All aboard the merry month of June
June Rodgers is quite shy, says Andrea Smith but her comic characters are larger than life
I think you have to be a bit mad to be in this business as you never know what's around the corner," says comedian June Rodgers, who is preparing to go on a nationwide tour. "I'm lucky as I've met amazing people who liked my comedy and helped me along the way, like Gay Byrne, Derek Mooney, Joe Duffy and Pat Kenny."
June grew up in Tallaght village and always had a great voice. While she dreamed of being a singer, she was shy and self-conscious and never imagined she would end up famous. "Mam and Dad were musical and always had parties in the house where everyone told stories and had a singsong," she says.
"I was more self-conscious when I got into my teens, because I was a year and a half younger than my sister Linda, but was always the bigger one. It doesn't help when you have a bit of weight on you and you are already self-conscious. I wouldn't say I was bullied at school though. Everyone slagged each other when we were younger, and sometimes you need those little knocks in life to make you the person you are and learn how to give it back."
"I'm actually quite active even though I'm overweight," she adds. "While the headlines are always about me being fat, I'm happy with myself and accept myself, but of course every woman would love to have the perfect body."
June married her husband, Peter Lane, at 38. They live in a gorgeous old stone cottage in Firhouse with their dogs, Beauty and Poppy, where their garden is their pride and joy. June bought the house originally with her dad Alex, but he died six months later aged 63 - her mum Kathleen also died unexpectedly at 56.
At the time of her parents' deaths, June was working in Japanese technology company, Fujitsu Ireland, and her showbiz career developed when she became involved in the Tops of The Town competition. Leaving a full-time job to go into comedy was a huge risk though, especially as she now had a full mortage by herself. "My family said they would back me, but luckily I never had to ask anybody for money, even though there were weeks where I only had twenty quid in my pocket," she says. "You have to cut your cloth, as my parents always said, and I have lived by that. I'm quite a generous person but the bills are paid first."
June is one of the most popular and funny character actors in Ireland, and she reprised her role of Fat Annie from Agnes Browne in Brendan O'Carroll's film, D'Movie, last year. She also does Liveline's Funny Friday with Joe Duffy once a month.
While she is known for her spectacular annual Christmas shows at the Red Cow Moran Hotel, she took her show around the country last year for the first time, and it was a smash-hit, sell-out success. With a cast of seven singers and dancers supporting her, her shows are always great fun, family entertainment, full of wildly entertaining characters and brilliant costumes, with everyone from Kylie Minogue - complete with June in a fatsuit and gold hotpants - to Dolly Parton getting her special brand of parody treatment. She's a little apprehensive at bringing the show to the Gaiety for a week, but says it's an honour as it's where people like Maureen Potter once performed.
"It's wonderful but also scary because you are responsible for so many people, and there's an awful lot of money involved," she says, adding that she's thrilled to be putting the tour on in conjunction with promoter Pat Egan. "It's huge and people don't realise the amount of work that goes into it all, but I have a fantastic team around me."
She may be shyer and quieter in person, but the genial June blossoms on stage. She doesn't think she would ever do stand up though, even though she would like to, because it's a totally different style of comedy.
"I'm probably more confident because I become the characters," she admits. "I have also become more confident as I get older, because the job is my baby and I'm involved in every aspect of the production. I have to make sure everything is right."
Catch June Rodgers in The Merry Month of June tour at UCH, Limerick, June 5th; Cork Opera House, 6th;
Wexford Opera House, 11th; The Royal Theatre, Castlebar, 13th, and 15th -20th at the Gaiety Theatre