Monday 5 December 2016

Baz Ashmawy: 'Overnight, everything went quiet after my drink-driving incident'

Baz Ashmawy (41) is a TV presenter and producer. Born in Tripoli, Libya, he lives in Rathmines with his partner, Tanya, and six children - Charlotte (19), Harry (18), Jake (14), Amelia (12), Hanna (6) and Mahy (3)

Ciara Dwyer

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Baz Ashmawy during an announcement of a new season of programmes on RTE 2 at RTE studios Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Baz Ashmawy during an announcement of a new season of programmes on RTE 2 at RTE studios Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
TV presenter and producer, Baz Ashmaway
Baz Ashmawy at the Irish premiere screening of Batman V Superman at the Savoy Cinema, Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Tanja Evans and Baz Ashmawy at the IFTA Awards 2015
Baz Ashmawy at the launch of the Heineken Star Series at The Ivy, Parliament Street. Picture Anthony Woods

We have a very busy house. My youngest wakes about 6.30am, and she pretty much starts the day. She'll come into myself and Tanya and she is very hard to negotiate with, so one of us will get up immediately. The other one will follow 10 minutes later. Then the house just explodes. We have six kids.

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Making breakfast is a circus act. It's like a version of those cocktail bars in New York where they throw bottles at each other, except you're flipping Weetabix over your shoulder. You're trying to feed everybody. It's a tight regiment. We force the middle two to make lunches for the little ones and the others empty the dishwasher. It's like an army barracks. Everyone has their little thing to do. As soon as I get them all out the door, there is this beautiful moment of calmness. It's like a sadomasochistic thing - the pain is worth it for how nice it feels once they are gone.

Tanya and I take it in turns to drop them to school. She is the ringmaster of the circus and I'm just her sidekick. When you have so many kids, you realise that they are all so different. That's the only hard thing about it. They all need individual time. Sometimes they'll say to me, 'Can we have a Baz day?' Because usually they know they can milk me for shopping, or cinema trips. I take them out two at a time, rather than as a big group, so that they feel a little bit special.

Did fatherhood make me grow up? I hate the term 'grow up' because it's as if being childish is seen as a negative. I'm a big fan of keeping them kids for as long as they can. If one of my kids says to me that they want to dye their hair blue, I'll say, 'Go right ahead', because as soon as you leave school, you won't be dying your hair blue. You'll have a job. When you're young, it's the time to be childish and make mistakes and be silly. I'm still a bit like that now, and my missus is the complete opposite. She's very serious and strict, and there are rules, but we find a balance between the two of us.

Nancy and Baz Ashmawy in '50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy'
Nancy and Baz Ashmawy in '50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy'

After the kids have gone to school, I usually hit the gym. A couple of years ago, I had double lung surgery and I struggled afterwards to get my fitness back. I started feeling a lot better when I was training, and now it has become part of my day. Also, with young kids, it's like looking after a wild dog at times. They are animals, and if you can't keep up with them . . . You want to kick a ball and do all the usual horseplay. You'd want to be Usain Bolt with my little one because she'd be on the road in seconds. So, I need to have maximum fitness. Also, for the shows that I do, it helps to be fit and in good shape. I'm not in good shape, but I tip away at it for 45 minutes.

I have a small office in Portobello and I go in there. It's like a little living room; a place where I can switch off and do any maintenance that my company, Brown Bread, needs. It's my base where I get the time to think about the stuff I want to do creatively. It's hard to explain, but when I was at home, my missus used to say to me, 'What are you doing?' I'd be sitting in the chair, and I'd say, 'I'm thinking'. And she'd say, 'It's well for you that you have the time to think'. But that's the thing. You need that. You need to sit in a creative zone.

My show, 50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy, came out of desperation. After a drink-driving incident, I was seen in a less favourable light for presenting work. Overnight, everything went quiet. That was the consequence of doing something stupid. Then you have to pull yourself aside and have a little conversation with yourself. Everyone else is telling me that I'm done; am I done? I made a conscious decision that if something was going to happen, it was only going to happen through me.

Instead of being bitter, I was hungry to make something. I started to surround myself with creative people. I'd sit at home watching X Factor with my family. Even though I hated it, it was the one show that we watched together. It was our moment. I decided that I wanted to make an entertaining family show. One day, my mother, Nancy, asked me if I would do a skydive with her. She was 70, and I laughed at her. She was too old. Then I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to bring her around the world doing extreme things?' I approached Sky 1 and we did two series. We went on to win an Emmy award. People think it happened overnight, but it took two years of sitting on my arse, writing show ideas every single day.

It would only work if it was real. Nancy doesn't stop being my mum the whole time -that's great and that's awful. Now we have a new series, which is about four ladies from different backgrounds, all mammies and some are great-grannies. I found it very hard not to fall in love with them all a little bit, because they were doing extreme things. I didn't want them to think that they were young, but I just wanted them to forget what it was like to be treated as if they were old. I bungee jumped and parachuted with them. They made me feel better about getting old.

Some days I might be in amazing places for work and then, other times, my job is to pick up the kids and spend the rest of the day with them. That's a luxury. I work very hard, so when I get home at 7pm, my phone goes in a bin until the next day. I used to lose myself in calls and texts, but then I realised that some guy calling me is not more important than my family. We sit around the table and feed the brats. Tanya does the baths and then I do the bedtime stories. After they are asleep, I hang with the older guys. When you've got that many people to take care of, it's not easy. I'm an only child, so it was always about me. I'm quite a selfish person, while Tanya is not. We try to find a bit of time for each other. She needs to be in bed by 10pm, but I go at midnight. When my head hits the pillow, I pass out.

Mother knows best: Nancy Ashmawy and her son Baz get loaded in 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy
Mother knows best: Nancy Ashmawy and her son Baz get loaded in 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy

'50 Ways To Kill Your Mammies' will air on Sky 1 from tomorrow, September 26 at 9pm

That's him with his mammy, Nancy at the International Emmy Awards after their win.
That's him with his mammy, Nancy at the International Emmy Awards after their win.
Baz Ashmawy at the Irish premiere screening of Batman V Superman at the Savoy Cinema, Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Baz Ashmawy at the Irish premiere screening of Batman V Superman at the Savoy Cinema, Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy

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