In a year dominated by lockdowns of two very different sentiments, the first of togetherness and fear, the second, finger-wagging judgement, Oliver Callan provided what he himself calls a "public service" by continuing to take the piss out of it all.
When Leo Varadkar assumed the gravitas of JFK to give his speech to the nation in March, Callan, almost alone amongst the chorus of praise, sighed that "the autocue fought the robot and won".
Hundreds of people commented online, most of them criticising the comedian and defending the then Taoiseach, but Callan was, and is, unrepentant.
"The country was very emotional about everything and when we're not rational… and people were saying you can't criticise the guy who's making speeches about the pandemic, even though he was making a speech quoting Mean Girls about the most serious situation we've faced in a century in this country," Callan tells the Sunday Independent. "He was doing movie quotes for a bet at one stage. I was thinking, for God's sake, surely we're allowed to slag him."
Fast forward a few months and, while the nation's curtains twitch, and Twitter seethes with judgement, Callan is still singing a different tune. "The mood is so different now. Lockdown one was - everyone was kind of optimistic, we thought the world is going to be so much better, we're not going to be so obsessed with work and we're going to spend more time with our kids. Now we're in lockdown two and it's all about shame and finger-pointing - there's young people in a bar, there's young people walking down a road after a county final, how dare they? Small liberties become tantamount to murder and thieving and you think, wow, we lost all that hope and kindness very quickly."
You get the feeling there could be a nuclear holocaust and Callan would be the only one surviving, writing sketches, planning columns and selling tickets to the cockroaches. There is a resilient winning-ness about him. Even through the dark months of 2020, his company, Callan, declared eye-watering profits, he filled in for Ryan Tubridy (as what he calls the "Tub's sub") and he has a new RTÉ show coming out this week - a sort of 'fake documentary' in which talking heads - Leo, Mary Lou, Micheál - look back on the year.
"It will be the antidote to all of the news reviews," he says. "It's the only way we can deal with the year we've had: to take the piss out of it."
He has taken his own kicks in 2020, too. Rakes of live shows were cancelled in the spring, he had to shelve the material, and Callan's Kicks was out of contract and had to be put out to public tender, which took ages to sort out.
"The shows did mean a lot of money lost, you spend money on the set, but I really spent more hours crying over all the hours spent writing it in December and January. We had done our first rehearsal in the theatre in Greystones and the tickets had been sold and then we had the rug pulled out from under us."
His wedding, to his long-time partner, John, was also postponed. It had been due to take place on Halloween night in Castleblaney. There was to be a full moon and also a blue moon. It was all so perfect.
"A lot of people cancelled their wedding this year but the time spent inside, being forced to miniaturise our lives, meant you kind of see that you spend all the time preparing for the wedding and not enough preparing for marriage."
Their wedding is now due to take place on Halloween next year.
A fancy wedding in his home county must represent a kind of triumph over the past. Over a decade that has been, at times, very tough. And over a youth where he had a few strikes against him: being small, secretly gay and growing up on a Monaghan farm, light years from the media world he longed for.
His parents emphasised education and he "worked hard" on the farm, he says, "that's what I seek credit for more than anything else". He was obsessed with politics and the GAA. He dreamt of a career in media and looked up to the late Jonathan Philbin Bowman, who was the then boy wonder of Irish journalism. As a teenager, he got a job reading the news for a company which delivered the news to local stations. That was when the Monaghan drawl started to fade away. "It became neutralised. You learn lorry is 'lawrie' not 'lurry.' There are no recordings of me from when I was younger, thank God."
He went to DCU to study journalism. "Even when I got to the exciting metropolis that Dublin was, it wasn't the most open place. A guy the year under me in journalism emailed his entire year to come out but there was just a feeling of what a thing to do. I wished I was brave enough to do it but it wasn't eating me up at that point, as it was later. I was very zipped up, I was a proper closet case, I wasn't going off to London to let off steam or going on the internet, apps weren't really a thing."
So how old was he when he lost his virginity? "Just as well I've a red background [on Zoom] so I can melt back into it," he says, turning a satisfying shade of scarlet. "Of course I remember but I don't want to tell you. You can read all about it in my black diaries," he adds, a reference to the painting of Roger Casement that sits on the wall over my shoulder. "It's a mortifying history and probably not terribly exciting."
After graduation, Callan worked first as a reporter on Today FM, where he went on to work with Mario Rosenstock on Gift Grub. He says they've never spoken since Callan left the show in 2006. "But I'm very grateful to him, although I've never said it. We're in a pandemic and everyone gets craic from any comedians and my father never tires of telling me how much he likes Mario's stuff."
He moved to The Gerry Ryan Show, where he did his sketches for Nob Nation. His fiendish facility for taking off the great and the good was never in doubt and Nob Nation became one of the most popular Irish podcasts of the noughties, but it doesn't sound like a happy period in Oliver's life.
"Infamously, anyone who goes into entertainment is riddled with insecurities. There's no better way for someone who wants to hide who they are than to be involved in the impressions business.
"Gerry Ryan had an item one day where he said secrets will eat you up inside and they will always get out at some stage and I thought, 'he is describing my life right now'."
More than a decade before the marriage referendum, Ireland was a very different place for gay people, but still you wonder how he could have stayed in the closet for his entire 20s.
"That's something I've asked myself many times until I just accept that those were the black yesterdays and today and tomorrow will be much brighter. At the time, I was in fear and when you become used to that, you're just sort of paralysed and fear just becomes part of your day-to-day experience. I know now if I'd come out, nobody would have paid a blind bit of notice. There had to be some internal homophobia, our whole society was based on 'othering'. I became asexual for a large chunk of my 20s."
You wonder if this period was connected with the way he's taken the mick out of certain people. While there's a certain gentleness to some of his impressions (Imelda May, Paschal Donohoe), he's sailed closer to the wind with the Michael D jokes than anyone else. "I felt strongly that it wasn't defamatory or unfair to portray the campness which is clearly there in Michael D," he says. "It's quite monarchical and he models himself on royalty."
Former Kerry footballer Paul Galvin's fashion sense, Callan once said, was down to "his years spent in the closet" but, he says, everyone would have understood this was a joke. Still, you didn't need to be Freud to wonder about a closeted gay man implying a straight man was in the closet.
"Perhaps there will be psychology professors who will say clearly this guy [Callan himself] was acting out his own fears and anxieties," he responds. "I don't think there was anyone in the country who thought Paul Galvin was gay, it was just that he portrayed such a macho image, getting angry on the pitch but there was such comedy in how he pranced around New York in a low-cut top. His sense of fashion was shockingly bad, so I thought he clearly wasn't a gay man."
After a confrontation with Galvin in a Dublin bar, Callan warded off accusations of homophobia by finally publicly coming out himself in an interview the following week with Brendan O'Connor on The Saturday Night Show, a move Callan admits was "opportunistic".
"The spotlight was on me and it was a good time to do it."
What should have been a period of freedom in his life was then dominated by what he calls a "controlling relationship". It happened "very incrementally", he says, but soon became very distressing and he becomes tearful speaking about it even now. "You realise how valuable your friends and family are in your life. They say we're going to look after you and that was how it came to an end.
"I could have gone through courts. I had a call from someone after speaking about it before and he told me that his brother had been abused and had spent his life trying to get revenge and it nearly killed him. You can spend your life trying to do that or you can move on and that's what I did. It was the best decision for me."
He met his partner John Lannin during this period in his life and he says that the relationship helped him through it. "[John] taught me that what was going on in my life then wasn't normal. I was really skilled at keeping the problems from everyone but he could spot that something was wrong. He was there for all of the terrible moments and the rebuilding. John and I have been through crises for both of us."
There are times where you can still see the remnants of the once-tortured relationship with himself and his sexuality. He's called drag queens "a disgusting satire on women", an interesting stance for a man whose stock-in-trade is satire and, occasionally, dressing up as women.
But there's no denying he's fairly fearless in whom he'll have a pop at. When Denis O'Brien was still the biggest media mogul in Ireland (and the former majority shareholder in INM, which publishes the Sunday Independent), Callan savaged him, both on television and in print.
The political heroes of the pandemic also came in for a skewering. In his new show, he looks at "the curious case of Simon Harris". "We're supposed to accept that he was this amazing Minister for Health, the hero of the pandemic, when the whole reason we're in rolling lockdowns is because of the state the health service was in and he was managing it for four long years. He was the whole reason there was an election. This is the hilarity and the irony of politics." Harris, he says, "has taken a leaf out of Leo's playbook where he sort of rinses all his views through a PR machine. Pro-life Simon Harris somehow became the hero of the repeal movement."
Leo's another curious one, he says, "because he was actually opposed to gay marriage but now he's celebrated as this LGBT hero. He said prejudice has no hold in this country when he became Taoiseach but he had very anti-immigrant views when Fine Gael went into government. Has he done enough to redeem himself for that? He probably has but it all serves his brand as well."
Callan's winsome appearance and pinchable cheeks almost make you suspect there is a portrait in the attic that ages in his stead, but he will be 40 next Sunday. "I love Mark Twain's line that it's the old age of youth. I think people start to take you seriously when you're 40, especially in media which is dominated by older people. I was always a little bit fuddy-duddy, when you're a teenager and you're into politics, you're old-fashioned anyway. I've had friends who've died on me because they were in their 60s, and I've sore knees now."
The knees, he sighs, are the reason he didn't lose any weight for the wedding or for the TV show. "That will be the real mid-life crisis," he smiles. "When I lose the weight. Because balloons don't wrinkle."
See 'Callan Kicks 2020', RTÉ One on 30 December at 9.25pm. His Radio 1 'Callan's Kicks' is on 31 December at 1.30pm