Linda Coogan Byrne

First Published July 2020

IRISH RADIO HAS FAILED IRISH FEMALE ARTISTS

Linda Coogan Byrne

Hasn’t it been brilliant seeing Irish artists such as Gavin James, Hozier, Picture This, Dermot Kennedy, and Niall Horan becoming the huge acts they have over the last few years? And make no mistake about it, for their talent, the work hours they put in, and the miles they clock up in making it happen, they deserve every accolade, plaudit, and hit that comes their way. No question about it. I’ll tell you what, though, HERE IS a question for you, and it’s one that LINDA COOGAN BYRNE has decided to ask out loud…what about Ireland’s female artists…where are they? Why aren’t they breaking through to the same degree? Why, actually, are they barely even being heard on Irish radio?

If music is just something that you tune in and out to during your day or every now and then, then perhaps you might be forgiven for falling for the rather lazy assumption that if Irish female artists were ‘good enough’, or ‘as good as’ their male peers, then they’d be getting the same amount of airplay. And in turn, there’d be as many – if not more – breaking through in the same spectacular fashion as the gents mentioned in my opening. But, if music is the world in which you live, and is what you live for, and is at the centre of how you live, then this question will have bothered you in the same way it’s bothered Linda for a long time. Too long now. Way too long to not finally look deeper.

When you know Ireland has fantastically talented female artists like Megan O’ Neill, like RuthAnne, like Emma Langford, like Luan Parle, like Una Healy, like Soulé, like Kehli, like Hannah Kathleen and so many more…but you hardly ever even hear them on Irish radio, then you know that something is definitely not right. And when Linda decided to look deeper, by compiling her recently released report on Gender Disparity on Irish radio, an ugly truth was revealed. And there’s no other way to say – nor should there be – than that Irish radio has failed Irish female artists. Over the course of a full year, from June 2019 to June of this year, only RTE Radio 1 achieved a 50-50 gender balance in terms of their Top 20 most played Irish artists over that time. Many stations had as little as 5% Irish female artists in their Top 20. And that is definitely NOT an accurate reflection of the number of amazing female artists we have on this island, nor of the music they’re creating.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Linda to talk about her report last week. As the founder of Good Seed PR, and someone who has experienced every area of the music business – from having played in bands herself, to working for and with major record labels – what, I wondered, was the tipping-point for her to actually chase down these figures, put things into black and white, and say to Irish radio…LOOK! Linda had mentioned in a recent interview elsewhere on this same topic that while compiling the data there were actually moments where she became really angry, and even cried. Were there, I wondered, similar moments along the way to finally making the decision to put this report together?

“Yeah, totally. I mean, first of all, during Covid I had time to actually finish the report, because I had started it last year. That’s why it’s from June of last year to now. I’ve worked in the industry for over fifteen years, professionally as an industry person, but I was in bands since I was seventeen years of age. So I’ve been in the industry for a long time, as both a musician and an artist as well. And just seeing the disparity and inequality that women constantly have to face…You know, the likes of walking into a recording studio, and there’ll be two lads beside ya. I’d walk in with a guitar and even whoever is producing, or is on the desk as an engineer, would be like, ‘Oh right, go on, let us see ya play, go on take it out there.’ And I’m like, would you say that to a dude? Would you say that to a guy? It’s about always having to constantly validate ourselves because we’re women! It’s ridiculous. Or wearing a tee-shirt, a Rolling Stones tee-shirt, or a Ramones tee-shirt, and someone’s goin’ around to ya goin’ can ya name a song? Ya know! [laughs]. And I’m sure any woman that hears me say this will be like, ‘Yeah, totally.’ It’s this gender bias that women have no idea about music and that it’s all about men. And unfortunately, it’s because the industry hasn’t supported us. It’s not because women aren’t making  music. It’s the fact that females creating music aren’t being given the same platform and opportunities as male acts to be broken. And it’s neglect. It’s inequality on a national level in Ireland. It has devastating effects on women who are creating music and on those who aspire to create it. Because the message that they’re sending, and have been sending for more than a decade, is that they [female artists] don’t matter. What they’re creating doesn’t matter, because they won’t be heard. You have the likes of the UK who have broken their own domestic acts, I mean, Jesus, just to name a few there’s Amy Winehouse, Mabel, Rita Ora, Jessie Ware, Paloma Faith, Dua Lipa…the list goes on! But in Ireland, in the last ten years, who can name a breakthrough Irish commercial act that has gone outside of Ireland? I mean, anyone can name Picture This, Gavin James, Dermot Kennedy. They roll off the tongue. And that’s just in the last few months. There’s no women. The Cranberries were 1989, The Corrs were 1990. B*Witched were probably the last pop commercial act from Ireland. That’s shocking to see that that’s the last era of Irish female acts that were adequately represented. Why did that stop? That’s the question we need to ask.” 

It’s a very broad question in so many ways, something I acknowledged to Linda as I put it to her, but in her own opinion and based on her own many years of experience in the music business and dealing with radio…why does she think this gender gap has come to exist across Irish radio? And to exist in so big a way at that…

“That’s a good question, and it’s one that keeps coming up. A lot of people go with the argument that commercial radio plays what’s commercial and what’s on Spotify, and what’s trending. And while that’s all well and good for the likes of Doja Cat who trends on Tik-Tok and then everyone starts playing her. The likes of Gavin James, the likes of Picture This…and I have to keep going back to the lads because this is about male and female in Irish radio, it’s Irish artists only…but they were being played on the radio before they broke. It wasn’t the fact that radio suddenly started playing them when they got this big record deal. They were supported, record labels saw the support they got, and then they took a chance on signing these artists. Women aren’t getting the same chances. So why are radio doing that? I don’t know. I have to question how play-lists are put together. Some say it’s an algorithm based system whereby they chose what’s on-trend, they look to Spotify and see who’s trending. But if you do that, then the likes of RuthAnne [Cunningham], who’s brought out the Women In Harmony single [a cover of Dreams by the Cranberries], but prior to her even doing that collaboration, she has over three billion – THREE BILLION – streams collectively on Spotify for artists that she’s written for. And herself, she has millions of streams on her own merit, on her own music that she’s released as an individual artist. So if it was a case where the argument is, ‘Oh radio are following trends’…, that’s not true. Because there are female artists that are mentioned in the report that have got more streams than some of the artists that have been broken in Irish radio that are male. So it’s really about why the system is in place in Irish radio where they can add a female to a play-list and add a male to a play-list, and yet the females are getting totally thrown aside and not being appointed the heavy rotation play-lists that men are. They [female artists] are being put on overnight play-lists that nobody listens to because it’s in the middle of the night! It really needs to be properly looked at and inspected. Because to be honest, it’s not only a blatant disregard of female creatives, it’s an infringement on basic human rights. If you’re given a broadcasting licence in Ireland, there are standards that come with that, stipulations where there has to be equality all around. It’s legislation. So if they’re neglecting that…! It’s a discriminatory practise if they’re directly impacting how an artist can make money and earn a living, and that’s what they’re doing. It’s 100% radio licences who are being given the privilege, via the government, and they’re taking that privilege and they’re rejecting female artists. And that is a big issue.” 

Something I’m sure Linda has probably thought about often is what would she do right now, if she was in a position of influence within a radio station, to go about redressing this horrific imbalance?

“I’d look for an opt-in solution. RTE Radio 1, our national station, they have gender balance. I rang Martina McGlynn and Aidan Butler, who are senior producers and who are on the play-list committee – because it’s a play-list committee that’s on Radio 1 – and I asked them why did they think they have come up trumps in this, because they have, they’re 50-50. And their answer was because it’s mindful. They go in every week, they sit down, they look at the submissions, and they say right, we have to make sure that there’s a non-gender bias here. Some weeks it might be six women over four men or whatever. But generally, from their annual perspective, they have got it right. She said you can’t always have every week five and five, or 50-50, but they mindfully are always aware to try and enact gender balance. She said it’s as simple as that. Women and men deserve equal opportunities. So what I say to radio, and what I have said to radio, because I’ve issued an email to every single radio station, to every single head-of-music in each station, and I’ve welcomed them to open up the conversation. I’ve said that myself and Áine [singer/songwriter Áine Tyrrell who co-compiled the report with Linda] are here to discuss it, to accept and acknowledge that they have let down the women of Ireland – because they have, this is a fact, it’s not an opinion – and how they can go about changing that and enforcing change. And how do they do that? They get together as a team, the programme directors, the marketing team…because everyone goes, oh it’s marketing because men are easier to market than women, which is absolute tripe! Some of the biggest artists in the world of music are female artists; Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Billie Elish…they’re all some of the biggest artists ever, in history! So this whole thing of people don’t like women being heard on the radio, or female voices, ya know, it just has to stop. Radio needs to sit down and look at the facts. And stop feeling so personally attacked that someone has stated the obvious. And this is what we’re seeing coming back. Even on these ridiculous Twitter attacks where DJs are feeling like they’re being targeted. We’re not targeting DJs. This is not a personal attack. This is not an opinion based report. It’s a factual data report, which outlines the gender disparity that’s in radio. It’s as simple as that. I have DJs that I’ve worked with for years going, ‘Oh Linda, I feel like you’ve fed me to the wolves.’ And I’m going to them, well if you feel that, how do you think female artists have been feeling for over a decade in Ireland?! So again, they have to put their ego aside, because this isn’t about them. It’s about gender equality. It’s about the likes of FM104 giving 100% male acts, 100%! Most stations are 95% [male] to 5% [female]. Like…5%? I mean, I can’t even…! When I was putting this report together, I had to keep checking, because I was thinking, am I seeing this right? Is this actually true?! [laughs]. But these figures can’t be pushed away. It can’t be the case where it’s like, oh it’s just another woman voicing her opinion. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. And we’re not going to be hushed away this time. I’ve noticed that other types of reports, and research pieces have been done – especially through colleges, and women studying women, womens’ equality and all that – and it’s fallen on deaf ears. For whatever reason, I don’t know. But this time it’s not falling on deaf ears. The article itself has reached just over sixteen million views worldwide, it’s been shared by every national publication in Ireland. There’s going to be more international publications published over the next few weeks because I’ve literally been doing back-to-back interviews since the 24th of June. We have solidarity in the UK, we have solidarity coming in from the US. There’s other people getting in touch going, oh my God, this is a human rights issue. So radio stations cannot ignore this anymore. They’ve turned their back on a generation of Irish women that have been told their music is not good enough, and that their voice is not important, and is not up to the standard of their male counterparts. And that is not true.” 

We talk a lot about the importance of mental health these days, which, of course, is just as it should be. But in terms of the impact that this treatment has surely had on Irish female artists over the years, and the loss to Irish musical culture (through the loss of the music itself, but also through the denial of opportunities for those artists to grow), what kind of damage does Linda think may have been done?

“Irreparable damage. Irreparable on the psyche, on the levels of confidence a woman can have within herself and in her own voice, in who she is as a person with a view, a perspective, a story to tell. We’re all weaving stories in terms of our own narratives in life, as songwriters, as composers. I’ll go back to Ruth Anne. Ruth Anne has written for John Legend, for Niall Horan, for Brittany Spears, Bebe Rexa, JoJo…the list goes on. She is a brilliant storyteller. She has reached billions of people through her songwriting with men singing her songs, and other women singing her songs at an international level. But when it comes to her own country, telling her stories…And by the way, Irish radio has no problem playing Niall Horan. And RuthAnne has written songs for One Direction as well. I have so much respect for the women of Ireland, honest to God, because I can’t imagine the mental weight that they’ve had to carry for a generation of songwriters, and music creators, and musicians, and session musicians, and women in bands and fronting bands. Because they’re looking at their male peers thrive, being told yes, yes, you’re great, this is brilliant. And they’re being told to look sexy. Lose a bit of weight. Maybe if you get more followers…Men aren’t being told any of that! Lewis Capaldi is one of the biggest male artists in the world! And I love Lewis, but nobody ever told him to look sexy, ya know? Dermot Kennedy was never told to look sexy. There’s a lot of sexism as well involved. And we have to look at it from a broader perspective as well, because most of the heads of music in radio stations are men. OK, this is a fact. So men have to address the issue of gender imbalance and gender inequality. For whatever reason it is, and I don’t know why they’re choosing not to play women, but it has to be addressed, and it has to be addressed now. Because we’re not going away. We’re going to keep speaking. And we’re not shouting. This isn’t women shouting. It’s not opinions. We’re voicing facts at this stage.” 

If it seems to be mostly men who also compile play-lists, does the fact in itself point towards a large part of this problem? Or does it point towards an even deeper problem still in Irish radio?

“I mean…you said it, not me! [laughs]. At the moment, I’m being harassed, there’s Facebook groups after being created, hate groups, ‘ya sexist feminist’, all of this absolute tripe. On the Nialler9 Facebook group, one of the women put up the report, and the horrific comments that started coming in. Horrific. And I’ve said to the ladies, because we’re all in this together, do not go onto that page. You’re all better than that and you do not deserve to be reading the comments that men are putting on the page. And I just want to address another thing. I don’t know why Nialler is allowing that type of commentary to happen on a page that should be a safe space. I think that needs to be moderated in a better capacity than just letting people have free reign to tear women down. I love Dermot Kennedy’s music. Hozier is an incredible activist, let alone a musician. He’s a brilliant man. I travelled to Amsterdam last year to see Dermot Kennedy because I couldn’t get a ticket to go to his show here. And I want to be able to travel to another country because I can’t get a ticket to see an Irish woman playing here as well. All of those men deserve to be where they are. But there should be some balance. RuthAnne deserves to be where Hozier is. Soule deserves it. All of these other amazing female artists, Kehli, Hannah Kathleen, there’s loads of these artists emerging who are creating brilliant pop music. It’s really well produced and the quality standard is there. I just don’t know why the predominantly male play-listers aren’t deciding to play them. I think they need to take a long, hard look at themselves to see what they’re doing to the creative women of Ireland and why they’re doing it. They need to have a good answer for that, because the facts are there. The data is there. And they should respectfully respond.”

I wondered if perhaps play-lists themselves – the fact that they exist, why they exist, what their presence in the industry in turn allows to exist – are a part of the problem? Are they a part of what has damaged the way some people value music, and therefore, its creators?

“That’s a very good question. That goes to a deeper level of opinion, and again, I don’t want to go too far away from this report on this occasion. Because it’s a factual report, it’s a data report. So I’m just mindful that we don’t go off the terrain of factual data versus opinion too much. This report isn’t based on one argument over another, it’s just about the findings and how we can get people to react. I can’t answer the question of play-lists. Only people within broadcasting can. The likes of the B.A.I. [Broadcasting Authority of Ireland], it’s even on their site that they will endeavour to ensure that viewers and listeners in Ireland will have access to a diverse range of services, programming, and perspectives that meets their needs and reflects their diversity. And that it will actively encourage and support Irish broadcasters in realising this objective. So it is within the objective of radio play-lists all across the world to reach an equal level of diversity. And it’s not happening in Ireland. So in terms of looking deeper into the play-lists, I don’t even think it’s play-lists that are the issue. It’s the people behind the play-lists. That’s where the issue lies. Irish artists are being broken, but it’s male Irish artists. Certain stations will have a remit, which is basically the genre relating to a station and the commercial viability of that and how it will pan out. So there’s pop music, there’s rock music, Radio Nova, for example, is predominantly guitar led rock music, it’s a specialist station, that’s what it is when you go there. 98FM is a commercial station, you’ll mostly hear pop music and R’n’B, commercial mainstream. FM104, the same. Spin, the same. RTE Radio 1 is adult contemporary, folk music crossing over mainstream acoustic. You’re not going to hear a mad, up-tempo pop song on Radio 1 because it’s not their remit. So there are remits to different radio stations, and that’s standard within the whole entire industry. I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is the people that the artists that are played across every genre, are predominantly male. So for every Hudson Taylor, there’s an Emma Langford. There are all these counterparts on the female side who are just as good as their male equivalent. So why is it a case that it’s predominantly male?” 

So with regard to the report, what does Linda want to see happen next, as in right now?

“I want to see radio stations respond. I’m issuing a report tomorrow about the response from Irish male artists, and their initial reaction. And they had no idea it was this bad. In an ideal world, I want radio stations to firstly get back to me, because only five have got back to me so far. The rest are ignoring me. So I want them to actually respond. I want them to engage and open a conversation. I want them to not look at this as a direct attack, it isn’t. It’s a question. Women are entitled to ask a question without being seen as being shrill, without being seen as being argumentative, without being seen as,’oh she’s on one!’ Ya know. This thing that I’m getting on Twitter, and there’s some female DJs that are on the defensive as well, going oh why are you attacking me? But I’m not. I just asked a question. You can see that they are intimidated by the companies that they work for, because they’re on eggshells at the moment in the radio industry. And I have to say, one major station got back to me and said that they’re gonna work on it, and that’s 2FM. And it’s amazing that they have because they are one of the trending stations when it comes to breaking Irish music. They have amazing champions of Irish music like Tara Stewart, Tracy Clifford, Eoghan McDerrmott. They got back to me like a flash and said, ‘we’re definitely going to look into this, thank you for highlighting it. We’ll try to do better.’ That’s what I want the other station to do. I want them to follow Radio 1’s influence, that they mindfully go into a play-list meeting. This isn’t a hard thing we’re asking them to do. Let’s split this down the line. We’ll appoint play-lists to women, and we’ll appoint play-lists to men. That’s what I want to see happen. It shouldn’t take six months to happen. They can do this in the next few weeks.” 

Looking at the music business and the impact of Covid 19, I asked Linda how she sees the industry returning from the trauma of the last few months? How far away are we from the old ‘normal’, or, what does she believe a new ‘normal’ for the industry will look like?

“I think the way people perform is gonna change. I think with the likes of ‘net gigs, different online platforms that will show artists playing from their home or from a home studio direct to their fans, I think that’s gonna be huge. I think people need to stop putting up their performances for free. I love the likes of IG TV which is great, it’s raw, and putting a song or two out there, that’s fine, no problem. But for actual gigs, people need to realise that the likes of this pandemic can happen again. There could be a second wave of this one as well. If you keep up with the actual science side of it – not just the news – they are saying that it might get worse. So we mightn’t even be at the worst stage of Covid yet. We have to embrace change. And we have to embrace the digital era of music, and the digital era is having the likes of these huge online platforms that are now catering for artists to perform and to stream ‘live’ gigs. And to pay for it. To be honest, a fiver to see your favourite artist versus eighty-eight euro to see them in the 3Arena, I know it’s not the same buzz or whatever, but if there’s an alternative there to engage with someone you love listening to, why not engage? People need to stop putting up free gigs because it’s reducing the value of their own creative work, their portfolio. They need to think right, this could be a long-term thing, so they have to still be able to monetise what they’re creating because it’s a profession that they’re in, it’s a business that they’re in. I feel that as the music industry expands, it’s going to become more digitised and we’ll see a lot of new, different platforms emerging.” 

 
 

~ You can view Linda’s full report into Gender Disparity on Irish radio by visiting her website, www.lindacooganbyrne.com. You can also follow Linda on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

 
 

ENDS

Lorraine Keane

First Published February 2020

LORRAINE’S FASHION RELIEF RETURNS

(Part 1) 

Lorraine Keane

It’s probably something that we’re all guilty of to some extent from time to time. We think that because we can’t do something huge there’s no way at all in which we can help those in most need around the world. But thanks to LORRAINE KEANE and her FASHION RELIEF event with OXFAM, thoughts like that should never cross our minds again. The reason why is simple. From Lorraine’s own personal experiences of visiting some of the most impoverished places on Earth – countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Somalia, Haiti, Guatemala, and more – she came to realise that in such places even as little as €20 can feed a family for a week. Just take a moment to think about that… €20 can feed a family for a week…

That knowledge was the spark from which FASHION RELIEF was first born a couple of years ago, as Lorraine and Oxfam combined to create an event where designer, pre-loved, and celebrity donated items can be purchased for as little as €20 in many cases. So even one sale like that will do a world of good that most of us, please God, will never be in a position to need. To date, FASHION RELIEF has raised in excess of €200,000. This year’s Galway event takes place in the Galmont Hotel on March 1st, and will be followed by a full weekend in Dublin’s R.D.S. on March 28th and 29th.

Ahead of those dates, I had the pleasure of catching up with Lorraine last Friday evening. We began our chat by going back to late last year when Lorraine visited somewhere that, hopefully, most of us will never come close to experiencing…the largest refugee camp in the world, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh…

“Like all of these trips that I do, and I’ve been doing them once a year for the last ten years, it was just very difficult. I’d like to think that they get easier, but I think they actually get worse, to be honest with you, because you know what to expect. These people are living in extreme poverty. When I’m there, yeah, I get a little homesick, I miss Peter and the girls, and my family. But when I come back, it kind of stays with you for ages as well. You meet these people actually face-to-face, you hear their stories, and see how they’re living, and the conditions they’re living in. And they’re so grateful. That’s the really sad part, when they’re thanking you for helping them and thanking Oxfam, and asking you to please tell the Irish people how grateful they are for giving them shelter. And that’s just a very basic tent they’re talking about, made from tarpaulin and bamboo. And also for giving them clean, safe drinking water, and food, and other supplies. I mean, all of these people were living in what were certainly poorer conditions than any of us would ever have to experience in this part of our planet, thank God. But they were still self-sufficient, they had farms and land, and homes. But they [the Rohingya] were literally just thrown out of those homes and off their own land, and their houses were burned down.”

 

Lorraine continued, “If it wasn’t for the Bangladeshi government being so generous – because they’re not a very wealthy country themselves, they’re already struggling to look after their own – but they opened up the boarder to a million refugees. And that’s a huge example to the rest of us. All these people want to do, remember, is to go home. Because they’ve been there now for two years, and it’s at about four times the capacity of people for the space that’s available, and according to what the U.N. recommended capacity is. But at least while they’re there, they’re feeling safe. And we’re trying to keep them healthy. Oxfam provide health -workers and have little clinics and things like that. And because of where they are, like so many places in the developing world, extreme climate is a huge part of the reason that they are impoverished. We worry about climate change on our little island, but my goodness! Our part of the world is doing all the damage, but their part of the world is suffering all the consequences, ya know.”

 

There was one woman in particular, Nalia, who told me about herself”, Lorraine said. “She had four children and was pregnant with her fifth when she was trying to leave Myanmar, to escape to Bangladesh after her house had been burned down. They escaped in the middle of the night, but they were caught, and her husband was shot dead in front of her. So, at eight and a half months pregnant, she struggled to get to Bangladesh. And then, just as they got to the boarder, her son was also shot in front of her, her eldest child. And her other children witnessed that. She went on to give birth to a little girl, and now that little girl is being brought up in Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee camp in the world. Nalia has become a leader within the refugee camp for women, and for girls. It’s a very strict culture, and religion, so it’s very restrictive for them living in those kind of conditions. They have no privacy. And yet, their culture and religion insist that they are very private, stay covered, and all the rest. It’s very tough. It would break your heart.”

 
 

Lorraine’s first Fashion Relief event of 2020 was just over a week away when we spoke, so I asked her how hectic was life as she took care of all the final preparations for Galway, and of course, continued to get ready for the two Dublin shows in the RDS at the end of March, also?

“Well I was just down in Galway for the last couple of days delivering by hand our leaflets around shops, and cafes, and restaurants, and boutiques, anybody that would take them! Just to publicise the event on the ground, at a local level. Then the lovely Keith Finnegan had me on with Jon Richards on Galway Bay FM, who is a friend of Peter’s for a long time because he’s been a big fan of The Devlins [Lorraine is married to Peter Devlin, of the band The Devlins], he would have had the band on performing ‘live’ over the years. And they’re running ads for us all next week for free, it’s just amazing, the generosity of people, what they’ll do to help. So maybe it does help to make a difference, the fact that I get to travel to these countries and then show everybody the difference that the money raised makes, ya know. Irish people, as we know, are some of the most generous people in the world. Nobody has said no to me. And that’s anybody from well-know, high-profile celebrities and sports personalities, like Miriam O’ Callaghan, Rob Kearney, Norah Casey, Mary Kennedy, Rosanna Davison, all of these fabulous people, the list goes on and on. I just had a text message there from Vogue Williams to say she was posting over some items, and Vogue donated last year as well. Roz Purcell was in touch this morning saying the same, so was Holly Wright, and Holly Carpenter. But apart from that, it’s the people who I wouldn’t have known, in AV (audio-visual), and staging, and events, things like that, they’re all providing it for free too. And that’s worth thousands and thousands of euro. But they want to help. I think most Irish people want to help, but they just don’t know how or what to do. So I’ve given them that outlet.”

Thinking back a few years to the moment when Lorraine first knew that she needed to do something to help these people, and then arriving at the idea of Fashion Relief with her husband Peter, did she have any idea at all at that time that this would become something which, as Lorraine has since said many times, she feels like she’ll be involved with for the rest of her life?

“Ya know what? I didn’t even know if the first one would work! You have to take some risks in your career. And I thought this was a risk worth taking. So we said we’d try it and just do our best. I mean, when you’re out there, in these countries, and you see that €20 would feed a family for a week, gosh, even longer, I knew that no matter what we raised it would help in some way. And it’s all been because of people being so generous. But no, I really had no idea. To go from one event in year one, and then last year having five events! And this year, we’ll probably have five or six altogether. It’s been great. And we’ve now raised over €200,000 which I never imagined we’d do, because Fashion Relief is not even two years old, although we’re on our third lot of events.” 

ENDS

Tommy Tiernan

First Published March 2016

IMPOTENCE, VINEGAR, FIRING-SQUADS, & FLAT FEET!

Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan brings his Out Of The Whirlwind tour to Tullamore on Saturday, April 2nd, for what will actually be the final night of the Irish leg of this tour. I had the pleasure of catching up with Tommy again recently, and believe me when I tell you, chatting with Tommy is like getting a private show all to yourself! You end up laughing so much that you have to remind yourself to focus on the ‘work’ part of what you’re doing! Hopefully this week’s headline offers a good indication of what I mean, given that the above were all topics we touched on! As you’ll see when you read on….

When we spoke, the general election was still three days away. And yet, as I prepare this column to go to print, we still don’t have a government! But that’s an argument for another day. Coming up to the election, Tommy, on his Facebook page, had declared his support for his local Green Party candidate in Galway. I asked him if politics was something that would normally get his attention, or with which he would engage?

“Well, I joined the Green Party a year ago, just to try and get some info. I live on the edge of Galway Bay and there was talk of a massive salmon farm being opened, just off the coast of Inisheer. And there’s stuff like that that I’m not too informed on, ya know. So I thought I’d join the Green Party to see if I could get some information on what was happening. I was asked by the local candidate to give him a bit of a push, which I was delighted to do, cos’ he’s a great man. And Galway gets five T.D’s, so I think at least one of them should be Green! I mean, you probably wouldn’t want the five of them to be Green! [laughs]. But at least one of them should be. But the irony of it now is that I’m not actually going to be in the country on election day! Which is kind of weird, and I wouldn’t say I’m the only one who isn’t in Ireland on the day, because of work or whatever. So I have no vote! I’m impotent when it comes to change! [laughs].”

While preparing to interview Tommy, I read through some of the comments people had left under that Facebook post referred to in my opening question, and some just couldn’t resist having a go at Tommy simply because he shared his opinion. I put it to Tommy that even the slightest passing remark about politics or politicians seems to be enough to get some people spewing all kinds of bile and undirected, or improperly directed, anger these days. I asked him if he thought it was fair how we, society, seem to treat politicians now?

“Well, I think politicians are probably quite deserving of our anger! [laughs]. I didn’t really read any of those comments, to be honest with you, Anthony. I think the internet is a safe place for bullies, cos’ they can snipe at others while they remain kind of protected [as they do so]. So I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it. There’s an awful lot of vinegar out there, oh my lord! A fierce amount of bile, and snideness. And it’s in the press as well, more so than on the radio. Rarely in the local press, in fairness, but it’s very prominent in the national press. There’s men and women in the national press who must do nothing but drink vinegar! They’re just the bitterest…..! They’re raised on lemons. They’re toxic, and they don’t bring anything of worth to the table. But look, they’re there, and it’s against the law to shoot them! [laughs]. But when Sinn Fein get in we’ll line them up against a wall and riddle them all! [laughs]. I think taking shots at politicians is fair enough. Sure it’s a bit of craic!” 

Staying with politics, but turning our focus to the United States where their marathon Presidential election process is underway, I asked Tommy about Donald Trump. Is he just a gift for comedians, or possibly, the man who will actually destroy the planet?

“Well I’ll tell ya, if he’s the man to destroy the planet, he’s not alone! There’s a few other crazy f**kers out there. Would you trust Putin? Would you trust whoever’s running China? Would you trust your man in North Korea? Would you trust Michael Noonan? The list is endless! [laughs]. 

Tommy has been a top-class comedian for over twenty years now, and I wondered if comedy was like music in the way that there are cycles. For a while, it’s all about boybands, then it’s guitar bands, then singer/songwriters, and so on. In comedy, is it necessary to change with the times to any degree in order to stay popular?

“You have to keep evolving, but you don’t evolve with an eye on the marketplace. You don’t say, o.k, whoever’s selling out the 3Arena, I’ve got to be more like him. That would actually drive you insane, by not following any kind of natural energy or instinct. You’d be trying to copy something out of desperation and that’s not a recipe for laughter. This show I’m doing at the moment, Anthony, ‘Out Of The Whirlwind’, it finishes in New Zealand in April. And the next tour is called ‘Playtime’, that’ll start next October. So I’m in the process of gathering ideas for the ‘Playtime’ show, but it’s not about trying to copy Russell Howard or John Bishop, it’s about trying to find the adventure in your imagination. And hoping that connects with people. I think if the adventure is authentic, and not some part of a commercial plan, it just naturally connects with people. Like, my young fella is in a band, and at the moment they’re all sixteen or seventeen, so they’re playing all cover versions. You feel like saying to them, it’s o.k. playin’ cover versions as long as you f**k it up! Because it’s in the f**king up that things get interesting! Do you know what I mean, though? There’s any amount of carbon-copy cover bands and they’re fine, sometimes that’s what people want. But if you want a career as a musician, then you have to f**k things up! [laughs]. And I think it’s probably the same with comedy. It’s not through copying that you become original. Which is obvious in it’s own way anyway. Samuel Beckett had this great saying, ‘Fail again, fail better.’ Which isn’t ideal advice for a young fella doin’ his Leaving Cert, mind you! It’s kinda like, make a mess of things, and then REALLY make a mess of things! [laughs]. And it’s through that, that originality happens.” 

Tommy said once that he felt completely comfortable on stage. I wondered if that was still true?

“Well, I feel at home on stage. It’s funny, and I don’t know why this is coming into my head, but I was in a hotel foyer in Dundalk last weekend, after doin’ a show. And country people were coming up to me and throwing their arms around me for photographs. This one fella, he threw his arms around me anyway, and there was a few people there takin’ photographs, and he turned to me and he says, ‘I bet ya feel like Joe Dolan now!’ [laughs]. There’s always a reference point for every stage of your career! So I’m goin’ through the Joe Dolan phase of my career now, whatever that means?! But yeah, I’m very comfortable on stage. The thing you have to fight against is becoming complacent. I suppose you could look at the Kilkenny hurlers, and Brian Coady, and how every year he ramps them up. Now they don’t win the All-Ireland every year, but every twelve months he’s able to ramp them up to give their very best. The same is true of stand-up. Every year you’ve got to give it your best shot and not become complacent. If you do become complacent, then first of all you become your own tribute act! So there’s no excitement in goin’ to see ya, cos’ you’re just repeating yourself. And there are some comedians that do that, and some people like seeing it. I was talking to this lady one time, and she was goin’ to see Michael McIntyre. Now I think Michael is a fine man. But this lady, she says to me, ‘I WANT to see the material I’ve already seen on tv.’ That’s what she wanted! So there’s always gonna be a market for that. But my thing is more that I want to keep the adventure alive. For myself. And then, as I was saying earlier, my presumption is that will naturally connect with an audience.” 

I read once that Tommy used to not do his homework in school because he felt it would make the next day more interesting. As he’s also done a tour which was completely unscripted, and hosted a chat show where he didn’t know who the guest was going to be until they walked out in front of him, he clearly has a particular fondness for the unexpected! But is there a side to him that’s the exact opposite of that in some way? Where things have to be done in a certain way, and that’s just how it has to be?

“Ya know, a lot of performers would be control freaks, so yeah, I suppose there is. Sometimes, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of difference between the artistic and the autistic. With autism, it’s often the security of the same thing happening over and over and over again, that’s needed. Anyone who’s really good at something has the ability to obsess. And sometimes that ability to obsess is very natural to them. I think one of the calling-cards of autism is that ability to obsess about something over and over and over again. So I’m not sure that artistic ability is that far removed from being somewhere on the spectrum. Like, I’m a great man for talkin’ about freedom on stage, but I can be a bit obsessive, too! I’m sure the people who live with me would tell ya, yeah, daddy’s a bit of a control freak! [laughs].”

The last date on the Irish leg of Tommy’s Out Of The Whirlwind tour is in Tullamore. How does Tommy usually feel when a tour comes to an end? Is it happiness? Relief? A touch of sadness?

“I used to work maybe forty-eight, fifty weeks of the year, so what would happen is you’d release a dvd and then you’d have three months to get a new show together. But you’re performing over those three months, too. So there was never a big, clean break of four or five months off, and then start again. But this time there is. And the night in Tullamore is the last night of the Irish tour, and I have relatives around Tullamore so we’re lookin’ forward to a big party night there! [laughs]. I’ve worked really hard over the last fourteen months doing stand-up, so the show is very ‘fit.’ So yeah, now I’m lookin’ forward to meeting my wife in the jacks of the Bridge House Hotel! [laughs]. Just havin’ a bit of craic and lettin’ go on that night, cos’ the Bridge House is always a great venue for us.” 

Having learned in that very recent past that Nathan Carter can click every bone in his body (so he tells me!), that Mario Rosenstock doesn’t drive, and that Colette Fitzpatrick is double-jointed, my final question to Tommy was this: Is there anything like that, kind of unusual, weird or strange about him, of which his fans may not be aware?

“I’m colour-blind, I’ve got flat feet, and I’m tone deaf! You can actually buy glasses in America…[pauses]….or was it Italy? Jaysus, I’d be an awful explorer! [laughs]. But they fix colour-blindness anyway. But as far as being tone-deaf and flat-footed goes, they’re not fixable! It’s not enough to claim disability, but it’s tough to live with! [laughs]. 

ENDS

Des Bishop

First Published November 2019

TRUMP, SEX, & DEATH

(Part 2)

Des Bishop brings his brand new TAKE THE POINTS show to Tullamore on November 30th.

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.” 

ENDS

Des Bishop

First Published November 2019

ALWAYS ON POINT

(Part 1)

November 30th sees Des Bishop bring his new show, Take The Points, to the Tullamore Court Hotel.

Great comedy is nearly always sculpted from truth. And great comedians have an innate ability to seek out the truth of life despite all of the distractions it comes wrapped up in. And within the truth – be in happy, sad, ugly or beautiful – great comedians can always find the humour there. That’s why the really great ones do so much more than just ‘tell jokes.’ They actually tell us about life, and about ourselves. DES BISHOP certainly falls into that category, and he’s bringing his new show, TAKE THE POINTS, to the Tullamore Court Hotel on November 30th.

I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Des before he went on stage for a recent show, and I began by asking him about ‘Take The Points.’ Sometimes comedians or musicians pick a title for a new tour or album just because they need to put something on the tickets and the posters! But there are also some who choose a title that genuinely gives somewhat of an overview of a theme that might be running through the show or body of work. Which scenario was most true of Des in this case, I wondered?

“This title now falls in between those two things. Because I did just need a title. But…I also wanted to have a generic enough title that would still encompass the fact that the show is going to try and tackle certain issues. But at the same time, it does come from, ‘Take the points and the goals will come’, ya know. It’s a sentence that just resonates. It’s not offensive or anything. But when you read the description of the show, you’re like, o.k, point taken, as a guy the world is changing. There’s a lot of just, ya know Irish stuff and funny stuff, and dirty stuff, in the show [laughs]. But it does stay true to some of the description of the title of the show, too. It’s not a very themed show, though, by any stretch of the imagination.”

I wondered if there was also something in the origins of the title – take your points and the goals will come – that suggested if we, as a society, and indeed a world in general, can work on getting some of the little things right again, this in turn will lead us to being better placed to correct some of the bigger things, too?

“I think when I wrote the title it was just when I was thinking about inspiration for the show. Now you have to realise that it was this time last year that I was working on this show. I was doing some preliminary shows which would become ‘Take The Points’. But at the time, I was very much thinking that as a guy it’s very easy to get defensive about the news right now, ya know. Masculinity, and men behaving badly…, and obviously there’s a real push for equality. Even within my own industry, I can see that change. So you’re responding to that all the time. You’re trying to celebrate what’s good about it, while at the same time, trying not to get too down about the fact that some of this is because a lot of people of your own gender have been acting the prick! And also, people within your own industry were behaving in a certain way and…it was like a shock to me. So you feel like a dumbass that you didn’t see these things goin’ on around ya. So there’s also that. That kind of guilty by association type of feeling? This, by the way, is the process behind the jokes, not the jokes themselves. You’re tryin’ to make sense of all these emotions. And there are a couple of bits in the show where I challenged myself to write about that. It’s not so much like you were sayin’ about getting the little things right, it’s really about making sense of where we’re at right now. I thought I’d write more jokes about men being defensive but actually, it ended up not really being the case. It’s funny, because in Ireland it’s actually easier to tell it like it is. The world is changing, so let’s tell some jokes about the changing world. In the States, it’s more difficult because people are more divided. So there, when you do certain material, it’s almost like you’re taking a side. Whereas here, in Ireland, it’s not as divided. People might think it is, but it’s not. So you don’t actually feel like you’re taking a side, you’re just making funny jokes about the things that we’ve seen and the changes that have happened.” 

A recent review of the show stated that one of the topics Des touches on is the bad rep straight white men are getting these days. Is this something that Des himself has been personally exposed to in some way, or more what he’s been observing happening around him?

“That review was literally from the first show! The first official show. I mean, listen, it’s clear as day that it’s not completely acceptable to dismiss straight white men as the ultimate privileged group, and that they were not aware of that privilege. And there’s a move against that dominance. And you’d have to welcome it to a large extent, because you’d have to be blind to see that not everybody was as represented. I’ll just use my own industry, for example. Suddenly, when you see female representation in the media rising, it’s very easy to see then that f*$king hell, there was a lot of guys in this game, ya know! [laughs]. When more women are doing it, and more are getting better – because there were just so few – suddenly, there’s a lot of women around! And it’s actually way more fun. It’s way better. Now, none of us – the guys – were actively keeping women out. That was just the way of it. These things happen. No individual straight white guy could take responsibility for what happened in the world, or for whatever reason why straight white men seem to have done the best up to now. So you just have to say yeah, o.k, I see that. And you can do some jokes about it. I do think there’s some humour too in the flippancy with which people dismiss straight white men as if they also are not a group of people themselves! [laughs]. There’s some great stuff you can read about the things straight white men don’t like about being called straight white men, because they don’t like to see themselves as a group. They sort of like to see other groups as groups, and everything deviates from them [laughs]. But I do also think that people can be a bit irresponsible with the flippancy with which they dismiss straight white men. Because you can fall into the trap of suggesting that somebody’s achievements weren’t earned just because they had the privilege of being a straight white guy. But on the flip side, there’s just as many people that will turn around and say, well, she only got that because they’re tryin’ to get more women in the business, or in politics, whatever. The truth of the matter is, you can’t f*$king win! [laughs]. 

 

“But”, continued Des, “one thing we do know for sure, is that when people see themselves represented in a job, or in a position, it attracts more people of that gender, race, sexual identity…it attracts them to it. So it’s worth a little bit of a shove to balance out the numbers to get more people in. Only because, if you think of it in purely capitalistic terms, competition brings…and I’m not a real capitalist, but at the same time, if there’s more competition, the game is gonna rise. If you look at hip-hop, it was so basic in the late 70s and early 80s. But then it just kept evolving and evolving…to the state that it’s at now, which is so complicated and complex. It’s the same with comedy. If suddenly there’s a whole other group of people that are now competing, and inspiring people, and talking about different things, and speaking about it from a female point of view, or from a Nigerian who came to Ireland’s point of view…ya know, it’s just good. Because it’s fresh, and it’s different, and it helps everybody. But unfortunately, it’s very easy to be defensive. And I am not immune to that, being defensive or being resentful. All these emotions rise up. But I guess if you can just be honest about it, then it doesn’t take over. But a lot of people aren’t honest with themselves. They just get angry. And they express that anger online. And, as you know, it’s easy to find a home, a safe place for your anger. And that’s where the divisions come from. And it’s amplified in the States. But it’s here, too. And I have to say, I have, at times, been a little bit afraid to take what is essentially a centrist position. I nearly called this show ‘No Fence To Sit On’! [laughs]. A good title, but a little long, though, I thought! But it’s almost like that, like having a nuanced position on something is a cop-out nowadays. That used to be smart politics. But now you can’t sit on the fence. You can’t just say, well sometimes I’m this, but sometimes I’m that. You have to pick a tribe. And people talk about tribes all the time now. I’m definitely not in a tribe. Traditionally, I would have been a left-wing, liberal guy. And I am very much that guy. But I’m also a guy that thinks people stifle debate from the left-wing liberal side. That’s clear as day. You’re actually a hypocrite and you’re contradicting yourself if you can’t see that ‘cancel-culture’ hasn’t been 100% positive. I see positives effects of it sometimes, but there are definitely some negative aspects to it. In the sense that people just assume their positions are right all the time.” 

 
 

When Des turned 40 a few years back, he said, “Street cred just loses meaning when you hit 40, because you realise that all the worrying you did about other peoples’ opinions is just bullshit.” As he moves towards his mid-forties now, I wondered if this was a feeling that had perhaps intensified, or even altered?

“No, that’s still pretty much how I feel. The only thing I will say is that even since that time, because that was before #MeToo, and before, ya know…Trump! [laughs]. And Brexit. I definitely just cannot handle the stress of online debate. I don’t mean comments, because at this stage now, I can’t be bothered with that. But I do try to avoid controversy more than I used to. Like, I can see, particularly in the States, there’s a lot of guys that are really thriving on being an anti-PC crusader. And sometimes it’s entertaining. And they’re really thriving in that space of people who have had enough of that PC culture. My problem with that is that I can see why people find PC culture frustrating, but then they dismiss the aspects of it that are positive. So what you’re doing is you’re just tapping into peoples’ anger which is irrational. There’s a whole cohort over there that are living in that angry male space. I would like to speak out against that, but sometimes I actually just don’t because I can’t handle the f*$ing stress, ya know. These guys are so aggressive online, the fans, not the comedians. The comedians are my friends! And a lot of the material is just really funny! I think it’s good to do material about tackling P.C. culture. I see Jonathan Pie did one just the other day tackling cancel-culture. But sometimes, ya know, I just don’t like that energy of controversy. Unfortunately, controversy drives a lot of the business these days and it’s f&$ing tedious. It’s not good debate, but you’d be blue in the face talkin’ about it.” 

When Des looks at everything Trump has been doing to America – and by extension in one way or another, to the rest of the world – over these past few years, where does he think it’s all leading?

“It’s hard to know. Right now, as somebody who’s studied history, you’d have to say that it just looks like a time where humanity – or certainly western humanity, as we know it, the peaceful, post World War Two order that we’ve experienced – will only come to its senses when a serious tragedy happens. That’s me wearing my history hat. However, there may also be a post-Brexit, post-Trump, enough-is-enough, rational reawakening! [laughs]. That may happen. Because people are a bit sick of it all. But then, when you see…well let’s take the two extremes, right, the people who love Trump and the people who are very, very anti-Trump. I’m anti-Trump, but at the same time, I’m not as committed to being anti-Trump as some people are. And if you look at how far apart those people are [pro and anti-Trump], it doesn’t bring a lot of hope. And also, in fairness, can we just say that President Trump is so sh&t, he couldn’t be a worse president! How you can be blind to his narcissism, his delusion, his one or two lucky positives that are completely washed away by innumerable negatives, ya know…It’s easy to be right every now and then. But he’s just so f&$kin’ bad, on top of the corruption and everything about the guy. But I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because you just never know. I thought maybe he would just dump a load of money into infrastructure. Which, by the way, Obama wanted to do anyway. But the Republicans wouldn’t let him. Now, they’ve just bumped up the deficit with nothing to show for it. And it’s so frustrating, because I think there was a real opportunity when Trump got elected to invest money in infrastructure and take advantage of the fact that the economy had recovered. But he’s just blown that completely. I would have been happy to eat my pride, swallow my words, and just be like, ya know what, Trump did bring in a different take and it kinda worked. But God…he’s so f&$king bad!”

 

Des went on, “And they won’t accept any criticism, the Trump people. Comparing Obama and Trump, it’s kinda pointless. Obviously people loved Obama, but they weren’t afraid to be critical of the mistakes he made. Trump people just won’t be critical of massive mistakes! It is a little worrying that people are that divided. It does feel a little bit, sort of like…fascisty! And now that’s frowned upon, too, to bring up fascism. But Trump clearly likes dictators, he admires them. That’s what he wants. And there’s people behind him who seem to be inclined that way, the Breitbart people, Steven Miller, these people. They’re clearly a little bit fascist. Even though Steven Miller is Jewish, which is strange. But it’s funny, because Trump is not like Hitler. People compare him to Hitler. But Hitler was f&$king organised! Trump is more like Hugo Chavez. He could be given twenty-five years to completely f&$k over America. And America will be done!”

 
 

ENDS