Friday 21 October 2016

Radio: Up, up and away with O'Leary's entertaining spiel

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

Michael O'Leary: 'If only I'd learned in Trinity that being nice to people was profitable, I'd have done it years ago'
Michael O'Leary: 'If only I'd learned in Trinity that being nice to people was profitable, I'd have done it years ago'

It's something of a cliché in modern Irish life - an annoying one - that Michael O'Leary "should be let run the country". Because he's such a successful and capable businessman, the facile thinking goes, he'd inevitably be successful and capable as leader of the government. Because, like, those two things are exactly the same, right?

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That notwithstanding, O'Leary is certainly one of the most interesting people in Ireland. It's also a cliché that he gives great interviews, snappy one-liners and bitchy put-downs - but that cliché is 100pc true, as proven again on a Down to Business (Newstalk, Sat 10am) special live from Mullingar, O'Leary's hometown.

Unlike virtually every other person in politics or business, here and abroad, the Ryanair boss is funny, smart, unpredictable, thought-provoking and always worth listening to. He speaks like a real human being, by contrast to the robotic corporate-speak of most public figures, who spool out jargon and qualifiers and hackneyed terms and basically resemble some sort of semi-intelligent machine.

There's thoughtfulness and good sense there too, as well as the jokes and sarcasm. But I'm a childish man in many ways, and jokes and sarcasm are what I tuned in for. Here's but a brief selection from his chat with Bobby Kerr: "Mullingar was a great town to grow up in - and I pay a humongous amount of tax for the privilege of bringing up my children here. For that money, it'd want to be good."

"I learned nothing in Clongowes; the Christian Brothers taught you everything you needed to know, the Jesuits just put a bit of polish on you. Though in my case, not a lot of it. Sensitivity was never high on the list of educational achievements."

"There were a lot of bullshitters in GPA (Guinness Peat Aviation). Big men for talking about all the work they used to do. Like most companies, it was a mix of people who worked hard… and a lot of puddings."

"If only I'd learned in Trinity that being nice to people was profitable, I'd have done it years ago."

"Having children is a good way of keeping your feet on the ground - they keep reminding me I'm only a mere mortal. In fact, they remind me I'm a stupid mortal."

And an oldie but a goodie: "I love cyclists - I just wouldn't eat a whole one." Ha! They'll be chewing on their lycra with fury. Hugely entertaining, and no better fella than Bobby Kerr to play the straight man.

Another always-interesting interviewee is Joanna Lumley, who dropped into The Ryan Tubridy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 9am). Ostensibly she was on to talk about having a race named after her at next week's festival in The Curragh.

But their conversation also roved across Joanna turning 70, an Absolutely Fabulous movie, getting angry, documentaries, her love of horses, little bits about her childhood, how life gets "better and more fascinating" as you get older.

She was as charming and sweet and witty and modest as always. If there's a personification of classiness, Joanna Lumley is surely it. And that voice… instantly recognisable and incredibly soothing. Listening to that woman is like having warm honey poured in your inner ear.

It also helped that this sort of material is meat and drink to Tubridy. He's good with arts and entertainment. Nothing too heavy, nothing too meaningful, but light and zippy and enjoyable - and there's nothing wrong with that.

Speaking of art: anyone who did the Leaving Cert English course and used Soundings will almost certainly have studied 'Absalom and Achitophel' by John Dryden, and will possibly remember the couplet, "Madness to genius are near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide." (That may be slightly wrong, I'm quoting from memory here).

The Tom Dunne Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 10pm) had a piece on the very definition of that madness/genius coalescence: Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.

His was one of only a handful of biographies I've ever read, and it was absolutely riveting, albeit often horrible and depressing. Wilson is, by all accounts, an enormous flake - and he created some of the most perfect pop music in history.

So, on the 50th anniversary of the release of Wilson's magnum opus Pet Sounds, Tom D spoke to music producer and author Chuck Granata about the record. (On a side-note, there's nice synchronicity here, in a "Bringing it all back home" kind of way, because Dunne began his radio career as host of a music show titled Pet Sounds on Today FM.)

Granata has written a book about the making of that album, which he described as "one of the greatest of all time". It still sounds, Tom reckoned, as new today as it ever did. Chuck concurred: "It really has survived beautifully."

For music lovers, this was a treat. For Beach Boys devotees, it was something akin to heaven. (And for childish types like me, we heard John Lennon doing a hilariously/disturbingly squawky version of 'God Only Knows', complete with "six-year-old child just learning the instrument" piano playing.

Good Vibrations, indeed.

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