Neil Delamere

First Published March 2023

DELAMERIUM TREMORS BECKON

If you’re a comedy fan – and hey, who doesn’t need all the laughs they can get these days?! – then there’s no bigger night of the year than the annual return of NEIL DELAMERE to his home county. The 2023 edition of this gift to the soul is happening this coming Saturday night, March 25th, when the Edenderry man brings his DELAMERIUM tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel. 

CLICK HERE FOR TULLAMORE TICKETS

Ahead of that show, I had the pleasure of catching up with the man himself last week, and I began our chat by offering Neil my congratulations on his recent Celebrity Mastermind victory. Now, Mastermind, of course, in any format, is an iconic show. For that reason, I’m sure Neil was honoured to have been asked to take part. But I wondered if the show’s status might have brought with it a little pressure too? Even for a man like Neil, who could hardly be described as lacking in confidence in any way…

“Yeah, absolutely, it was a huge pleasure [to take part]. I got very excited about it when I was asked to do it. You run through a few options of your specialist subjects, but you know there’s gonna be some degree of homework as well, obviously, to brush up on things. But when you put down the phone and you’ve said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it’, you sit there and you go, ‘Oh, I’d better watch a couple [of episodes of the show], and you do that thing that people always do, you go, ‘Jesus…I wouldn’t have got that right. And I would’ve missed that…!’ [Laughs]. You start seeing the gaps in your knowledge, ya know! You’re like, jaysus, I hope they don’t ask me about UK geography! [Laughs] Cos’ it is a UK show. But I was very excited to sit down and do it on the day. I think the real key to it is, and I was saying this to a friend of mine before, it’s like ya know the kicker in rugby? If you get your first one or two, then you get confident. You relax into it then. Those first two or three questions are really important for everybody. If you get them wrong, you can sometimes spiral, I’ve seen people do that. But if you get them right, you just relax. You start listening to the questions more, you pick up clues in the question, just like being at home [and watching it on tv].” 

Neil’s specialist subject on the show was vikings, something he has a deep store of knowledge on from his 2011 series, The Only Viking In The Village. But even allowing for that, did he throw himself back into research and study ahead of his time in the hot-seat? 

“Oh God, YEAH! Oh 100%! It’s weird, because I was on a list of people who might have been doing the show, and you wait then and it’s well, let’s see how it goes. It was only confirmed relatively late. So I was walking the dog listening to an audiobook about the vikings, and reading past books, and watching, not documentaries, but The Vikings on Netflix. Just because of the characters, and you think well I might remember him if I’m asked about him. So definitely there was homework involved, but I don’t mind a little bit of homework! You’ve picked something that you’re interested in, so it’s not really homework either, if ya know what I mean. It is, but it isn’t.” 

As a matter of interest, were there any other topics that vied with vikings to be Neil’s specialist topic? 

“Well, they rejected the Offaly hurling teams of the mid 1990s out of hand! [Laughs]. Whereas I was prepared to go toe-to-toe with anybody on the Dooleys and the Troys! But they said maybe that’s not necessarily for a British audience [laughs]. I thought about doing Saint Patrick, because I did a documentary on him as well [laughs]. There’s a couple of things [to consider]. They want a topic that will appeal to a wide audience, and they want one, I suppose, that is different to the other peoples’. And they want as well, that has some sources. So if you picked something that’s kind of mythical, you could end up in a row about that. I was thinking Red Hugh O’ Donnell, the Gaelic chieftain, might be quite interesting, because he had a very interesting life but also, crucially, there’s not that much out there on him! So I thought, aaah, I can learn that! [Laughs]. But they didn’t go for that! I’m a Liverpool fan, so I considered that, but then I thought if I get those wrong, so many people know a lot about Liverpool Football Club that I’ll never hear the end of it if I ever end up doing a sports quiz or something! So I ended up picking a kind of a safe one as well, and they seemed to go for it.” 

Being a Manchester United fan myself, I decided we’d leave the Liverpool conversation at that! 

Neil brings his Delamerium tour back home to Offaly this weekend when he returns to the stage of the Tullamore Court Hotel on Saturday night. Before we spoke about that, however, I wanted to ask Neil about another ‘live’ show that’s not too far away. On April 4th the Why Would You Tell Me That?! podcast goes back before a live audience at Dublin’s Smock Alley (Why Would You Tell Me That?!, for those who may not know, is Neil’s podcast with Today FM presenter Dave Moore). This will be Neil and Dave’s second outing together in front of an audience…

“Yeah, yeah, we did one before as part of Science Week. This one is a slightly bigger venue, so we’re just kind of moving up the venues really. We have Diarmuid Gavin coming in, and weirdly enough – and interestingly enough too, hopefully – Diarmuid isn’t going to talk as our plant expert about something horticultural! He’s going to talk about a man who is one of the most important men in business, not only in Ireland but throughout the world, who brought us a new type of retail experience, shall we say. I can’t really give away more than that! But we really enjoyed the last one we did. To get to meet the people who actually listen to your podcast… Because, it’s a little bit weird, right. I’m used to doing gigs, and people coming to the gigs. It’s a very binary thing. It’s a one if they’re laughing, and it’s a zero if they’re not laughing [laughs]. And Dave is used to getting texts in and tweets in, and all the rest [on the radio]. But because you do a podcast, and you do it in advance, you don’t quite have the same interaction with the audience in real-time. So it’s lovely to do a gig with people IN the audience, and you can see exactly what they go for and what they don’t. It’s just proof that people are listening to it. I can’t wait to do it.” 

With Why Would You Tell Me That?! about thirty-five shows in now, how are Neil and Dave looking back on the show’s journey to this point, and its evolution to date? 

“Very much enjoying it, and we’re very proud of the numbers it’s building up. It’s such a weird thing, because you go from nothing, to something. You go from nothing to having hundreds of thousands and that’s a really weird experience. If I think of my breaks in TV, or Dave’s breaks in radio, he didn’t set up a radio station, and I didn’t set up a TV station, ya know what I mean [laughs]. You inherit something. You go into the morning show on 98FM, or I went into The Panel, they already existed. But there’s a certain sense of pride to have done something that didn’t exist, to have created it. And to have it find people who like it, ya know. I know it’s a bit more niche than a show that would be about, say, popular culture or something, but I kind of like that idea. We’ve found that the people who like it, REALLY like it. That’s the case with all podcasts, because you have to search them out. That’s the thing. They don’t get thrust in your face. You have to search them out. You have to actively engage in downloading and listening to a podcast. So the connection between you and a listener is even greater than with you on a radio or a television show. It’s really good. We’ve had some brilliant experts. Dave’s blown my mind with a couple of brilliant stories, and hopefully I’ve done the same to him. We just love making it, man, we just love making it.” 

Having genuinely hurt my face laughing out loud for so long at so many of Neil’s ‘live’ shows over the years, I know that many of his tours have a story that ties everything together from beginning to middle to end, even as every single show evolves uniquely through his interaction with the audience. So I wondered if the same was true of Delamerium this time out? 

“There isn’t really, I’m afraid. This one is a bit more of a what’s-happened-in-the-last-while kind of a one. No, there’s no real theme to this one. It’s weird because normally when I was doing shows before, you’d have a very strict rhythm to your year. And you’d build stuff up towards the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, you’d write for Edinburgh and then you’d tour it after Edinburgh. But Covid has thrown that schedule out a bit. So this show is more let’s-just-talk-about-the-weirdness-in-the world-for-the-last-year. There’s no overarching theme to this one.” 

From talking about the weirdness in the world over the last year or two, to talking about the weirdness in the world in the last week or two, I had to ask Neil for his thoughts on the Gary Lineker controversy at the BBC. And not so much about which side was right or wrong, as the massive support for the former England captain clearly showed that, but rather for those with high profiles – celebrities, if you will – being able to express and share their personal views and opinions on world affairs…

“I think he was perfectly entitled to say what he said. I think the BBC would find it very difficult to come down on him when they hadn’t come down on Alan Sugar for saying things on the other side of a similar degree of controversy to certain people, Jeremy Clarkson as well. So, the BBC, one, would find it difficult to remain impartial if they’re coming down on one side and not coming down on the other; and two, I think the level of support for him [Lineker] probably came as a surprise to the higher-ups. Because he had universal support from his colleagues, which is a testament to the man himself. And three, what further compounds the difficulty for that corporation is the fact that the director-general and the chairman have ties to the Conservative Party. I’m not surprised by how it panned out, actually. Not surprised at all. I think if someone is a broadcaster, you have to look at is someone a news broadcaster versus is someone a sports broadcaster? How is it right that you allow someone to talk about human rights in Qatar, which the BBC allowed Gary Lineker to talk about, but then didn’t allow him to talk about politics in his own country? I think how it ended, as we currently speak now [with Lineker about to resume his hosting duties in a week’s time], is probably how it should have ended. One of the arguments for Gary Lineker was that he was a contractor, he’s not staff at the BBC and I think for comics who work on shows, we’re even more contractors. We might do ten or twelve television shows a year, on different networks. So it’s different again for us, ya know.” 

Going back to the Why Would You Tell Me That?! podcast again, and last December Neil and Dave had the legendary Susie Dent from Countdown, and Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown, on the show. What I’ve always loved about Susie is how she comes across as being completely down to earth and game for a laugh, particularly, of course, on  Cats Does Countdown. I get the impression that this is exactly what she’s like in real-life too? 

“That’s absolutely correct. A lovely, lovely woman. She hasn’t aged in thirty years, which is kind of amazing. She looks exactly the same. She makes Paul Rudd look like Len Goodman [laughs]. She looks remarkable. Very pleasant, very nice. I got a word in one of the ‘Countdown’ shows, and it was a different definition than the one she used, and we were chatting about it. And she was so ready to give credit to other people, she made sure that we retook the shot so that she could explain it but say that I told her. Just really generous, really comfortable in her position. The word was madelin, actually. I only heard the word recently, my missus actually knew the word. One of the definitions of the word is a food that brings you back to your childhood. Like, if you always had jam sandwiches, or something like this, that would be your madelin, if you had that as a kid. I think it’s from Proust. Now, I didn’t study Proust [laughs], but my wife did, and she mentioned it to me. And Susie Dent was soooo nice about that! And this is a woman that Colin Murray, who hosts Countdown, told me is the person who has been on television most in the UK in the last thirty years! Nobody else has been on television more than her. He worked it out: five days a week, pretty much for thirty years. The only people who would be up against that would be maybe newscasters, or weather people. And they’ve come and gone over thirty years but she’s stayed in position. An absolute joy to work with, a really lovely woman, I have to say.” 

So what else does the rest of 2023 hold in store for Neil? 

“I’ll do ‘The Blame Game’ again in the autumn, hopefully, it’s absolutely flying. I’ve recorded ‘Celebrity Chase’ with Bradley Walsh hosting, with Jamie Borthwick from ‘Eastenders’, Helen Lederer from ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, and Jasmine Harman from ‘A Place In The Sun’, that will come out soon. And I might be doing ‘Beat The Chasers’ as well because I’ve done Celebrity Chase. We had good craic on that. And, of course, more of ‘Why Would You Tell Me That?!’, and another tour, too. As usual! [Laughs]. And I’m doing the Royal Albert Hall for Roger Daltrey’s charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust, on March 21st, that will be amazing.”

DELAMERIUM, the brand new tour from NEIL DELAMERE, comes to the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on SATURDAY, MARCH 25th. Tickets available from www.neildelamere.com

ENDS

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