Monday 26 September 2016

Boys & their BFFs: Famous Irish men introduce us to their best friends

Published 17/04/2016 | 02:30

Stand up guys: PJ Gallagher and Jason Byrne. Photo: Mark Nixon
Stand up guys: PJ Gallagher and Jason Byrne. Photo: Mark Nixon
Friends since college: Dermot Bannon and Donnchadh O'Sullivan. Photo: Alf Harvey
Ian Dempsey and Mario Rosenstock. Photo: Kip Carroll
PJ Gallagher and Jason Byrne. Photo: Mark Nixon.
Derry Clarke and Paschal Ryan pictured at L'Ecrivian, Baggot St.

Whether they've known each other since they were teenagers or met as adults through work, these men support and inspire each other, make each other laugh - and, yes, they even actually talk about their feelings on occasion. Here, some well-known Irish men introduce us to their best friends.

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Ian Dempsey  & Mario Rosenstock

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DJ Ian Dempsey (55) and actor and impressionist Mario Rosenstock (45) met in 1998. They work on The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show on Today FM as well as Mario Rosenstock Live, which runs at the Black Box Theatre, Galway, from Thursday to Saturday and the Gaiety Theatre from April 26-29.

Ian says: "Mario and I were thrown together at work, and now have what some describe as the closest thing to a marriage - without all that sex stuff. Obviously I find Mario very funny, but the most impressive thing about him is his work ethic - he wants what he produces to be the very best and is willing to give everything to get there. When I'm working with Mario, I feel stronger and more creative. I don't think I'd have the confidence or ambition on my own to produce what we do, so my life is better for knowing and working with him.

"We've only ever had one argument and that was just me flipping the lid in a bad humour at about 6am one morning - all patched up very quickly.

"After a couple of glasses of red wine, Mario likes to start debates just for the sake of it to get everybody going.

"Mario sometimes becomes quite poignant about very simple things. One day he let out a big disappointed sigh followed by a worrying statement that his life was passing him by. When I asked what the problem was, he explained that he had just seen a billboard for Kung Fu Panda 2 and his big regret was that he still hadn't even seen Kung Fu Panda 1. Even now, I break my backside laughing at that moment.

"He's quite a sensitive soul behind the brash, hardened showbiz exterior. He's a wizard at Irish culture, business, politics and sport - and don't get him started on Enda Kenny!"

Mario says: "Ian and I hit it off pretty much straight away. I thought we were going to be best friends instantly as we were spending a lot of time in each others' pockets, but we weren't, we were work buddies. Our personal relationship developed very slowly.

"I think that because Ian is 10 years older, he definitely acted as a mentor to me initially. I know that he would have protected me during those years -probably in ways I wasn't even aware of.

"Ian is very generous, both materially and in terms of allowing other people to express themselves and show their talent. He's very genial and good company and is actually quite shy. He thinks about other people and has great judgement and loyalty. Like many people who are successful, he likes to get his own way at times and can be slightly stubborn on occasion.

"If I had a problem outside work, I feel that I could talk to him about it. We are so wrapped up in each other's affairs professionally, you can't hide that much in terms of personal stuff. He's been there through all the important times and events in my life, such as birthdays, my wedding and the birth of my two children.

"I would trust Ian innately and hope he'd trust me the same way too. He's very funny and has a highly developed sense of humour, and while mine is slightly darker, he makes me laugh in a way that other people don't. We've travelled all over the world together with the show and you need a sense of humour for that, and also just to get through the dark, winter mornings."

Derry Clarke & Pascal Ryan

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Michelin-starred chef Derry (58) of L'Ecrivain restaurant and Pascal (56) from Wicklow both share a love for boats and fishing.

Pascal says: "Derry and I first met 13 years ago through sailing instructor Egon Friedrich in Arklow, and we hit it off because we both have a passion for the sea. We enjoy fishing and have boats named after our wives, Sallyanne and Christine, and our families get on very well and we all go on holidays together.

"Derry and I go away several times per year to places like Scotland, Wales and down the south coast to Sherkin Island. We go together in one boat, where possible. We have also been support boats for charity rowing events, which is always a nice adventure.

"Derry and I have completely different lives, because I work in shipping and freight-forwarding, and he leads a very hectic life as a chef in the public eye. He is warm, genuine and very generous in every way, and is very good around supporting charity events.

"If I had something bothering me, I could talk to Derry and I'd like to think he feels the same, because he has gone through some very tough times in recent years. We connect, and even though we may not see each other as much during the winter months, we keep in touch by text and he's on my mind often.

"I can't cook at all, and knowing Derry hasn't been good for my waistline at times, especially after two weeks' holidays! He works very hard and deserves every success he has achieved."

Derry says: "Pascal and I used to go out on trips with groups of sailing friends, but after a few years, people seemed to go their separate ways but we stuck together. He's a really nice guy, and ours was a friendship that built up over the years and it's very easy-going - there are no demands either way. We enjoy swimming, fishing, eating out and having a couple of pints, and our kids have had great fun together too.

"I find Pascal very calm, relaxed and easy to get on with, and he's a great guy to have a conversation with. It's great that we talk about other things than the restaurant business.

"Pascal is a very successful business guy and works very hard - he's a bit of a workaholic at times. I think he's a bit hard on himself and could take more time off for himself. We're very compatible and he's very knowledgeable about boats, whereas I'm pretty useless.

"When we lost my son Andrew, Pascal and Christine were very supportive to us. They knew him very well so it was hard on them too, and like our other friends, they were very much there for us.

"Pascal is very steady and strong and he stays in the background, but if he has something to say, he's usually right, unlike me who shoots from the hip. We've had some great times together, and hopefully there are many more of them to come."

PJ Gallagher & Jason Byrne

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Comedian Jason (44) and comic actor and 4fm breakfast show presenter PJ (41) became best friends as teenagers while working at a lighting warehouse in Dublin.

PJ says: "I finished school at 16 and met Jason, who was 19, when I went to work in the Lighting Dimensions warehouse, which is gone now. It was like a comedy training ground, because there was no way we were coming out of it knowing how to do an actual job. We were always messing and sabotaging each other's work, like one of us might cut the plugs off the lights for a gag, and the other one would have to spend the day putting them back on.

"Jason always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, and when he started doing gigs, he used to bring me along as a sidekick. We wrote ridiculous sketches that we thought were funny, but I didn't have the guts to do it on my own for a long time. I learned such a lot from Jason - he was really like my Mr Miyagi.

"I hated school and had teachers telling me I was a bad influence on other kids and wouldn't be good at anything. Jason encouraged me and told me I was good at comedy, and although I gave up a few times, he kept booking gigs for me without even telling me.

"Jason is really neurotic and a total hypochondriac. He's the biggest worrier in the world, to the point of distraction. He only has to read about something and he definitely has it, like when he thought he had bird flu even though he wasn't in China.

"He's also the funniest person I've ever met and the best stand-up I've ever seen as well.

"He is definitely one of my best mates and someone I could talk to about things. After my old man died of cancer in 1999, I kind of leaned on Jason and he got me motivated into getting back into work. I was in despair and couldn't get my head together, and Jason gave me a shot on his Vespa one day and I felt different for the first time. I wasn't happy or sad, I was just on a bike, and that became the most addictive feeling and my favourite thing in life, so he gave me that as well."

Jason says: "When PJ first came to work with us, he was really quiet and had weird hair with little twists in it. We used to put him in the skip and tie him to poles in the street. One day, he had enough of us and started talking, but he went the other way and never shut up! PJ and I did everything together and used to mess all day in the warehouse, and as soon as we got our wages, we'd head to Whelan's on Wexford Street and would probably drink it all in one night.

"When I started doing stand-up, PJ used to come to the gigs to annoy me, and it was better fun if he was there. I would use him as a 'volunteer' from the audience, and he would get up and pretend he didn't know me and we'd do stupid stunts together. After we left the warehouse, he started doing his own comedy stuff and he was brilliant on his own. He's really hard on himself, but he shouldn't be as he's one of the best comic actors in Ireland.

"Our friendship is like a marriage as we've been together a long time although we have two very different lives. It's his birthday on Monday, and I asked him what he wanted for it and he jokingly said he'd love some dog food. I'm going to buy him a few crates of it for the craic.

"He's constant entertainment. I remember doing a gig in Vicar Street and the crowd started cheering, and when I looked behind me, PJ was sweeping the stage completely naked, with a Silence of the Lambs mask covering his modesty. And he just looked at me and said, 'Are you not finished yet?'

"PJ knows how to drive me mad as well, but he has the biggest heart and would do anything for you. He's not materialistic and would give you his last penny. He's godfather to my son, Devin, and his mum Helen - who is a beautiful, amazing woman - is godmother. We named him Devin Sean after PJ's dad, who was a great, really funny man.

"I don't really have any problems, but if I was pissed off or exhausted or stressed, PJ is someone I could talk to and hang around with.

"We're men, don't forget - so we don't need to keep talking for hours. Basically what men do is they hang out and distract one another, and that's how we relieve our stress and emotions."

Dermot Bannon & Donnchadh O'Sullivan

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Architect and TV presenter Dermot (43) met fellow architect Donnchadh (42) in 1991, when both were students at Hull School of Architecture. Now, Cork-based Donnchadh and Dermot are both involved in the Simon Community's Open Door charity event in May, see simonopendoor.ie

Donnchadh says: "When Dermot and I first met at 19, we were the only two Irish guys on the course. Both of us worked in Dublin for a decade after college and our friendship continued.

"I was delighted for Dermot when the TV work came about for him. Being in media hasn't changed him at all because he has always been the life and soul of any social situation. The only difference is that people recognise him now, so he probably spends a little more time talking to them when we're out.

"We both have a strong glutton gene and are big eaters, and we have a tradition of going for two Big Macs each at the end of a night out. Dermot is a very generous person and is always looking out for other people. The worst thing about him is that he can be a bit elusive if you're trying to track him down.

"We're both married with three young children, so we have a lot in common. Dermot and I are both talkers and we would be able to discuss emotions. Instead of typical lads' chat, we'd probably be a bit softer - we talk about things that are tough for us as well as the good and joyous things in our lives."

Dermot says: "Ours was quite an unlikely friendship back in college, as I was quite conservative, and Donnchadh was slightly hippie and didn't care what people thought. That was refreshing for me and it made me let go of a lot of things.

"We met each other every weekend when we both lived in Dublin, and went through all the life stages at the same time. Donnchadh moved back to Cork but lost his job during the recession, so I suggested that he come on board with me. He looks after some of the projects from Cork.

"We're both chatterboxes and I could ring him from the car to say I'm on my way to Cork, and still be talking to him as I pull up outside his door. We both love food and going to the gym and yoga. If he stayed over in my house, we could be up until 5am talking and drinking wine. Donnchadh is an incredibly warm person and he really listens. He'd be one of the first people I'd speak to about a problem.

"When my dad died, when the meal was finished at the hotel afterwards, I went to the table where my friends were and was disappointed to find that Donnchadh had gone. What I didn't realise was that he had left the meal to go and do a site meeting on my behalf for Room to Improve. When my dad died, Donnchadh spoke to the producer to see if there was anything he could do to help me out. He quietly went to solve a few architectural problems that needed to be addressed without even telling me, and I found that incredible."

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