Friday 15 November 2019

'I don't sweat the small stuff now'

Since recovering from cancer, Bobby Kerr has packed life with good things, including a new radio show, writes Emily Hourican

Bobby Kerr thinks a lot about how wonderful life is now
Bobby Kerr thinks a lot about how wonderful life is now

Emily Hourican

The only person perhaps not too enamoured of Bobby Kerr's new radio show is, he says, his wife Mary, and that is for reasons of logistics rather than anything else - "I said to her, by the time the kids are getting up, I'll actually be home from work. I'm not going to miss much."

The show is on 9am-11am, Newstalk, on Sunday mornings, and is as well as rather than instead of Down To Business, his Saturday morning show. The new show, Bobby's Late Breakfast, is a departure from Bobby as purely businessman, and into the more lifestyle arena he has inhabited lately. "This is new, it's going to be lifestyle and magazine; interviews, food, modern history, reeling back the years. Small bits of business but primarily lifestyle."

The first week of the show, he had Ben Dunne in studio. "I'm trying to do as much live stuff as I can," Kerr says. "Having him in there, the effect, was great. If you can get people in, have a live buzz, it's great."

The buzz, for Kerr, is obvious. Here, clearly, is a man enjoying himself enormously. "Radio has taken me," he says. "I don't consider it work, I just adore it. I don't know why, but I do, it keeps me in touch with what's going on. I'm naturally curious, and I find this is the best place to be in terms of my curiosity. I hate when people come in all media trained and banging the same message and not listening. I have a really low tolerance for that. I genuinely try and get people to be themselves."

Asked about his ambitions for the new show, he laughs: "When I started on radio, seven years ago, I was so bad, but there were 25,000 listeners, so there was hardly any one there to comment. Now there's 100,000 of them. I hope I can do the same thing with this show."

In order to make it work, Kerr has taken a step back from the day-to-day running of what is still his main business, Insomnia Coffee, and is now something very grand called 'chairman.' "I still do a couple of days a week, but I'm not as involved in every dog-fight as I would have been. I couldn't do all the other stuff I'm doing unless the business was running well. And I'm very fortunate, I have two partners and we've been together a long time. Even when I was sick, I felt so fortunate, I didn't have to worry about the business."

Actually, the first time I met Bobby was when he was sick and so was I - in the grounds of St Luke's hospital, where we were both being treated for cancer. He finished that treatment a year-and-a-half ago, and life has been all go since - radio, TV (Along Home Shores, The Restaurant), sailing, running 30-40k a week - and he is clearly getting huge fun out of everything he does. Is it too much of a cliche to think that cancer and the realisation of mortality, has something to do with that? "There's that," he says, "and there's also the not sweating the small stuff. Stuff that would have bothered me two years ago, I absolutely couldn't give a toss about now. As long as family and friends are good, I genuinely think all that other stuff will look after itself. I think that tap on the shoulder, or kick up the arse, whatever you want to call it, does make one hugely appreciative of every single day.

"It is a cliche," he continues, "but it's completely true. I don't talk about cancer unless somebody talks to me about it, and I don't go around thinking about it every day, but I do think about how wonderful life is, quite a lot."

Right now, the only real fly in the ointment is that, when he goes home on Sunday mornings after his new show, only two of his four daughters will be there to greet him. "I lost two of my daughters to emigration in January, and it broke my heart," he says. "One to Vancouver, one to New York. I was absolutely gutted. I'm still not right around it. But you have to let them do what they do. It's part of life, it's what they do, you have to let them, and you just have to hope they come back."

Bobby's Late Breakfast is on Newstalk, Sundays 9-11am

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