s Narnia – the world just goes on and on.
“When we opened the wardrobe there were three things in there you could try to amuse yourself with that particular day. Maybe I’m a simple person but I find the choice completely overwhelming, so God knows how a young
person finds it ... I think it’s (expletive) crazy, to be honest, I don’t see how it does anybody any good.
“And we’re still learning how to handle it, and we’re nowhere near finding out how to handle it yet.
“If you’re eating junk food eventually you get to the bottom of the bag, or if you’re drinking you pass out. But this stuff, it’s a little hammer on your endorphin release system – the little buzz you get from feeling connected – you can go on all day and night with that stuff.”
Dylan Moran heads to The Arts Centre Gold Coast.