Louise Cody

First Published March 2022

MEET ‘CLASSY CODY’

Part 1

I have to admit, when TikTok first came along, I hated it. Straight away. And wholeheartedly. It wasn’t just another social media platform that you’d have to pay attention to (which was bad enough in itself), but here was one that seemed even more focused on people screaming out for attention in that “look at me, look at me!” kind of way that sometimes seems to dominate – and define – the whole social media ‘space.’ And let’s be honest, there’s an awful lot of that involved with what TikTok is.

BUT…with all that being said, I’m a sucker for talent, and even more so for people who can make me laugh. And more than all of that, I appreciate people who are clearly genuine in every aspect of their lives.

So if TikTok – for however long it exists in the world – is responsible for nothing other than making me aware of LOUISE CODY, then the platform will always have done more good than ill.

I can’t recall exactly how Louise first came to my attention, but I’m close to 100% certain that she’s made me laugh every single day since. In fact, Louise probably makes about 77k people laugh every day, because that’s how many followers that Laois woman has amassed on TikTok. Throw in another 12.5k followers on Instagram, and it’s easy to see why Louise – or CLASSY CODY, as she’s more often known – is someone we’ll all be hearing much more about. 

I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Louise recently, and the first thing I can confirm is that she’s every bit as funny in real-life as she is on her social media, and effortlessly and naturally so, too. She’s also just incredibly sound. 

Because she’s involved in so many different things, and has so many sides to who she is, I wanted to begin by asking Louise one simple question…in her own eyes, who exactly is Louise Cody

“To be honest, that’s a really good question. And it’s not something that I ever really give much thought to because I just go about [things] as I am. I see myself as a bit of a…goofball [laughs]. I just don’t take things too seriously, that’s really it, when it comes down to it. I wake up, work, sports, friends, just an overall goofball! That’s a very hard question! [Laughs].” 

Before moving on to chat about her huge social media presence, I asked Louise to tell me about being known as ‘Classy Cody’, her handle on TikTok and Instagram. It half has the sound of something that’s been with her all of her life, but how exactly did that adjective attach itself to her identity? 

“It’s actually a fairly average story, and it hasn’t been with me since childhood at all. And not enough people ask me where that comes from. It’s usually, ‘What makes you classy?’ Or, ‘Why are you classy?’, or ‘Are you classy?’ Because I curse a lot, like a sailor! So it comes into question an awful lot [laughs]. I remember when I got my very first iPhone, I had to set up a gmail address. My previous email address was something like loopylou@hotmail, something horrific anyway. So I was there for ages thinking what email was I gonna use. I was with a group of my friends who were lads, and they were like, ‘Classy Cody.’ I was like, well, why Classy Cody? And they just said because you’re very classy. So I was like…ok…and it’s easy to remember, so yeah! And that’s where it started. So then when I started Instagram, and TikTok and Twitter, I thought Classy Cody, grand, that’s a good username! I had thought about changing it, because there have been so many questions like, ‘But you curse so much?’, or you do this or that, ya know. But I think cursing is supposed to be a sign of honesty! [Laughs]. And, I’m classy in my morals! [Laughs]. So I had a few times where I thought, will I just change it to Louise Cody? But then I thought no, ya know what, it’s gone too far now and everybody knows me as Classy Cody, I’ll leave it as it is.” 

Louise has more than 76k followers on TikTok, that’s more than the capacity of the Avia Stadium. Throw in her Instagram fanbase as well, and she has more than enough followers to fill Croke Park. What do those numbers mean to her when she thinks about them? Or does she even think musch about them at all? 

“Oh God! When ya say it like that! [Laughs]. I don’t even think about them, to be honest. I can’t even remember the point where my TikTok really took off. Honestly. I suppose, in the beginning, I wasn’t really being my true self. I wasn’t not being myself, I was just holding something back. But it just continued to grow the more I actually started to show my personality through my videos. In my head, it’s not a huge deal. As in, it doesn’t faze me. I don’t get too hung up on it. I think if you get hung up on numbers, that’s your downfall. That’s where you change how you act, how you post, everything. Your content becomes around numbers. You stop being yourself. And it’s fairly obvious from my stories on my Instagram – when I put up drunk stories [laughs] – that I don’t care! But yeah, when you think about it like you said there, and in terms of the Avia Stadium, that is overwhelming. I don’t know why they follow me! But here we are [laughs].” 

Louise mentioned once that before she joined TikTok, her social media platforms were just like everybody else’s really, just posting normal stuff, but nothing major taking off in terms of reaction. And yet, she was obviously still the exact same person, funny, witty, wholeheartedly genuine, with a really sharp but honest edge to her. When TikTok came along, did she think, ‘Yes, this is me!’, straight away? Or what were her first thoughts around that platform? 

“I discovered TikTok in the first lockdown. I was working from home, in finance, so it’s fairly mundane. Head down, headphones in, heavy work, just getting it done. So I don’t really get a chance to show my personality too much through my work. Unless I was in the office where I could be talking to people, and probably not getting as much work done [laughs]. I started messing around with videos out of boredom at the start, and I had a few viral ones at the start. Then I got up to 1k followers. Then I started doing Sunday night lives [videos], going ‘live’ when I was watching the NFL (American Football). I gained a kind of core crew of followers from there who are still with me. I would have been on ‘live’ for the entire duration of a game, could be three hours. I don’t know why I started doing that, other than just because I could, because I had reached the number of followers where TikTok allowed you to go ‘live.’ I’d seen other people do it, so I kind of just chanced it, totally out of boredom.”

“It was very nerve-wracking, the first couple of them”, Louise declared, continuing, “I was probably having a beer – or two! – for those, just to take the edge off [laughs]. I’d be thinking, this is insane! I’m sitting here talking to myself, it’s uncomfortable! But then as more regular followers started coming in, I got more comfortable with it. And now, nothing fazes me. And to be honest, TikTok has done that for me. I probably would have spent an awful lot of time thinking about what people thought about me. But now, I actually couldn’t care, like. At the start, with my content, I would have held parts of myself back. And I’d be the same when I’d meet people. Like, I’m full-on! I would consider myself a bit of a weirdo [laughs]. I’m quite energetic. So there are times with that blunt honesty, that people are not ready for it. Because my style of humour would be kind of like…abuse! [Laughs]. So I’ll be sneering everyone and laughing, and people will be thinking, ‘She’s a bitch!’ [Laughs]. But now I’m myself from the get-go when I come into groups of people. It’s given me a confidence I didn’t have before, just through putting myself out there.” 

Although Louise had said that she couldn’t really remember there being a point when she knew her TikTok was really taking off, I wondered if there had been a moment when she first realised that the kind of traction she was getting was more than would be expected from just the usual family and friends kind of following? 

“It’s mad, because I spent my whole life growing up in Laois, and going anywhere in Ireland I’d be told, ‘Jesus, that accent!’ [Laughs]. But it was my videos where I was speaking that did really well, and everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, I love your accent.’ And that, for me, was like…Because again, that brings it full-circle back to the confidence thing. Because for a long time, I thought my accent was horrible! And I would openly abuse myself [about it] before anyone else could. If anyone else tries to abuse Laois, I’m like, ‘I never said it was good, I just said I’m from there’ [laughs]. I gained an awful lot of Australian and American followers because of the videos where I’m talking, cos’ they ‘love my accent.’ And I’m like, that’s nice! [Laughs]. When I was in college, there would be an echo of me talking in the room. As in, I’d say something, and even just how I’d pronounce stuff would be imitated. But I don’t think I have a bad Laois accent! If I was on a night out and someone came up to me and asked me where I’m from, I’d be like, guess! And they’ll be like, Kildare? [Laughs]. But to be fair, my mom is a Kildare woman, and my dad is a Munster man. But my older brother has a very thick Laois accent [laughs].” 

Louise continued, “The South Park stuff actually, but that was only during 2021 when I did my first one of those. But constantly underneath my videos [in the comments], it’s all do another South Park one! But that comes with it when you have a video that goes viral, you gain followers for that genre. They’re there for that. So if you don’t continue to do that, then you’ll lose them. And I can understand that. But no, there was no one time when I realised anything. I wasn’t focusing on the views, or the likes or the followers, I was just posting what I thought was good, and it just grew from there.” 

Speaking of her content, what Louise produces is amazing. And it doesn’t just happen. There’s clearly a lot of time, talent, and effort that goes into what she does. But my first question on her content could really only be one thing…does Louise have some kind of background in drama? 

“No! Not at all. And I’m kinda raging that I don’t! I would have been in pantomimes a little bit, but I was never front and centre. It would have just been in the chorus. But when I was in those, I was quite nervous about them, that was early secondary school. But I love it, and it’s something that’s only come to the forefront with TikTok, that it’s a passion of mine and I probably should pursue it in some way! I might have left it a little bit late to do it now. But I’ve always been so animated. That’s something my friends will always say about me. I’m the kind of person who, if my friends are going on a night out and I’m not going, they’ll be like, ‘Why are you not coming?!’ I bring – without wanting to sound big-headed or anything – a level of entertainment! [Laughs]. No matter what mood I’m in, I’ll always be animated and energetic, and say something because I always talk before I think! I’ll just come out with something, and they’ll be like…, ‘Whaaaat?!’ [Laughs]. I’d love to be on stage. But, time, ya know!” 

South Park, as Louise had indicated already, clearly has a very special place in her heart. And because of that, it has a very special – and regular – place on her socials as well. I asked Louise to talk me through the process of deciding to do a South Park post, for example, from choosing something to getting it just right…

“South Park got added to Netflix, and I was rewatching it. I was never allowed to watch it as a kid, but I used to wait until my parents went to bed and then sneak up and watch it! Because of all the cursing in it. That’s probably one of the reasons why I am the way I am today, I am like Cartman! [Laughs]. So yeah, I was rewatching that through lockdown, and I was like oh my God, I hadn’t seen it anywhere on TikTok. So I was thinking it was definitely something I could do. I obviously enjoy the show, and I’m good at lip-syncing. So I did one, and it just took off! Then a lot of other Irish TikTokkers started doing them, so I kinda feel like I somewhat set a trend at the time. People think I put an awful lot of time into my videos. And I do, in a sense. But I’ve gotten so used to recording them now. And I say this to everyone, because it’s something my family has always said to me…if I was as good at life as I am at remembering lyrics, I’d be laughing! [Laughs]. I can just listen to it once or twice and then I have it. Then maybe two takes. And then change views. Sometimes I don’t do every person in it, because that leaves an opening for someone to duet it which is more exposure for the video. Looking at my social media, you would think I spend an awful lot of time on TikTok, I don’t. I post every day at 5 o’ clock. I don’t record every day. I have a heap of drafts saved. So on the weekend, or even if I have ideas during the week, I’ll hear a sound and I’ll be thinking about it. I’ll click into the sound and go through each video and see what everyone else is doing, because I don’t want to be another video that makes you go sure I’ve seen this ten times already. So I try to make it relatable number one, and I try to make it unique, so that people will look at it and be like, ‘Yes!’, and send it to their friends, and so on, and so on. It probably was time-consuming at the start because I didn’t really know how TikTok worked. But now that I do, and if you’re consistent with what you’re posting, and do it at the same time every day, then your algorithm pushes people to your page. In terms of recording, though, it doesn’t take me long to do videos at all.” 

As her following grows, and so does her reputation, does Louise feel under pressure to keep putting stuff out there? Would she feel comfortable stepping away from it to take a break? 

“Yeah, I definitely would. Like, I have it in such a way now that it’s like a system. I even have all my apps on screen-time limited, because there was a time where my eyes were bloodshot, the screen-time on my phone was wrecking my eyes! And I sit in front of a screen all day as well [for work]. So it makes me very anti-social if I’m spending a lot of time on my phone. I noticed it in particular when I was around my family, that they’d be talking to me and I wouldn’t hear them. They’d be getting thick with me, then I’d be getting thick with them. So I limited that. As I come across sounds, I’ll record like a dummy shot, me saying something into it just so I have the sound saved, rather than throwing it into my favourites. That’s how I keep the ideas. Then when I come back to it and watch the dummy-recording, I can say right, that’s where I was going with that idea. I’d plan everything, save everything, and post day by day then.” 

Louise was also one of the co-presenters on the Off The Laois podcast. If you haven’t heard any of the shows, they’re well worth listening back to. While each episode had a tendency to start off somewhat wild and funny, possibly going in any direction, they also tended to settle down into fairly serious, honest, revealing – but still funny – conversations. And with Louise, of course, never being shy! But what was the connection between the presenters, I wondered? How did the whole project come about? Did everyone know each other already? 

“So what happened is Eamon Callaghan owns Vision 85, it’s a work-hub in Laois where you rent out workspace, hot-desking, stuff like that. He had the idea that he’d really like to start a Laois podcast, because there was nothing like that happening. He scoped out a few personalities, and there were quite a lot of big personalities. He got them all into one room and that kind of filtered out who worked well with who, or who was interested and who wasn’t. But no, none of us knew each other at all. Like, I follow David Cuddy, but I never met him in my life before. I followed Bob Flavin, but I never met him in my life before. And now, I literally talk to Bob Flavin and David Cuddy every day! And David isn’t even on the podcast anymore. So, it was just an idea that Eamon had, himself and Matt Kerry just thought of people, threw them into a room, got some ideas, and it became what it is now, which is myself, Matt and Bob. I’ve always kind of wanted to do a podcast, so I looked at this as an opportunity to learn what it takes to be on one, and the work that goes into it. There’s an awful lot of structure involved in it. And time! [Laughs]. With editing and stuff. So I always had a goal that I’d gain enough knowledge to do my own, and that may come some day.”

So was Louise also involved in some of the behind-the-scenes work such as the editing of each show? 

“In the last two episodes now, I’ve taken control of the structure because I’m an organisation freak! When there’s no structure – and you’ve probably noticed from some of the episodes – it’s just been go-with-the-flow, just talk about whatever comes up. But with the Valentine’s show, I had all the questions prepared, and the two before that as well, I was prepared with questions. To be honest, it gave me that kind of step-up as well, because I was going in and sitting back and just taking part. But I had to lead it when I had the prep done, and that’s what I needed to be learning to do.” 

When the podcast does enter a more serious mode, Louise is very open and honest in what she shares. Is that something that comes naturally to her anyway, or is it more the setting of the podcast and being there with the lads that makes it easier for that to happen? 

“Well no, it’s not that really, because like I said, we didn’t know each other at all. The first few episodes we were all quite open with each other. And I would be a quite open person anyway, probably to my own detriment! I wear my heart on my sleeve! I will constantly talk about how I feel. I didn’t think there was going to be teenagers or young people listening to the podcast and looking up to me, but I was kind of like well if they follow me and then they do go listen to the podcast, I want them to know that I’m not perfect. I want them to know that I have had my issues, or that I have had this or that. That I’m a real person. Because with social media it’s so easy to look at people and think [everything’s perfect]…it’s like this fake persona, ya know. Whereas I try to be as real as I can. Obviously with my Instagram photos, I’ll take one and put it up, that’s a proper photo. But in terms of my content and my videos, and even my stories, I’m very much me. And it’s the same with the podcast. I was probably a little bit quieter in the first few episodes, but I think it’s very important for me to be open. Without revealing too much, obviously. Ya don’t want to know everything about people [laughs].” 

Louise mentioned teenagers or young people looking up to her. Is that something that’s very much in the back of her mind now, as she becomes a more recognisable public figure? 

“Well, to be honest, that’s been from day-one. My little nephew, he was eleven at the time, he’s twelve now, he always followed me. And he always wanted to be in videos with me. I don’t know why, but I don’t look at a female following and think about younger girls looking up to me. He’s the one that drives me. I think about if he was to watch me, and would this affect him? I know he looks up to me, and that’s what I would channel everything towards.” 

~ You can follow Louise on TikTok and Instagram by searching for Classy Cody. Episodes of the Off The Laois podcast are available on Spotify. 

ENDS

Kylee Vincent

First Published January 2022

KYLEE’S HERE TO EXPRESS HERSELF

If you were tuned into last Sunday night’s episode of DANCING WITH THE STARS (DWTS) on RTE 1, you’ll have seen professional dancer KYLEE VINCENT guide her celebrity partner, none other than Offaly’s own comedy overlord NEIL DELAMERE, safely through to the next round of the show. And that next round promises to be something extra-special, because this coming Sunday is always one of the most anticipated and exciting of each season…it’s movie week! 


Truth be told, Neil couldn’t possibly be in safer hands, and his amazing start to the show with two stellar performances already under his belt are proof of that. From Pretoria in South Africa, Kylee joined DWTS last season with quite the dance CV to her credit. The softly-spoken but immediately and endearingly warm and friendly Kylee is – as we’ve already seen evidence a-plenty of – a World Champion, having won the WDC (World Dance Council) Under-21 Latin Championships in 2011. She also claimed the WDC’s South African Under-21 Latin Championship that same year, before going on to secure the Under-21 Open British Latin Championship one year later. Since 2013, Kylee has toured the world with the Burn The Floor dance company. 


And on top of all that, she’s been keeping Neil in-check while turning him into a dancer! And every bit as impressive as everything I’ve already mentioned, is the lady herself when you get a chance to talk to her. Which, luckily for me, I did! 


When I had the pleasure of spending some time in Kylee’s company last week, last Sunday night’s dance was still on the horizon, so that was where our chat began…


“So Sunday night we are actually dancing the Charleston, which is quite a scary one to start with or to have as a second dance because you get to do lifts, and tricks, and throws, and drops! So it involves quite a lot. I think Neil is going to treat the audience on Sunday [laughs], as he always does! I think people are going to be shocked by what he can do. They’re in for a big surprise, that’s for sure [laughs].” 

From a technical point of view, for Kylee as a teacher and choreographer, how difficult is it to come up with a routine that’s as short as they need to be for television, as opposed to a normal routine that might be part of a theatre show or a competition? 


“As a choreographer, we kind of do what the music tells us to do. So when we get our piece of music, we have a listen through for what the music is telling us, for where the accents are, where the music breaks are. Then we take the concept, the story that we would like the audience to see, and we portray that story through the music and through the dance. So it’s actually quite a nice way to choreograph because you’re not thinking of an hour-long story that all needs to make sense from beginning to end. You’ve got that minute and a half to impress everyone and get in as much content as you can. It’s a fun process!” 

In the way that some songwriters will tell you about how, for example, they might have got the idea for the chorus first and then proceeded to work everything else around that, might things work the same way for Kylee, I wondered? Would she get an idea for the middle or maybe the end of a routine first and build things in whichever direction she needed to from there, or is it always a more linear process? 


“I think it kind of depends on the number you get, or the story that you get to tell. Sometimes it’s easier to build the story from the beginning, sometimes it’s easier to take it from the end. It completely depends on what dance you’ve gotten and what song you were given. Or maybe, you can’t come up with a concept just yet, so you create a routine and then decide that this concept would fit nicely with it. Or maybe the other way around. Maybe you want to portray the story first, and then you go and find the music and the choreo.” 

As DWTS returned to our screens a few weeks ago, not only did Kylee and Neil have the honour of being first to hit the floor that night, but that, of course, meant they were also the first pair to dance in the new series…


“I was really happy to open up the show. Neil was really happy to get it done and out of the way first [laughs]. I think that was his main focus! Be first so you finish and relax for the rest of the show [laughs]. But I think it was a nice strong number for Neil, it wasn’t your typical paso, it was more rock ‘n’ roll. So it was easy for him to go out there and have fun, and I think the excitement overtook the nerves which was a great thing.” 

So what is Neil like as a partner for Kylee? What traits does he have that make him a good student and good to work with? 


“I first thought Neil was going to come into the studio, and because he’s a comedian, there were going to be thousands of jokes and we’d be giggling more than actually working! But Neil takes this so seriously, he works so hard. He comes in, he’s got his stretches, he warms up first, he’s looking after his body, and he just keeps going. He pushes SO hard. From a teacher’s perspective, that’s the most important thing, to have someone who is willing to try everything, willing to learn, and give their time up for this. That’s what makes Neil a great student in the studio.” 

I wondered if Kylee had any idea of who Neil was before she actually met him for the show? 


“So my husband – well, both of us – we both love watching comedy things on YouTube and going to comedy shows, and the minute Neil’s name came up, Stephen was like ‘I know him! I ‘ve seen him on YouTube!’ [Laughs]. So my husband [Stephen, also a pro dancer on the show] pulled up all the videos and showed me absolutely everything on Neil. So I didn’t know him before, but before I met him, yes, my husband had informed me on every little thing [laughs].” 

Last time round on the show, which was Kylee’s first season, everyone knows that she had a much harder task on her hands with Father Ray as her celebrity partner. What we can clearly see from Neil already, however, is that there’s a lot more room for Kylee to be creative and to express herself as a teacher. Not comparing Neil with Father Ray, but how much of a difference does it make to what Kylee can do in her role when her partner this year allows for a much more adventurous approach to things? 


“It’s really exciting. As a choreographer and as a dancer, it’s a real pleasure to see what you’ve had in your head come to life. With Neil, that’s what’s happening. Everything that I imagine or create, is slowly coming to life. That’s what we dream of. That’s what Neil is bringing for me this year. Yes, he takes a while to learn the steps, he doesn’t learn fast, so the process is still slow. But I think because he’s so committed to being in that character and to portraying that story we’re trying to tell, it makes life so much easier!” 

With the Charleston coming up on the Sunday after we spoke, and with the Paso already out of the way, is there any other particular dance that Kylee really hopes she and Neil stay in the show long enough to do because it would be amazing to put together a routine for it with Neil? 


“Oh! All the dances have such unique qualities. There’s so many things that make me think, ‘Oh, Neil would be great with this’, or that it would be nice to create something here and there. I know that there’s Dedication Week coming up where the celebrities get to dedicate their dance to someone special in their lives, so I’m quite excited to create that. So hopefully we get as far as Dedication Week so we can get that one out in front of the public.” 

Kylee is from Pretoria in South Africa, and her husband Stephen is from England. While working on the show, of course, they both live here in Ireland. But where do the couple normally call home? 


“That’s a tricky question actually [laughs]. My husband and I, we tour a lot with dance shows. So hotels are our homes most of the time! But we do have home-home in South Africa at the moment, where all of our belongings are and where we can say this is our house, this is our bed, this is our kitchen [laughs]. But, you never know what life throws at you. So we’re just going with the flow at the moment [laughs].”

Kylee being married to Vincent very much mirrors the relationship of Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec (and indeed, Karen Hauer and Kevin Clifton once upon a time) on Strictly Come Dancing. Because Kylee and Vincent are married, and both are dancers by profession, I wondered if they are often booked as a couple as well? Because they have, for example, both toured together with Giovanni Pernice on his Dance Is Life show in 2018 and 2019…


“We have been lucky enough to always be booked together. Even if we’re maybe not dancing together, we’ll still be on the same show or the same contract. That’s made our lives super easy. I get to travel and dance and experience life with him all the time. So I’m really blessed. In this industry, as a dancer, booking gigs is a struggle on its own. So most people take what they can get, when they can get it. But we’ve just been really lucky and fortunate.” 

Kylee and Stephen actually met while working for a dance company called Burn The Floor...


“So Stephen has been a part of Burn The Floor for almost nineteen years now. From the age of seventeen he went off and joined the dance company. When I finished school, I joined the company and we bumped into each other on one contract. We weren’t dancing together at that stage, but certain things happened on that contract where people had to leave and they had to recouple the dancers, and they put Stephen and I together. Then after a couple of months…! Yeah, he worked hard, I must say [laughs]. He was really sweet, and very persistent [laughs].”

Giovanni Pernice, who we mentioned briefly a moment ago, went home with the prestigious Strictly Come Dancing glitter-ball last year, finally winning the show with the inspirational actress Rose Ayling-Ellis as his celebrity partner. What was it like for Kylee to see someone she knows win a show as massive as Strictly is? 


“Stephen and I have worked with a lot of the Strictly dancers actually. We’ve worked with Kevin (Clifton), Aljaz and Janette, Gorka (Marquez), Dianne (Buswell), so we’re a very close-knit, small group in Burn The Floor that always follow each other. And although Giovanni hasn’t actually done Burn The Floor, experiencing his tours with him, you get really close. It becomes sort of like a family environment, you look after each other. You live, sleep, eat, rest all together. So I was just ecstatic for him. I know it’s been a dream of his for a long time, and he’s been in that final way too often to not have a win! So yeah, I’m really, really happy for him. And it’s going to change a lot of views about the deaf community and how we can help that community as a whole, Dance brings people together, and that was just one more battle that they broke through to bring communities even closer.” 

Kai Widdrington, who was still a member of the DWTS family in Kylee’s first season, went on to join the Strictly line-up as a full-time pro last year, and even made it all the way to within touching distance of the famous glitter-ball trophy with his celeb partner AJ Odudu. Is that a move that Kylee would like to see happen somewhere along the way on her own career path as well? 


“I think Strictly is a  dream for any dancer. It’s an absolutely amazing platform, not only to show your skill, but to connect with the public. It’s a different way of connecting, really getting to know your fans. And it’s a pleasure getting to see someone learn, and grow in a studio environment. Even working with Neil, from day-one to where he is now is absolutely amazing. Sometimes I wish the public could really see the actual day-one to where they are now. Yeah, Strictly is definitely a dream! No-one will say it’s not a dream of theirs [laughs]. Fingers crossed, you never know! [Laughs].” 

To finish up our chat and let Kylee back to Neil – who I’m sure was waiting somewhere patiently in the background practising his moves in front of the studio mirror – I asked Kylee to share why dancing is such a passion in her life. And also, for people who might love to learn to dance but are scared to take those first steps, what would Kylee say to encourage them to dare…


“I’m not really an extravert. From a really young age, I’d never just walk up to someone and start a conversation. So dancing – and it sounds cheesy [laughs] – but dancing was a way of expressing myself. It was a way of letting out and showing a different side of me. That still happens today. I get to express myself in different characters, and forms that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to show people on a day-to-day basis. That in itself has connected me to new people. I would have never met people like Neil and Father Ray, and all of these pros that we’re working with. Dancing is a thing that brings people together. And I think that’s the main encouragement for people who are afraid of learning. It’s a social kind of thing. We come together to connect, and it doesn’t matter where you start off. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. By the end of it, you will be able to move, you will be able to find something that’s unique for you, so that you can express how you’re feeling and not feel self-conscious about it. We’re all here just to enjoy ourselves and to express ourselves.” 

KYLEE VINCENT and NEIL DELAMERE return to the floor of DANCING WITH THE STARS next SUNDAY night (January 30th) at 6.30pm on RTE 1. To support Neil, here are your voting options: Text NEIL to 53125; from the Republic of Ireland call 1513 717101; or from Northern Ireland call 09011 331101. 

ENDS

Neil Delamere

First Published December 2021

LIFE’S A DANCE

“Yeah, we’re about a week or so in. It’s very enjoyable, I have to say. You’re being trained by a world champion. I mean, how often do you get a chance to be trained by someone who’s so talented at what they do? It’s great fun. You get into it, you really get into it. The thing about me is I have nothing to judge it off from the start. I haven’t done as much as a dance class along the way, of any kind! So there’s no frame of reference for how quickly I’ll pick something up or maybe how slowly I’ll pick something up! But it’s been great fun so far.” 

With his journey as part of next year’s DANCING WITH THE  STARS IRELAND class just getting underway, there seems to be little doubt that comedian NEIL DELAMERE is taking it all in his stride. With the hit show finally set to return to our TV screens in January, Delamere – amazingly – is one of TWO Offaly men who will be aiming to get their hands on that prized Glitterball, with rugby star Jordan Conroy also looking to impress on the dancefloor. And Neil – who brings his LIMINAL tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel on March 5th next – has already seen the signs of his new sequined self beginning to emerge, as he explained when we caught up for a chat about DWTSIrl, and more, last week…

“Some things are coming easier than others, but it’s incredible how quickly you get into it, in terms of you’re doing steps when you’re walking around the house…or, I said this on The Late Late Show…I’ll put on the indicator of my car, and as it goes tick, tick, tick, I’m goin’, ‘One, two, three, four, five,six, seven, eight…!’ So the patterns are getting into your brain!” 

I suspect that Neil has a competitive side to him. Will we see that in this competition?


“Haha, well I have a competitive side to me IF I have the ability to compete! If it becomes evident very quickly that there are some people who are amazing dancers and the rest of us are just making up the numbers, well then you’ll just kind of enjoy it on that basis. But ah yeah, listen, I’ll give it what I can, and after that let the chips fall where they may!” 

Somewhere else I didn’t expect to see Neil showing up in the coming weeks was on Ireland’s Fittest Family. But sure enough, he’s taking part in the show’s Celebrity Special at the end of December. Also taking part is someone else I’m lucky enough to know pretty well, Grainne Gallanagh, who was Miss Universe Ireland in 2018. I put it to Neil that this – no more so than Dancing With The Stars – was definitely a different kind of show for him…


“Well, it came about because of Covid, and because my normal schedule wasn’t what it normally is. I was asked to do it and I said I’d love to. You have a couple of months lead-in time, about six weeks lead-in or whatever – and then you have some degree of focus, ya know. You know you have to get this done or otherwise you won’t be fit enough to do the show. It was as much about me saying this will give me some sort of structure on my weeks, because as you know, because of Covid we were restricted in what we were allowed to do and what we weren’t allowed to do. Comics, without a deadline, we tend to not be massively creative! It’s not like writing a book or doing a TV show, so you need something where you have to have a show done by X day. So, I had a lot of time, and I also didn’t have the usual structure on the year that I’d always have, so I went yeah, absolutely, I’m gonna do it. I got a team together, and it was us against Grainne, Sinead Quinlan, and the Happy Pear as well. We did it for the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland. I can’t tell you who won, but if you look at who’s in and judge the fitness of people on sight, you’ll probably be in the ball-park of who did! [Laughs].” 

In Dancing With The Stars and the Celebrity Special of Ireland’s Fittest Family, we’d already touched on two huge upcoming events in Neil’s life. But never a man to do things by halves, there’s something even bigger coming up in 2022. In fact, it’s Neil’s biggest solo show ever, and it’s happening at the SSE Arena in Belfast in March ??? 


“Biggest solo show I’ve ever done, yeah. I’ve done gigs to ten thousand people before, but on mixed bills. Can’t wait to do it. I was up having a look at the Arena the other day, the Belfast Giants Arena, and it looks spectacular. And again, that sprang from Covid, from wanting to give myself something to aim for in these weird times when we don’t know what’s going on, ya know. So ya kind of force yourself into, ‘Oh God, this is happening…write jokes, write jokes, write jokes!’ I can’t wait for it. I think it will change the way I do the show in some ways, because a big, big room might not have the usual messing and interplay that I would have with the front row if people can’t really see the front row! [Laughs]. I know from playing the really, really, big rooms that you have to do it in a different rhythm, you almost have to wait for the wave of laughter to come back. It’s a slightly different technique. And I’m very grateful that ‘The Blame Game’, which we’re doing at the moment, is allowed a small ‘live’ audience, and that kind of keeps the name out there in the north still.” 

Neil’s current tour is called Liminal (relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process) and from the meaning of the word, my guess was that it’s to do with the place the world finds itself in with Covid, amongst other things as well. I wondered if I was correct in that assumption, and if I was, where, in fact, does Neil think we – as a country and a planet – are with Covid at this stage? 


“I think overall Ireland has done very well. Our vaccine roll-out has been amazing, and I think our vaccine uptake has been amazing. Smaller countries in Europe tend to do better than their larger neighbours in terms of social cohesion. In terms of how many people passed away, our figures were much lower than say the UK. I don’t know how far we are into this. My worry would be that we may not be as far in as people think. And selfishly, I suppose, for people in the arts, we’re wondering what’s going to be left at the end of all this. My worry wouldn’t be for the people that are going ten or fifteen or twenty years, that they’ll be removed from the scene. My worry is for the younger people – either younger in age or in experience – doing their respective music, dancing, comedy, whatever it is. They may well have been washed out of the system by Covid. So we could lose all these important and exciting new voices. The rest of us will be fine. If we’ve built up enough touring, and enough TV shows, and enough radio, we can afford – almost – to take a hit. But my worry is that we would lose the next generation of people, ya know.” 

Neil mentioned how the way he performs his show in a bigger venue might have to change slightly, but I wondered if how he writes his material had to change over the last twenty months or so too. So much of what he does is observational, comes from being out in the world, around people and with people. Did the lockdowns, and Covid in general, change his creative process much? 


“That’s a very good point. I suppose it didn’t change the observation as much as much as it changed the anecdotal stuff. A lot of the time you’re telling stories and you’re animating the stories with observations and characterisations and stuff. But you are still telling stories about what had happened to you. If you haven’t done anything [laughs] – because most of us didn’t do anything for a fairly protracted period of time – what do ya talk about? ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ have given me ten minutes of material sort of thing. It’s not why I did them [laughs], that’s a beneficial extra from the two of them. But it’s such a strange world to be thrust into, that you can’t fail to get some stuff out of them. Also, I probably have a decent closer for the SSE Arena and for the Tullamore Court Hotel and everywhere else, because I know Des [Bishop] when he did it years ago, I think he used to bring his pro dancer and they’d dance at the end. So, ya know something…I wouldn’t rule it out! I haven’t talked to my pro dancer about it yet, but it seems like a cool way to end a really big show. It’s something I would definitely consider if I was any good anyway [laughs].” 

Looking at everything that’s happened since March of 2019 when Covid kicked in – and even going back a little bit before that to when Neil and I last spoke – there’s been so much absurdity. From almost everything to do with Boris Johnson in the UK, to Trump and January 6th in the States, to the whole anti-vax movement here, and more. From a comedian’s perspective, what’s been the most absurd moment of it all? 


Well January 6th was completely off the wall, I thought. I almost couldn’t believe that was happening. If a couple of things had gone a different way, maybe if Mike Pence had made some decisions in another way, it could have been much more serious. That, in terms of one day, was bizarre. The Dominic Cummings thing and how he was supported by a Prime Minister who has since completely removed his support. I mean, Cummings driving to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight was so absurd! Boris Johnson is the gift that keeps on giving. All I’ll say is his testicles are as fertile as his imagination! As good as he is as a comedy source, I wouldn’t wish him as a Prime Minister on anybody. We criticise politicians in Ireland, but there’s a lot to be said about a steady, seasoned hand at the tiller, both in terms of Michael D. Higgins and some of the members of the government. I think we can be overly harsh on them in a very difficult – VERY difficult – scenario for them.” 

Going back to events on the horizon for Neil, he’s also filmed Pointless Celebrities


“I did! I love a quiz. Since we last spoke, I did Richard Osman’s ‘House of Games’, which is the big one, you do five episodes and you’re on for the entire week. I managed to nip a victory in that at the last minute. So you’re paired with somebody else in ‘Pointless Celebrities’, and all I’m saying is I DID ok! My partner, however…may be a different story [laughs]. So people can look out for that fairly soon as well [laughs].” 

Between getting himself ready for Ireland’s Fittest Family, and now for Dancing With The Stars, Neil – certainly from a fitness point of view – will definitely have been seeing some positive changes in himself over the last few months. Indeed, this whole period of humanity has changed many people, some in good ways, but some more – unfortunately – in bad ways. In a general sense, has Neil noticed any changes in himself and maybe how he sees life? 


“I’d be more inclined [now] to do something that’s a bit off the wall. Like, I have been approached about doing ‘Dancing With The Stars’ several times before, and either I couldn’t do it or I wasn’t ready to do it in some ways. This is the year where I kinda went, well listen, who knows what’s gonna happen next year in terms of what we’re allowed do ‘live’, but another part of me – that’s kind of the legacy of this last eighteen, twenty months – is just do something that scares the hell out of ya! Why not?! Life is too short. Particularly in the western world, we go through periods of thinking we can control things. If you get sick, you get antibiotics. If something goes wrong, well you can pay someone to fix it. If it’s something with your health, you can get an operation. We tend to think we can control things, but actually, every so often, God/ the universe/ whatever you believe in, throws a curve ball at us. And that’s what Covid has been. And there’s a freedom in relinquishing that control in some ways. Covid has made me more likely to take risks and do something brand new because who knows what the future holds really?” 

Neil has his huge show at the SSE Arena coming up next year, and he’s also had some gigs in gorgeous churches – of all places – in recent times. But, if he was to plan his perfect show, here’s what I wanted to know. Where would his venue be, what three guests would he invite along to chat to, and what musical act would he choose to close out the night? 


“Hmm. Let me see. I think in terms of places I’ve played before, I’d say Vicar Street. It’s a fantastic venue, and I’m playing there again soon. It has the roar of a thousand, eleven-hundred people, which is a great roar. But it’s physically intimate enough for everybody to feel connected to what’s going on on stage. So it would probably be Vicar Street as the venue. The three guests that I would like to interview, off the top of my head…David Attenborough would be one. I think he’s absolutely fascinating. There’s nearly a hundred years there of wisdom, and he’s such a brilliant communicator. I think he’d be first on the list. Second on the list, would be Mark Rylance who is an actor people would know from ‘Bridge Of Spies’, and from ‘Wolf Hall’, and ‘Dunkirk’. I’m actually going to see him very soon in the West End. He’s one of those magnetic presences on the screen, that you cannot take your eyes off. I’m hoping that he’d be able to replicate that if you were having a chat. I think he sees the world in an interesting way in his work. So I wonder would that be the same if you met him in person, ya know. I’ll come back to the third person, but a musical act to close the gig off entirely? I would reform Oasis! For one gig! Because first of all, nobody has ever got them to do that. And secondly, the music of when you were a teenager holds a special place in everybody’s heart. I think that would be…oh my good God! [Laughs]. What a night that would be! Just for one night only. And my third guest…let me see…I think I would pick somebody like Orla Guerin, the BBC war correspondent. I think she’s seen a huge amount of the world and what people do to each other, great heroism, great sacrifice, and great cruelty. So, assuming that the gig has been great fun, and assuming that at the end of it it’s going to be lifted in an amazingly unique way by the reformed Gallagher brothers [laughs], and assuming that David Attenborough is going to give us some wisdom, and Mark Rylance is going to give us some laughs and some wisdom, I think we can go fairly deep about humanity with Orla, knowing that that’s the light and the shade. I think that would be an unbelievably good night out!” 


Finally, and we didn’t know when we spoke that there would be another address to the nation only days later, I asked Neil to put himself at that lectern outside Government Buildings in Dublin. If either Micháel Martin had called on Neil to don the green jersey as it were, face the cameras and deliver a message to the people of Ireland ahead of 2022 getting here…what thoughts would he have shared with a weary nation? 


“I think we should be proud of ourselves and how well we’ve done so far. We do, as a small country, tend to compare ourselves to other countries, and broadly speaking, if you look at the figures, we have done very well. And we’ve done well because we’ve looked after each other. That’s what I would say. And let’s all continue to look after each other. The country is a much better place when we [all] consider other people. That old Irish phrase, ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’ (There’s no strength without unity) is the thing that comes to my head. That’s all I’d say. The country doesn’t need me to preach to them. That’s the thing about comedy gigs. People go to them to get away from life. They go to get away from their troubles for a while. And when we have been allowed to do things, you could see that people were going to escape the news-cycle. So let’s just stick together, and this too shall pass.” 


DANCING WITH THE STARS returns to our screens in January. Before then, on December 29th, you can catch Neil in the Celebrity Special of IRELAND’S FITTEST FAMILY. Neil brings his LIMINAL tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel on March 5th, with tickets ON-SALE NOW. For more details, check out www.neildelamere.com 

ENDS

P.J. Gallagher

THE I.N.L.A., TRUMP, AND PUBLIC WHIPPINGS!

First Published November 2017

If all I ever knew about P.J. Gallagher was how passionately he feels about animals and their welfare, that would be enough for me to know I’d go into battle at his side without even a moment’s hesitation should such an hour ever come. But that’s not all I know about him. There’s also the fact that he considers Donald Trump to be looney, so we’re on the same page there, too! And there’s a couple of other things that most folk probably have no idea about, but, no more than both of the points already mentioned, really shine a light on P.J’s character as a human being.

For as long as it was possible for him to do so before his work shifts with Classic Hits 4FM ruled it out, P.J. was a volunteer with Blood Bikes East, meaning he was on call at a moment’s notice to transport blood supplies for hospitals in case of emergencies. And not only that, but since moving to Dun Laoghaire, P.J. has become a volunteer with the R.N.L.I. (Royal National Lifeboat Institution, as opposed to the I.N.L.A, but more on that anon!), because he believes in giving back to the community where you live. 


And on top of all this pure soundness, of course, there’s the fact that P.J. is one of the funniest men in the land. And on December 2nd he’s bringing his latest tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel. I had the pleasure of catching up with P.J. recently for a chat about the new show, and life in general. Now, most comedy shows usually go for some kind of witty play on words to get peoples’ attention when it comes to a name. And P.J. has definitely got peoples’ attention taking his ‘Dickhead’ tour on the road! Only one question to kick things off with then…..!!!


“Ya know somethin’? I wish I had a really good story for this, I really do! I come from when, in stand-up, you didn’t really name your show, you just said, ‘P.J. Gallagher will be ‘live’ on this date and at this time’, and that was it. But at some stage a few years ago somebody started namin’ all these tours! So I started callin’ mine all these stupid names that meant nothin’. And this year the show is about a bunch of stupid stuff that’s happened to me over the last two years, and I said I’m just gonna call it ‘Dickhead’, it’ll be grand! Of course I was thinkin’ nobody would pay any attention. But then you have to have a poster, and suddenly I’m Ireland’s most popular dickhead! [laughs]. So it’s a title I’ll wear with pride, I guess [laughs].”


So the show title doesn’t necessarily indicate what fans will be getting on this occasion? 


“Well, no, I think they will [be getting it]. Because in the last couple of years, since I’ve hit forty-two, I’ve realised I am a bit of a clueless dickhead, so that’s exactly what they’ll get. And what they’ll have to bear with for at least an hour and ten minutes! [laughs].”


How long does it generally take to put together a new show like this? 


“Ah God, it can take up to a year to get a show right. And then, as soon as you get it right, and get out and start actually tourin’, it changes every bloody night anyway! So it’s always a work in progress, ya know. Like, if you saw the first gig I did on this tour – and the last gig is going to be in Donegal on the ninth of December – if you saw those two shows you’d be like, ‘Whaaaaa?!’ Cos’ they’d only be vaguely familiar! But they definitely wouldn’t seem like the same show, ya know that kind of way? So it changes all the time. It’s a really weird process, to be quite honest with ya. Someone like Neil Delamere can just write a whole new show, from start to finish, in a couple of months. For me, it’s probably a year, realistically. That’s how long it takes me.”


So it’s definitely a case of the show evolving as it goes along?


“Yeah, jaysus, I’d get sick of the sound of my own voice if it was the same every night. I wouldn’t be able for it! I did a play last year in the Dublin Theatre Festival, so I had to say the exact same words for a week and it nearly killed me! [laughs]. I was there, how do people feckin’ do this?! How do they do it every single night! I was like this is a disaster of a job, thank God I never made it as an actor! [laughs].”


Between stand-up, tv, and of course radio, being in front of an audience is something P.J. is something that’s second nature for P.J. by now. But is there one of those areas in which he feels most comfortable now and would be quite happy doing forever if it came down to picking just one?


“Yeah, there is, and it’s really surprising for me, to be honest because I would have said no to that a year ago. But now it’s radio, one hundred percent. It’s radio that I enjoy the most, and it’s what I hope I can do for years and years. And if I had to pick one, I’d pick radio in a heartbeat these days.” 


And why radio? 


“Well, ya know with telly ya have to wait so long to get a result. Like, we’ve just finished filming ‘The Young Offenders’ but it’s still gonna be well into 2018 before we know if anybody likes it or not! With stand-up, it’s instant. But you spend so much time on your own. A stand-up comedian is a van driver, essentially! You get into your car or your van, you drive for four hours, you tell some jokes – you deliver jokes instead of parcels – then you go and drive home! You’re on your own all the time. And when you finally do talk to people, they’re not allowed talk back to ya! But radio, it’s so interactive. And it’s got the same sort of instant thing you get with stand-up. Basically, you get to go into the same place, with your friends, and have a laugh every feckin’ day! And radio as well, it’s such a thrill to everything else I’ve done before, too. At least I haven’t had that and been paid for it! I’ve had it in other jobs and been sacked for it [laughs]. But actually gettin’ paid for it is a different thing.” 


P.J. has stated before that he does comedy because he’s good at it, but his real passion in life is bikes. Unfortunately, P.J. fell victim to some shameless scumbags earlier this year, who first of all stole his beloved motorbike and then tried to sell it back to him! I asked P.J. how that all played out in the end? 


“Well, I’ll tell ya now, it actually did play out alright in the end because the insurance company paid up almost straight away, which was grand! So then I went and I got another bike, but the bloody bike I got is so uncomfortable that there’s actually another bike that I’m lookin’ at at the moment! It’s in me Ma’s front garden where the last one was robbed from, and I’m lookin’ at it as I’m talkin’ to you. So the saga continues, but I’m nearly there [laughs].” 


As mentioned in my opening paragraph, P.J. put his love of bikes to positive use for the greater good of his community when he served as a volunteer with Blood Bikes East for a time.


“Yeah, I had to stop when I started the radio show because the shifts crossed over, so that’s why I had to give it up, unfortunately. But I loved it. And I’ve just moved to Dun Laoighaire, so I’ve just joined the R.N.L.I. now, I joined them a couple of weeks ago. I love the social side of it, but also it’s nice to be able to contribute to where you live, at least I think it is. Like, we can all do comedy gigs to help out different things, but it’s rare you’ll actually get to see the effects of where that money goes, so it’s great to be a part of something like that, that you can actually participate in, ya know. And it’s gas, right, cos’ this is only two weeks ago, so I came back to the house here [his mam’s], and I said, Ma, I’m after joining the R.N.L.I. and she was, ‘Ahh feckin’ great, good for you’, ya know. But then I heard her talkin’ to her neighbour, over the garden wall, and she goes, ‘He’s after joinin’ the I.N.L.A.’ (Irish National Liberation Army), she goes! [laughs]. She said, ‘Yeah, he met a fella on the pier and apparently there’s a great social side to it!’ [laughs].”


Like P.J., I’m a huge dog person, and indeed animals in general. And one of the things that really annoys me about this country is how slack, to the point of non-existence sometimes, our animal welfare laws are. I wondered if this was something that ever bothered P.J., too?


“Yeah, it’s a disgrace. It really bothers me. Like, I love the I.S.P.C.A., but when ya hear the stories that the inspectors will tell ya, it would shock ya what goes on in Ireland. To be honest, when it comes to dogs especially, and the way people breed dogs, it’s just a disgrace. I love being Irish, and I love Ireland, but some things are an absolute disgrace and our animal welfare is just….It really upsets me, it actually gets me down, ya know. What I’d say to people is, if you’re gettin’ a dog, please go to the shelters. They’re amazing dogs. A rescue dog, there’s just nothin’ in the world like it. And get it neutered, everybody needs to do their part. Cos’ we’re puttin’ down as many dogs in a month as Scotland puts down in a year! And we’re roughly the same population! Like, it’s so hard to comprehend…If you think of that in numbers, like…The world isn’t good enough for dogs, it really isn’t. We owe them a lot more. I’ve got a Weimaraner and a Collie-cross, she’s actually here lookin’ at me now wonderin’ why I’m not givin’ her attention! She’s from Dogs Trust, she is. But she has a bit of a face on her now, she’s not happy with me [laughs].”


When he first started being recognised in the streets P.J. recalled how he found it hard to get his head around – that complete strangers would know who he was – for a long time. So is ‘fame’ something that he’s settled more into over the years? 


“Well I don’t really know if I’m famous, as much as it is that people just sorta go, ‘Alright there P.J.’, ya know! People kinda know my face, but they never treat me like I’m ‘famous’ or anything. But yeah, ya get used to people knowin’ ya, and ya get used to people chattin’ ya. Ya just have conversations everywhere ya go! Sometimes the motorbike helmet is the best thing in the world, it’s the only way to be anonymous! If I ever want some peace and quiet I just stick on the motorbike helmet, even if I’m drivin’ the car! [laughs]. I’d either look like a very nervous driver, or an I.N.L.A. man, God knows which! [laughs].” 


If the powers-that-be at Classic Hits 4FM came to P.J. in the morning and told him he was in luck, for one show only they were going to be able to get him whatever three people he wanted as guests for his show, who would he choose to fill those spots? 


“Oh man! Jeez, that’s a good question. Well Donald Trump anyway, cos’ I just want to sit down with the man and see if he’s actually that looney and that mad! And I’m sure I’d get some great comedy material out of him. And if I didn’t, there’d still be enough outrage for me to enjoy it [laughs]. So Donald Trump….and maybe Louis Walsh, because I think they might be related! And maybe Shergar, the horse. I want to get his testimony of what the IRA did to him. So Shergar, Donald Trump, and Louis Walsh. I think that could be the best dinner party actually ever!” 


As a comedian, does P.J. believe that there are some things which just shouldn’t be joked about, or which can possibly be joked about too soon? As we spoke, it was just a few days after James Corden had found himself in hot water over comments he made in relation to the Harvey Weinstein scandal that’s rocking Hollywood. Corden, incidentally, was defended by Russell Brand, who pointed out that comedians are needed in life to find and point out the funny side of things.


“Yeah, I’d be more with Russell Brand on that one, I think. I don’t think there is a ‘too-soon’, as such. The problem is if you do something and it’s just not a good joke, then you’re up for a bigger fall. I think that was Corden’s biggest problem, that it just wasn’t a great joke. Like, if he’s made a better joke, it probably wouldn’t have even got that much attention. I’d agree with Russell Brand, I don’t think there is a ‘too-soon’ time. I mean, you can tell a joke, right, and at the same time not be completely insensitive about something. You can always tell a joke, I really do believe that. In fact, I don’t think we’d get over tragedy at all if we didn’t tell jokes. Jokes are how we find our way out of tragedies, or out of scandals, or out of any of these things. Of course, I’m biased, aren’t I, I make jokes about everything for a livin’ [laughs]. But I do genuinely believe it, I don’t think there is anything that shouldn’t be joked about to some degree. That doesn’t mean that you go out and do racist jokes, but that you can go out and do jokes about racism, ya know. There’s ways of doin’ it.”


When I was growing up CHIPS was one of the biggest shows on tv, and Erik Estrada, who played the character of ‘Ponch’, was one of the show’s top stars. P.J. actually got to meet Erik Estrada in real life a few years back, and turns out the man is as much of a legend in real-life as his tv character ever was.


“We were doin’ the series ‘Makin’ Jake’, the Jake Stevens [one of P.J’s characters in ‘Naked Camera’] spin-off series over in L.A., and one of the set-ups was to go and meet him [Erik] in his house.And even though he didn’t know we were filmin’ him at the start, he was just the soundest bloke ever. And when he did know, he started actin’! He was givin’ us shots on the bikes and everything! He goes against all the rules about never meet your heroes! He breaks them all! He’s just the nicest bloke in the whole world, just such a great fella. Now he’s nuts about himself, but I suppose if you’re Erik Estrada you’re allowed to be nuts about yourself! So ya may leave him at it [laughs]. There was talk of him comin’ over here to do somethin’ with the Guards, cos’ he loves cops, but sure it never happened which is a shame. But if he ever does come to Ireland I’ll be queuing up to meet him again, because what a deadly fella!” 


Has there ever been a celebrity whom P.J. has met that was the exact opposite to Estrada, as in, well…not cool?! 


“No, I haven’t actually. No, wait, I did, and do ya know who it was? Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart, the wrestler. I met him one day in RTE years ago. I used to love wrestling when I was a kid. So I seen him and I said to him, ‘I used to love you when I was a kid’, and he just said, ‘Yeah’, and he just walked past me. Just ‘Yeah’, and then shook his head like I was a pathetic little pain in the ass, and walked on. I was like, holy s&it, man, that hurt! That really hurt. You’re after stampin’ on my childhood, ya asshole! [laughs]. But that’s the only time that’s happened really.”


Last question, and another one where P.J. could put his imagination to use. If he was to get a phone-call from Leo Varadkar asking P.J. to do him a huge favour and stand in as Taoiseach for him for one day, but in return, P.J. could sign into law, with immediate and everlasting effect, any one thing….what would it be?


“Ah, this one is easy and obvious. Immediate and long-term jail sentences for animal cruelty. That would genuinely be it. Absolutely. And public floggings for them! If you do something to animals, then you have the same done to you, at the Central Bank, in front of a crowd while they cheer! That’s absolutely what I’d do. If I had that one chance on that one day, then for my day people who abuse animals would be whipped up and down the street!”

ENDS

Katherine Lynch

First Published June 2013

AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART

Katherine Lynch

If your only impression of Katherine Lynch to date has been formed on the basis of what you’ve seen or heard from her alter-ego ‘ Bernie ‘, then one listen to her debut album will change your opinion of her forever. Settling Dust is a fascinating body of work and would rank as a superb achievement for any first-time recording artist. But given that Katherine has accomplished this in spite of what many may have perceived to be the hindrance of already being a household name in a completely different sector of the entertainment spectrum, her performance on every track here is all the more praiseworthy.

 

And it’s a praise well-earned and well deserved, and here’s another thing: not only will this album define your opinion of Katherine, but there’s every chance that in years to come people will look back on its release as a moment that brought a brand new star to the sky of the Irish music scene. Such a statement may, to some, seem like quite a stretch of the imagination on my part, but I trust my instinct with music that touches my heart.

 

Katherine and her manager, Keith O’ Connor, dropped by to say hello to us in TRAX, Tullamore a couple of weeks back and while there Katherine spent over an hour meeting and greeting fans, posing for photos and even taking the time to speak on the phone to a few people who couldn’t make it in to see her in person! From the moment she arrived smiling and five minutes ahead of schedule until her final big wave goodbye, Katherine’s professionalism and easy-going nature were both clear to see and clearly natural.

 

In between autographs, photographs and phone-calls, I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with Katherine about her Settling Dust journey. What, I wondered, had been peoples’ general reaction to the album? Are most people being fair and listening to it before commenting or has there been a tendency among some to jump to conclusions and pre-judge somewhat based on her reputation and work as a comedian?

 

“No, I’m really surprised actually, Anthony, that people have separated it very nicely. And ‘Hot Press’ even gave me a glowing review and compared me to Dolores Keane. And I was like, ‘ Are you sure, guys?! ‘ I’m not used to all the good reviews cos’ normally when you’re a woman and a comedian and you upset the status quo, you don’t always get good reviews! Or good responses. But yeah, there has been a good response to it. ‘Irish Music’ magazine said that my writing was great on it and everything, so I’m really delighted with it actually. I was a bit scared that people were going to go, ‘ What the hell are ya at now?! ‘ But lots of female comedians sing. When you think of Bette Midler or someone like that, you know, she can go from the A to Z of emotion. I think it’s easier to see female comedians sing because you have the likes of Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, top notch women and they all sing.”

 

One of the tracks on the album is a simply haunting version of Raglan Road, that also features the voice of Katherine’s grand uncle, perhaps the greatest of the many great Irish poets, Patrick Kavanagh. How aware was Katherine growing up that she had a relative who was so famous? And did it influence or inspire Katherine’s own creative side?

 

“Yeah, it did actually, and it was like being related to God! Because he really was like the Bible in our house. My father always sat at the range reading Kavanagh and I think he actually married my mother because she was a niece of Kavanagh and he wanted to have grand-nieces of Kavanagh, and nephews! Yeah, Kavanagh was basically our connection to God nearly. I do think he was a mystic and he had a huge influence on me, both spiritually and creatively. Spiritually, I just thought he had such a devine connection to God, like in the pagan fashion, before religion in the secular fashion. He was a mystic, I think. When he could find the truth and the beauty in the most simple of things, I think that’s where you find God, too.”

 

With much of the material on Settling Dust written by Katherine, her link to Kavanagh is obviously more than just blood. Is there any connection, though, between how she writes her songs and poetry and how she works on her comedy material?

 

“No, they’re both completely different things. And with comedy I write with a bunch of people. I write with Warren Myler and Marion Cullen, and we’re writing a new show called ‘ The Centre ‘ soon. That’s more of a collective thing, comedy. There’s always lots of people involved. But with the songs on this album, it’s just me. Well, me and my musicians! The words are mine and the melodies are mine, and I bring them to the lads and they tailor them for me. It’s more of an insular thing [the music]. It’s introvert/extrovert. The writing is introvert, but the comedy is extrovert. And it balances me, that’s why I’m not mad!”

 

In the album notes Katherine talks about her mum Maureen’s dream of her father, Tom, after he had passed away, and how the memory of her mother sharing that dream is the basis of the song Twilight Romance. Would Katherine be a believer in a world beyond this one apart from in the way generated by her mum’s dream and the memory of it?

 

“Yeah, it’s a deep question, Anthony, but I’m enjoying the deep questions that have arisen from the album because I suppose you can hide behind the characters all your life, you know. But you have to be real as well. And when something as heart-wrenching as your father passing or some other grief comes along, you need to know how to handle that as well. And as much as you need to know how to deal with being funny. But yeah, I do believe that there is an after-life. I don’t believe that God is out there with a beard giving out to us or in the images that we’ve been given, but I do believe there’s something bigger there. And it’s mysticism, I think, is what I believe in. It’s always been with me, that I have a belief in something. It can’t be just this. Please God, Anthony, don’t let it be just this!”

 

And as another copy of her album was held out for her signature, I asked Katherine a final question: has she given any thought yet to recording another album somewhere down the line? Or was this something to try once, get it out of her system, then leave it be?

 

“Ya know, Anthony, I’m going to be doing a gig in the Sugar Club and I’m already so excited and it’s not even ’til October 5th! So I believe that I’ll continue to do this, just because I’m just really enjoying it. It’s a far more relaxed journey than the comedy. That’s very difficult sometimes because people either like ya or they don’t like ya. And when they don’t like ya, they really don’t like ya! And when they like ya, they really do like ya, too! So it’s a lot of pressure on both sides. Whereas with this, it’s no pressure, it’s something that’s an affair of the heart. And I like doing it. It keeps in balance the yin and the yang of the inner soul. The start of this journey, that was scary, yeah. But just for stupid vanity reasons. I’d be like, ‘ Oh, better lose a few pounds! ‘ Whereas with my characters, I’m like, ‘ Yeah, whatever! ‘ Bernie can eat burgers, but Katherine the singer can’t. She has to eat organic lentils!”

 

Life may well be a stage and over the course of our lifetimes most of us will end up playing a few different parts. The funny thing about it, however, is that the parts we first become known for aren’t always the parts we become best remembered for. Katherine Lynch will always be an incredibly funny lady with a gift for making people laugh and smile. But my bet is that there’ll come a day when most people no longer remark, ‘Your woman from Wagon’s Den, singing?!’, and instead are far more likely to exclaim, ‘Katherine Lynch, she used to be a comedian?!’

 

The booklet accompanying the album contains lovely and revealing insights into the stories behind each song and with seven originals penned or co-written by Katherine, and the covers treated with a beautiful sensitivity, Settling Dust is simply a debut without a weak spot. Except for maybe one, and that only being that it ends. But the end left me wanting more and that’s the way to do it. So please God as far as Katherine’s recording career is concerned, Settling Dust is merely the end of the beginning.

 

It was an affair of the heart for her, and it will become so for listeners, too.

 

ENDS