When Sean Hegarty was listening to a comedy podcast to eliminate working hours the night shift at a nursing home, he could hardly have imagined what a “sliding door” decision would be.
Est-forward 14 years and Lurgan Man has built up a stellar reputation as one of the brightest and funniest comics in the country.
And not only that, but a career change would result in he meeting and then marrying fellow Joker and Derry Girls star Diona Doherty, with the couple welcoming a child into the world last year.
So with a life-changing move into the often uncertain and sometimes fickle world of stand-up and showbiz, it helps that Sean has a rough skin to cope with.
But he acknowledges that it is nevertheless regularly tested by the abuse that he and fellow personalities face on social media, including his wife and co-stars from BBC Northern Ireland’s new series Dry Your Eyes, only a few days ago.
Sean (38) said: “We looked at Dry Your Eyes and when it was over, I said straight to Diona, ‘Well done, this is really, really fantastic, that’s square’.
“Once we had an awkward conversation about it, she went on Twitter – and Twitter is just a cesspool of crap.
“People who are negative… I mean, you don’t even need to verify your account, you can create a profile in 10 seconds and go ahead and tweet whatever you want.
“It’s really a cesspit and I hate even the thought of going to Twitter. I’m on social media but only for work, I’m because of the job I’m in, otherwise I’m a very private person .
“You get weird clampets, but people are going to slag you no matter what you do, and the more successful you are, the more you have to stick with it.
“But the worst part is that many people think because we do this kind of thing, we encourage people to voice their opinions all the time.”
He said, “I like to do solo shows” – because he draws his audience, who are “in the style of one-liners and comedies that I do”.
Shawn will be able to flex his comedy muscles with a show at The Limelight in Belfast this Friday, where he’ll make it a family affair, with wife Diana on the bill as his supporting act.
His comedy style is similar to that of the likes of Jimmy Carr and Tim Wines – a gag-packed set of one-liners and machine gun delivery of joke after joke.
He quipped: “I’m called a one-minute comedian, but it’s quite offensive because I tell five or six jokes a minute.
“I didn’t really pick that style of comedy, it almost picked me up. When I started doing stand-up, I was much less confident and it was a way for me to laugh within the first 10 seconds, whereas some comedians Make up a story for a minute or two. I like to go straight there and just have a quick laugh.”
Sean cuts his teeth in comedy while honing his craft in his native Lurgan and seems to have performed at every single bar in downtown Armagh—not bad for someone who did as a kid. was introverted.
“I’ve been doing stand-up for 14 years now, but growing up in school I was shy,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “I didn’t want people to know my name, I didn’t want anyone to look me in the eye, so I was very shy.
“It wasn’t until I started working in a nursing home that there were those long overnight hours when I was working the nightshift, and I used to download comedy podcasts and after a while, I Started taking notes.
“And after a while I was like, ‘Here, I can probably do this myself’. I thought I had better material.
“To that I thought, If I can do Empire with five or 10 minutes of material, I can do this — it went well and I did more gigs and it really snowballed.”
He politely says that “so far everything is going well” but this humble assessment is a big understatement.
His credits include appearing on the BBC show Find Me the Funny and Soft Border Patrol as well as making the semi-finals of Ireland’s Got Talent in 2018.
He’s also been an online hit with comedy characters like oddball Rodney and confused coach Decky the Gaffer, as well as a brilliant mastermind skit that went viral a few years ago with host Jon Humphries.
He said: “That’s the good side of social media, when it can be like a shop window for comedians and I think some of them are on the verge of doing great things here around the world.
“I think when that happens, it will be like Dairy Girls for the TV world, it will really put us on the map and show us like Live at the Apollo or 8 Out of 10 Cats, or an American show or Netflix. Special.
“There’s a lot of comedians out there who are on the verge right now and it’s a lottery as to who will be the first one to make such a big jump and succeed on the water. But second one does, I think it will open doors around — Near.
“You can even watch with TV shows like The Tourist at the Minute. Jamie Dornan doesn’t change his accent and that’s great to watch, and even with Dairy Girls. If you’ve had five or six years The first thought would have been a network show set in Derry, everyone would expect subtitles.
“So the more time and energy people give us here, the bigger and better things we can do.”
Sean and Diona, 32, celebrated the birth of their daughter Winter last year, and they have three sons James (18), Charlie (12) and Tom (10) from a previous relationship.
And he agrees that there were a lot of jobs before he rose to fame and now being a father again, it almost feels like he has packed enough twists and turns for two lifetimes.
He said: “I have a little cold now and I have three older boys and I’m 18 and there are kids who are also on social media… they go to school and they get, ‘Rodney’s son hai’ and things like that.
“Being on stage is almost like an out-of-body experience and it’s still something I’m trying to come up with, I really don’t know what forced me to do it.
“I feel like I was born to be different and I feel like I was put on this earth to do something extraordinary, so whether it’s comedy or something to do with comedy, or should I have a future? getting a presenting job… i never thought my dream job would be stand-up, i just fell into it and i’m still doing it but i really can’t put my finger on what i need to do What to do and how am I still doing it.
“I guess it comes down to quitting the day job. Credit to anyone who did this — and every single job I’ve imagined — and I think this is the one for me.”
“We’ll be driving somewhere and we’ll walk past a shop and I’ll say to Diana, ‘You know, I used to work there’.
“And she’ll be like, ‘Jesus Christ, how many jobs do you have’?! I’ve done all kinds of things.
“I definitely feel like I’ve lived two lives – I feel like I should be nearing retirement!”
Sean Hegarty playing The Limelight on Friday (January 14). Tickets are on sale from Ticketmaster.