Gays and lads gang together to go wild on mild Mooney
COMPROMISE out of the way first: I've worked with Mooney. We don't socialise much, we don't work much together, but I've done a little bit of work with him. And I like him. And I think he's good.
His sexuality is not an issue in our relationship but since the very first time I met him, years ago, when a gang of us ended up in Lillies late at night, and he sat there looking like a scared rabbit, having never been there before, he has never been less than open with me about who he is.
Really. He didn't know me from Adam (or Steve), and I actually asked him about himself and he told me. He doesn't have a wife, which a lot of people in his position do. Neither does he parade around a girlfriend or a string of them, as a lot of people in his position do. In fact, I don't reckon Derek Mooney considered he was in the closet.
So that's that, right?
Also I've worked with Des Bishop. I was never quite sure, in the days of Don't Feed the Gondolas, how quick or funny or smart Des actually was. But I never doubted that he's a nice guy. He certainly never lacked energy or enthusiasm. And maybe that gets him in trouble sometimes, like when someone in the audience heckles enthusiastically and he asks if they have Tourettes.
Or like when Des is asked on live radio to give the host an exclusive, and the best he can think of is, "I'm gay." And when asked if he's comfortable with that, the best he can think of is: "I'm doing a show with Derek Mooney."
The main conclusion I would have drawn out of those two incidents was that Des Bishop isn't very funny, though I know he is because he does very well on the comedy circuit and on the TV. I hope most of his stuff is funnier than that. Those two incidents sound to me like wit worthy of five-year-olds:
"You're a retardo anyway."
But of course there was another factor.
When Des Bishop joked about being gay and Derek Mooney and everything, people drew much more important, real-life conclusions. Ray D'Arcy was the first person to do so. D'Arcy was the one who was presenting the show and interviewing Des at the time.
D'Arcy wasn't in an enviable position. He knew that, in a way, a line had been crossed. And you might imagine that his reaction, cackhanded as it was, was the best he could do, given his shock and surprise, and the speediness with which he had to react.
Frankly, I wonder if D'Arcy shouldn't have done a bit better than he did. In a live broadcast situation, my experience is that the broadcaster is so speeded up in himself by the adrenalin rush of being live, that everything else appears to move quite slowly. If someone is saying something to you in a live broadcasting environment, you actually appear, in your head, to have loads of time to think about what they're saying as they say it.
All kinds of instincts and subconscious stuff kicks in that allow you to weigh up the situation and your response far more quickly than you normally might. You are in the zone, as they say. You could literally go through dozens of responses in your head really quickly, before framing an appropriate one.
Think of it. Even in normal conversations, think of all the things that fly through your head, while someone is talking, and think of that multiplied by speed. Think of how you sometimes drive for a few minutes without consciously thinking of it because you're so used to it.
It's the same live on air. Without really thinking, you make all kinds of judgments and distinctions. And if, like Ray D'Arcy, you've been doing live TV and radio for years, then you should be really, really fast and sharp at it, like a Formula One driver.
Which is why I found what Ray D'Arcy did next amazing. If Des Bishop hadn't fully suggested Derek Mooney is gay (Bishop claimed he hadn't suggested this, that D'Arcy had made assumptions), D'Arcy finished the job by saying that he was going to a break before Des Bishop outed anyone else. Which was an extraordinarily stupid and irresponsible thing for a broadcaster of D'Arcy's experience to do.
So Des, we know, mightn't be the brightest, and can sometimes let his immense energy get in the way of his judgment. But what happened, D'Arcy? Of course, there have been unkind suggestions going around the gay, the showbiz, and the gay showbiz circuits that D'Arcy might be jealous of Mooney for the success the latter enjoyed when he took over from D'Arcy on the most recent series of You're A Star. This is rubbish. Ray D'Arcy was the one who didn't want to do You're A Star anymore, and while you could argue that the show has enjoyed a renaissance in ratings under Mooney, Ray D'Arcy has enjoyed huge success in the last year with his radio show. And as a broadcaster, he probably commands more respect than ever. D'Arcy has no reason to be bitter. So what happened?
I think this is what happened to D'Arcy. I think it was all to do with something I call five-a-side culture. Five-a-side culture is what happens when guys who aren't real hard men or real sportos get together. They hook up and get all testosteroned up on the competitiveness and the physicality and the smell of each other's sweat, and then they go and have a few pints and get a bit laddish.
Real sportos are generally fairly secure in their masculinity. They're used to behaving like boys and they have all kinds of strands of decency that come with real sport. But five-a-side guys get a bit loose and a bit high on the bit of sport and the few drinks. And they reaffirm this strange feeling of masculinity that they find coursing through them by calling people queers in the pub afterwards, and joking about gays in a "we're all lads here" sort of way.
They often throw in a bit of casual misogyny and racism as well. And everyone goes along with it because belonging is central to the wimpy bonding that comes out of five-a-side, and no one wants to be the pussy who exhibits sensitivity. After all, the other guys might think he was gay.
Broadcasting and comedy are full of this faux masculine laddishness too, and I think Des Bishop and Ray D'Arcy had a moment of it when they had their little jokey exchange about Mooney. And, of course, they didn't think about the fact that, out of their moment of low-level thuggery, real people might be hurt, or have their lives changed or scrutinised or ruined.
Not that I'm suggesting Mooney's life was in any way ruined by D'Arcy and Bishop. But it was thoughtless. Even worse, though, were the follow-up comments, mainly from media and political gays, a good number of whom basically said that being outed would be good for Derek Mooney and that their standpoint is that there is nothing unusual about being gay, and so it shouldn't be a problem for someone to be out.
Note first the presumption that yes, Derek Mooney is gay. Even though neither Derek nor anyone else had confirmed this. So Mooney was outed and everyone assumed it was true. But note, more importantly, that without the excuse of not having time to think about it, with plenty of time to mull on this whole thing, media and political gays were basically in favour of outing Derek Mooney or anyone else who they suspected might be gay.
In other words, because they are gay and because they think someone else is gay, they decide that they have the right to decide how someone should live his life.
That's fairly fascistic. Most of us wouldn't dare tell someone we didn't know how to live his life and what is good for him, just because that person was straight like us.
The whole thing also led to a bizarre situation whereby we had a coalition of bullying and thuggery about sexuality that involved gays standing side by side with laddish five-a-side types, all of them against Derek Mooney.
I don't know about you, but it all leaves a fairly sour taste in my mouth, and I will view all the protagonists in this situation slightly differently now. God knows I've said some stupid and harsh things on the airwaves but, even by my own lofty standards of maturity and niceness, the juvenile nature of this event, and the nasty follow-up, made for a pretty grim incident, and was something of a watershed in this country.
And you know something else? Derek Mooney has never courted publicity for anything other than his job, has never used his private life, or lack of it, for career purposes, as so many others do. On the contrary, he has only ever asked to be judged on his work. Speaking of which, I see he has a pair of blue tits in his garden, and on Mooney Goes Wild on RTE Radio 1 on a Saturday morning for the next couple of months they'll be following them in a kind of bird soap opera. And before you ask, I don't know if the birds are gay, but I presume they're not.