Monday 18 December 2017

A surprising amount of nudity for radio

The original Supermac, Malcolm Macdonald
The original Supermac, Malcolm Macdonald

Damian Corless

The most heart-warming, the most moving and by far the most fun show on radio in the past week was Now That's What I Call Johnny (98FM, 9am Sunday). It didn't go out nationwide and that was a shame. This tribute to the late broadcaster Johnny Lyons ran to three hours but you suspected that with the amount of well-wishing involved, it could have easily gone to three days.

The great and good of Irish sport lined up to have their say, including Katie Taylor, Brian Kerr, Mick ­McCarthy, Robbie Keane and top names from rugby, cricket and the most unlikely places you could imagine. There was a surprising amount of nudity mentioned, though not by any of those just named. Lyons appeared to be the Hunter S Thompson of the sporting set and a man famed and loved for throwing the wildest parties on the block (he appeared to have modelled himself on Austin Powers).

But there was truth there. True to his faith in "total football", he once turned up to a press conference before a big game between Ireland and The Netherlands wearing a Dutch jersey. It didn't go down too well with manager Mick McCarthy, though it remains a treasured memory for the former boss. That was when Johnny Lyons was paying attention. One contributor to this wonderful show remarked that in the normal course of events he "looked like he bought his clothes in a charity shop with the lights turned out".

Every comment passed throughout the marathon was made with utter affection. The former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr recalled that Lyons treated the obligatory press conferences at away games as a pesky interruption to the real business of having fun. Kerr remembered one press conference where, delayed a few minutes, he arrived to find Lyons had started the show without him.

The curse of saying "So..." continues to blight the world of radio. There was a time when guests on current affairs shows could be expected to preface a comment with "Eh", "Er" or "Ehm". This has been schooled out of today's professional spokespersons, who have been coached to issue the word "so" to buy themselves time to think. It has become a major irritant, along with the misuse of "presently". The word "presently" means in the future, not "at present" and proper broadcasters such as Sean O'Rourke, Matt Cooper and Mary Wilson go out of their way to emphasise it in the correct sense. Sadly, they are part of a shrinking minority. (We've already lost the battle over "fulsome" which used to mean "gushing" or "mawkish".)

As for "the elephant in the room", as uttered by former Sinn Féin spokesperson Danny Morrison on Monday's Pat Kenny Show ­(Newstalk, 10am Monday-Friday). For God's sake, Danny and everyone else, there is no elephant in the room and there never has been. Although strangely, if there is one person who may have seen an elephant in a room it might be Pat Kenny, whose father famously curated these large beasts at Dublin Zoo.

For the rest of the commentariat, please no more elephants.

Pat Kenny asked a very ­pertinent question of the Minister for Defence on Wednesday's programme. ­Acknowledging the sterling work done by the Irish Navy in ­saving the lives of refugees on the ­Mediterranean, Pat asked Simon Coveney: "What are the rest of them doing?" Caught a little on the back foot, the minister responded that the rest of our defence forces are ­concentrating on getting "very fit" and "in training" for any eventuality, which is good to hear.

Even for the non-rural living listener, CountryWide (Radio One, Saturday 8.10am) is a reliable cornucopia of all that is wholesome and healthy. Hosted by the irrepressibly bright and breezy Damien O'Reilly, the farming magazine never fails to turn up something to entertain and surprise. Last Saturday's special guest was Pat McDonagh, the former national schoolteacher who took a cheery look back over his stellar career in the world of fast-food.

There was a time, a couple of generations ago, when the sure sign that you had entered rural Ireland was to cross a threshold where the three pictures above the mantlepiece featured Éamon de Valera, the current Pope and John F Kennedy. Today the Supermac's logo has become such an icon. The brains behind the Supermac's chain has become inextricably linked with Galway GAA, but he revealed that the franchise owes its name to the besuited, bustling icon of Seventies English football Malcolm Macdonald. "Were you super?" asked O'Reilly, inquiring of his playing days. His guest modestly declined to answer.

Pat McDongah's creation of the Barack Obama Plaza in ­Moneygall did not impress all radio listeners this week, as featured by the caller to another show who ­labelled the town's centrepiece as "an embarrassment".

This came in a week when it was announced our certificates of Irish heritage are to be scrapped. The Government made plain from the outset that those applying would not be put upon to supply any hard proof of their Irish roots. All that was required was the ancestral name they'd like on the form and the handing over of $57.36.

While the return of Ivan Yates to his morning berth (Newstalk Breakfast, 7am, Monday - Friday) will be welcomed by those who appreciate a morning lark, the presenter wasted no time in displaying why current and former politicians are not to be treated like normal people. Ivan remarked that while he never "got" Blackadder, he did "get" Mister Bean. This reminded of a Fine Gael predecessor who didn't find Father Ted remotely funny but thought Ballykissangel a hoot.

These people are not like us.

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