Tuesday 20 March 2018

A day in the life of comedian and actor Pat Shortt: We're in development with the BBC on a project

Pat Shortt is an actor, writer and comedian, best known for 'D'Unbelievables', a comedy show; and the TV series, 'Killinaskully'. Born in Thurles, he lives outside Limerick city with his wife, Caroline, and their three children, Fay (16), Lily Rose (14) and Ludaigh (11)

Pat Shortt
Pat Shortt

Emily Hourican

I'm an early riser. I always get up around 7am, or earlier. When I'm doing a show away, I like to get up around 6am and get going on the road home, or on to the next venue. At home, I have breakfast, and two, maybe three coffees before I go out the door.

They'd be small cups, but strong. Like any house that has kids, ours need to be got to school. We're out in the country - we live about 10 miles outside Limerick - so that adds extra to the journey. Usually, I bring the youngest child, Ludaigh, and then I skip across to the office.

First, I'd sit down with the guys in the office and discuss what's going on. At the moment I have three people in the office, but that can go up. If we're touring, we'll be discussing how ticket sales have gone. If we're putting a tour together, we'll be discussing where we should be going, looking at a map of the country, dates and so on. There's a certain science to it, so you've got to plot and plan. I've always self-promoted - that way, you're very much part of everything you do.

If I'm writing a show, I'd be stuck in the back of the office, working, creating, coming up with ideas and developing characters. We're in development with the BBC on a project at the moment, so I'm on the phone and over and back to London a bit. I need to be in the right frame of mind for writing. You can't sit down to work creatively if your brain is racing at 50 miles an hour because you've just been negotiating a contract. It doesn't work like that. You have to be in a different mode. Probably the most frustrating part of what I do is to separate the creative and the administrative. I enjoy both; it's trying to mix them that can be a problem, especially when deadlines are looming.

There are days that go by that I don't do anything. I used to beat myself up about it, but I learned to realise that, in a funny way, you are doing something. You're not putting anything down on paper, but you're thinking. When the day comes, the cloud clears, it all makes sense and you get a ton of work done; you might be there until late at night. Other days, you might leave at 3pm.

I usually try and eat lunch in the office. I try and eat a bit healthy - something that doesn't involve a lot of white bread. If I go out, there's an Italian deli across the road, and I might get a sandwich there with my wife, Caroline.

We plan tours well in advance, but in this business, calls can come out of the blue - somebody wants to see you for a film, or a play. If they offer you a part, that might take three months. So then I have to go back and think, 'Is it possible to do this?' Sometimes it is possible, and sometimes it isn't. Because I'm self-promoting, I have flexibility, and I have a great relationship with all the venues, so if they have enough notice, they usually don't mind switching dates. But if the venue says no, then you have to reject the film or whatever it is. I don't like doing that, but it happens. I would be loyal to venues, because they have been good to me in the past. Luckily, over the last while, I've been getting a bit more advance notice from film companies, because I'm doing bigger roles. It all used to be more stressful. I've been in this business long enough now that I don't get so stressed.

The last two years, I was doing films and stage productions that took up huge chunks of the year - like The Cripple of Inishmaan on Broadway and the West End. I loved doing it, but I really missed being out touring with the crew: the madness and the crack of it.

You do get used to the precariousness of the industry. For me, it's not too bad, because I dictate my own business - if I don't work hard, there is no work. Other actors would be relying on a call from an agent. For me, if I don't write a show, or if I get lazy, I could end up with a good few months empty, and that's tough, because you've still got to cover the wages. People say to me, 'You're a workaholic.' I'm not. I don't work as hard as most people, to be quite honest. It's just the nature of the business.

I have various hobbies that distract me. I used to sail a lot on the lake at Lough Derg. I gave it up years ago, but I recently got a boat again and now myself and my son go out. I'm into motorbikes as well. My brother and myself, we go away on trips every so often. Same with the boat - I might take the night off and go up the lake to somewhere beautiful, stay there and pop down again in the morning. I'm getting better at turning my phone off when I do that.

After I leave the office, I might call to see friends, grab a coffee, then go home and make dinner. I like cooking. I travel a lot, and I often tour at the weekends, so I like to go out with the kids one night a week, even if it's just a bite to eat at the Chinese. It's great to sit around the table and chat; I know that if I don't seize that moment with them, it'll be gone.

I like to go to the local pub for a pint if I can, but I don't do it every night. I also like to go to bed early and watch movies. I would be in bed at 9.30pm quite happily, watching a movie. I like anything and everything: Korean films, French films, American blockbusters.

I can have trouble sleeping. I try not to stress too much about shows coming up, but I can go through patterns where I do. I read something that said if you can't sleep, just get up, start your day, eventually the cycle will break and you'll be fine again. So I tend to get up if I can't sleep, and do something productive, and then I'm exhausted by the following night, and I sleep no bother.

When you're self-employed, you've got to work, you've got to produce, you have to be consistent. I'm lucky - I'm well established as an entertainer, a performer and an actor, and I won't be out of work if I keep an eye on it myself. But if I drop the ball, I could be.

Pat Shortt's new live tour, 'Selfie' is on at Inishbofin Community Centre on July 24, Mary from Dungloe Festival on July 31 and Vicar St, October 9 & 10. For other dates, see patshortt.com

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