Sunday 30 April 2017

'Pussy Riot are two of the most ignorant girls I've come across' - Brendan O'Connor

Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, on The Saturday Night Show in February 2014. Photo: RTE
Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, on The Saturday Night Show in February 2014. Photo: RTE

Sasha Brady

Brendan O'Connor has spoken out about his Saturday Night Show interview with Pussy Riot and it appears there's no love lost between the TV host and the feminist punk band.

The Cutting Edge host spoke to Today FM's Anton Savage about the February 2014 interview, which many viewers at the time dubbed "car crash TV".

"Pussy Riot don't matter to me," he said.

"Pussy Riot are two of the most ignorant girls I've come across. I wasn't very nice to them but they weren't nice to me."

Pussy Riot on The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connor
Pussy Riot on The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connor

O'Connor interviewed two members of the band, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, following their release from prison. It was a major scoop for the chatshow host as it was the first interview the feminist punk trio (minus member Yekaterina Samutsevich) had given to a European TV audience.

They had spent two years inside a Russian prison for hooliganism aggravated by religious hatred, following a controversial anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral.

It did not go well. In fact, The Saturday Night Show interview made worldwide headlines at the time. Dazed magazine said the Irish TV host gave a "masterclass in how not to interview two feminist activists."

Brendan O'Connor on the set of 'The Saturday Night Show.
Brendan O'Connor on the set of 'The Saturday Night Show.

The Russian women did not speak English and were accompanied on stage by a male interpreter (Maria's husband Pyotr). There was a continuous delay as everyone waited for everyone else to catch up in between questions. The women also didn't seem too happy with being addressed as "girls" by O'Connor and appeared stone-faced throughout the entire ordeal.

"They can speak perfect English but refused to do so [on the show]," said O'Connor.

He claimed that the women were originally supposed to be joined on stage by Russian economist and interpreter Constantin Gurdgiev, but he had "a big row" with the women before going on stage and was replaced, at the last minute, by Maria's husband.

"I think ultimately we didn't need any translation," said O'Connor.

During the show when Nadezhda admitted to having mixed feelings about sitting on a couch in a TV studio talking about “reformist” activities, O’Connor cut across to apologise for the “capitalist running-dog bourgeois couch” and promised to make available a bed of nails the next time. The two women appeared to lose all interest in the interview when O'Connor he asked them what they thought of Madonna, and if they believed she's a freedom fighter "like them".

But the TV host admits he doesn't regret it and believes those awkward moments are what makes Irish chatshows so enjoyable.

Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina
Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina

"Let's face it, chatshows for Irish people are a kind of bloodsport. They're sitting there vaguely bored and sticking with it for the hour, they're delighted when [something awkward] comes up."

Brendan O'Connor returns to TV screens on Wednesday night at 9.35pm with his RTE One show Cutting Edge and he promises it will be filled with plenty of those "awkward moments".

"We cut out the build up and get straight down to the awkward moments," he said.

"Sure life is awkward."

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