First Published November 2019
TRUMP, SEX, & DEATH
Whatever’s going on in your life right now, do yourself a favour and get along to see DES BISHOP when he brings his brand new show, TAKE THE POINTS, to the Tullamore Court Hotel on November 30th. I had the pleasure of catching his Maynooth performance a few weeks back and here’s what I can assure you: If all is great in your world right now, spending some time with Des will make it even better. And if things aren’t turning out exactly how you’d like them to right now, an evening in his company will set you on a course to somewhere much closer to where you want to be. Because nothing is as good for the soul as laughter, and few comedians out there can make people laugh as hard, or for as long, as Des can.
In Part 2 of our chat, the subject turned to a certain Mr. Trump, as it so often does these days. And more specifically, how a huge part of the problem with everything to do with Trump is the people who support him – both in terms of voters and the Republican party – because he couldn’t do any of what he has done, or is doing, were it not for those who enable him to do so. So, taking a show like Love Island and linking it to Trump because they’re both so incredibly fake, and lacking in any kind of substance, but yet, some people love them, I asked Des if he thinks this shows that, even in this day and age, it’s still so incredibly easy to manipulate people?
“Yeah, people can be manipulated, that’s for sure. However, Love Island doesn’t claim to be anything other than light entertainment. Some people take it seriously, yeah, but that’s part of the fun of it, right? But it’s not pretending to be anything other than a dumb show with good-looking people on an island. Whereas Trump is the leader of the largest economy in the free world. So the whole world kind of relies on him. But I do get what you’re saying about people being manipulated easily. At the same time, there are very intelligent people that love Love Island, but they’re intelligent enough to know that this is their guilty pleasure. But they’re still up on world affairs as well! [laughs]. The reality is that Trump is tapping into peoples’ real fears and hates. People have hated immigrants for centuries. He’s tapping into some dangerous stuff that has been effective for leaders over the years, but it usually ends badly! When you tap into that nationalistic, anti-immigrant vote – which is out there – it tends to not finish well. That’s what he’s doing.”
Des lost his mam earlier this year, but he’s remembering her through the new show he’s working on for next year…
“It’s going to be a little bit more like ‘My Dad Was Nearly James Bond’ [than just a regular stand-up comedy show]. Except it’s probably less of a narrative journey than that was. It’s really…a lot of stand-up about funerals! [laughs]. I guess if it was D’Unbelievables, it would be D’Funeral! [laughs]. They might have even done that! Well first of all, my mother was an interesting character, it’s a little bit about her, and anxiety. She was actually a little bit of a crazy mom, to be honest with ya. Quite the character, none the less, but probably not the mother of the year, ya know. So I get to have some fun with her as an individual. And I get to have some fun with death. ‘My Dad Was Nearly James Bond’ was about nursing my father. It was nearly a tribute to him. And this is very much a tribute to my mother, but it’s very honest about the complicated character that she was. Like, with my dad, at the funeral, it was unanimous. Everybody was like, ‘Your dad was such an amazing guy.’ With my mom, a lot of people came up and they’d say stuff like, ‘She was formidable!’ [laughs]. They were very different characters! It’s a bit of craic about my mom, with a lot of funny stuff about funerals, and just dealing with ‘the end’, ya know. Which everybody deals with. And listen, the show doesn’t shirk from the emotions of loss. The final third of the show is a little bit more stylised, there’s more performance in it, possibly some props, and there’ll definitely be video throughout the whole show. I have a theatrical idea for the final third of the show, but I do have to practise that and make sure that it works. But that’s o.k, because there’s two and a half months to go. I’m way ahead of schedule compared to other shows, because I did run about thirty minutes of material about my mom immediately after she died, at the Melbourne and Sydney Comedy Festivals. The stand-up kinda wrote itself. There was just a lot of funny stories about my mom dying and dealing with death. It wasn’t about grief, it was about death. I mean, I wasn’t even grieving yet, I was still in f*&king shock.”
Des continued, “And by the way, when I talk about my mother being a crazy, complicated character, I kinda use my mother to mirror myself. So really, it’s a lot of jokes about me, and my quirky nature. And about anxiety, too. That’s the other part of the show that I haven’t written yet. That’s been sort of a late-term realisation that I probably have had anxiety my whole life! My mother, DEFINITELY had anxiety her whole life! [laughs]. I’ve never taken anything [medication] for anxiety, but it’s clear as day that it’s there. So I make some jokes about it. I called it ‘Mia Mamma’ because I didn’t want it to seem like I was being negative, but I did have the potential title of ‘Unnecessary Chaos’ because if we were to describe our childhood, I think me and my brothers would be unanimous in calling it…unnecessary chaos! Certainly, there was a lot of stress that just didn’t need to exist. I mean, I know raising kids is hard. I now see other people raising kids and I realise there just isn’t as much stress in a normal house as there was in ours! [laughs]. But the great thing about that is that when you talk about it, a lot of people have had that experience. My mother was Irish-American, and there was a lot of Irish things goin’ on, mainly that she was the child of alcoholics, bad alcoholism. I think a lot of Irish people can identify with the dysfunctional upbringing, the lack of emotional nurturing, passive-aggression, non-directness…, ya know [laughs]. Trying to navigate and make sense of very complicated emotions. Which, possibly, maybe the youngest generation of Irish aren’t dealing with in the same way. I think a lot of people will identify with that, too. And obviously people who’ve been through the loss of their parents, and their grandparents. I mean, it’s not the same, but I would never belittle it. I lost all my grandparents, but I was only close to one, my grandmother. And that was sad, but it’s different, like. But anything can be funny, so I think people will appreciate the humour. Women joke about their periods, I find it f&*king hilarious but I’ve never had a period, ya know what I mean?! [laughs].”
When did Des and Katie Boyle, his co-host on their podcast The Shift, realise there was enough material in that particular subject – sex, dating, etc – to warrant exploration through a whole series as opposed to something that might just have been a once-off show?
“Well, first of all, I had the Des Bishop podcast, which was great, but…it’s a lot of work! I faltered the first time, which was the big mistake. I should have never faltered the first time, I shouldn’t have let it slip because it was going great-guns. But I got lazy, I hold my hands up. Got lazy, it was a lot of work. I got it goin’ again the second time, but it never had the same momentum. Podcast listeners hate when ya f&*king fade on them! And getting guests was a pain in the ass. I started to try and do it on my own, but that was tough, too, and it faded again. I didn’t want it to, but it did. But that time it just kinda happened, and eventually it was just like, it had gone on too long. So I said to myself if I’m ever doin’ a podcast again, I’m getting a partner. But I also thought, ya know, there’s so many comedians just talkin’ to comedians, I want something different. And there’s not a lot of sex/dating podcasts in Ireland, whereas there’s a f&*k-load of them in the States! So I was like twelve months sayin’ I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it…but I wanted to get an Irish woman living in New York. Now I had got to know Katie, but I wasn’t thinkin’ about Katie, because I knew that she was a bit innocent! [laughs]. And she admitted that herself when I asked her. But eventually, I was just like f&*k it, I’m just gonna ask this Katie one. Cos’ I hardly knew her. So we met in Brooklyn, and I was like, listen, I have this idea…And she was like, ‘I know f&*k all about these topics!’ [laughs]. But she said, ‘Look, it will be a journey for me, and I’d be willin’ to try.’ So we did. We were like screw it, let’s try it.”
And that decision proved to be a wise move, as Des explained…
“I did a test one and it got a really positive response, I put it up on the Des Bishop podcast feed. We did a few and I could see that it was going to be tough – in relation to your actual question – because her experience was limited, and also, there’s only so much that you can actually talk about. But it caught a fire fairly fast and people really liked Katie, so I thought, f&*k it, we’ll work it out. And as I expected, it does broaden out. I mean really it’s a sex and dating podcast, but it’s also a cross-generational podcast, cos’ Katie is a millennial and I’m a Gen X. It naturally just found itself talking about some mental health stuff as well, which will probably come up again. And it’s just good craic. You get really strong reactions from people, particularly in Ireland, where people have quite a lot of hang-ups, ya know. And because I’m a little older, we have some older listeners and it’s kind of quite liberating for them, to just realise that they don’t have to be as f&*king uptight about sex. We have twenty-year old listeners, and I think for them, it’s way more natural, they’re way more open talking about sex. If you look at a podcast like It Galz, they’re two Dublin girls that are really open about sex, a little bit younger than me, and they have a HUGE following among young women. And you can see that that group of young women in Ireland just have a completely different attitude to sex than when I was that age. I think that’s quite positive. The Shift is slightly less irreverent than It Galz, and also tries to be a little more on the educational side. But that’s partially because I feel like we – and our listeners – are looking for that.
Des believes that for the Gen Zs that listen to The Shift, and the Gen Zs that listen to other podcasts like It Galz, it’s more about identification and reassurance…
“Which I hope they’re getting that from ours too. I mean, we get some great emails from people that have had real results. There was one woman who had never had an orgasm with another person, and [that changed] only from us basically saying you just have to tell the guy you’re with what you like. Just tell him what you want him to do. And she was like, ‘I never thought I could do that.’ That’s such a basic bit of information! I’m a comic, and Katie’s a comic, with limited experience really, in terms of sex advice! [laughs]. And yet, that simple thing can have this huge effect. It just goes to show you that if two randomers just burst out a fact like that and it has a real effect on someone’s life, like, Ireland has not had enough openness around sex. That’s basically evidence. And it’s unfortunate in a way that some people are like, oh, that’s kinda dirty, that podcast you’re doin’. When really, it isn’t. It’s relationships. Most people are in relationships. A lot of it is about dating. A lot of it is about life. Just normal life.”