If Ireland has the gift of the gab then why, wonders Conor Barry, can’t it produce a decent late night chat show?
Why is it that the Irish television media don’t quite know what to do when presented with a major celebrity? Despite our unbeatable skills in other areas (such as… I don’t know, hurling?) it’s fair to say that, on the whole, we’re a bit shit when it comes to chatting with celebrities.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than The Late Late Show. Now, don’t get me wrong – nobody’s here to take the piss out of the Late Late. It’s as ingrained in our culture as the 1916 Rising or getting sick in Abrakebabra after one too many. But when they get an American celebrity guest, something happens that reverts the host to some sort of backwards Irish stereotype (“Are ye in the pictures in Americay?”). The part that makes me cringe, however, is the fact that Tubridy is trying his darnedest to present an American Late Night Show – and, let’s face it, Tubridy is no Conan O’Brien.
The difference is that in America, most talk show hosts are former comedians; they were hired specifically because they’re likable, charming – and, above all, good with people. Tubridy isn’t these things; don’t get me wrong, I quite like Tubridy. But his celebrity interviews go one of two ways: it’ll either be unnecessary fluff (a full three minutes of Samuel L Jackson chatting about golf) or else he’ll go shockingly close to the bone (“So, Michael Palin, I hear your sister killed herself”) and never managing to find a happy medium. However, I do have to say that he is by far my favourite Late Late Toy Show host. While Gay Byrne never seemed to get children, and Pat Kenny just seemed confused as why the children weren’t chatting about politics, Tubridy slyly insults them without their knowledge for two hours.
I’m a huge Late Late fan (not that I actually watch it on a Friday night, because there’s quite a pathetic stigma attached to that when you’re in your twenties). I don’t think there’s any other show quite like it in the world, and it has a distinctively Irish stamp. But, at the same time, I’m a big fan of the Jay Lenos and Conan O’Briens of the world. While it’s an admittedly different format, it’s one that England managed to adopt quite well and make its own – even stealing our Graham Norton to do it. Our closest attempt at a celebrity chat show is Xposé, which is depressing in itself.
Do we have no charming comedians to make our own Irish Conan O’Brien? Perhaps Conan O’Brien himself, being pretty Irish, could fill those shoes considering he’s been sacked from his own show Stateside. Indeed UCD’s own Jarlath Regan could be a good man for the job. This is all just wishful thinking, though. It’s been The Late Late for as long as anyone can remember, and that’s how it’s going to stay. Still, give me The Late Late’s awkward celebrity interviews over Xposé’s any day.