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Sunday 22 September 2019

A fine bromance: when Marty Morrisey met Bernard O'Shea


Another fine mess: Bernard O'Shea and Marty Morrissey. Photo: Kip Carroll
Another fine mess: Bernard O'Shea and Marty Morrissey. Photo: Kip Carroll
'Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure' starts at 9.30pm, Sunday, March 31 on RTE One. Photo: Kip Carroll

Bernard O'Shea is laughing, slapping-his-thigh laughing, while Marty Morrissey tries to look offended.

"Of all the bits we did, that was my favourite," Bernard says, through the laughter.

"No!"exclaims Marty. "Jesus!"

The pair had been explaining some of the things they did for one episode of their forthcoming two-part series, Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure. One episode is about being a modern man, with a focus on fashion and appearance, and in the process, the pair went to the chic Sugar Daddy barbers for some grooming.

Bernard loved it, having never really bothered with such things before.

"I'd never had a conversation about my hair with the barber before," he says. "I only ever wanted a smaller version of what I had. But this attention was really nice. I have three small children, I don't get to go out much any more, or go anywhere, and it was lovely to take the time and be looked after. I'd go back. I actually think to pay up to 50 quid on a haircut is fine now, whereas a few months ago I'd have said, 'Are you out of your mind?'

"I'm not blessed with the greatest of looks," Bernard laughs, "but they can bring it out. And it's nice to be treated nicely."

"It is," agrees Marty, "except when they're pulling individual hairs out of your nose. That's not nice. Not on camera."

Maybe not nice, but Marty is cocking an eyebrow for comic effect as he mimes the plucking, and Bernard is laughing and slapping his thigh.

They're a pair who get great crack out of each other, that is undeniable. And that, they say, is the foundation of Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure, the second episode of which sees them in training for survival in the wild, as well as going it alone - together - for two nights.

If the nose-plucking gets Bernard laughing, then any mention of how they fared in the wilds of Wicklow with their newly acquired survival skills sees both men in stitches, barely able to communicate their ineptitude. It was just so cold, they say, repeatedly. They forgot to fill their tent's sleeping bags with leaves to keep warm. They forgot all the lessons in lighting a fire with only cotton wool and Vaseline. They mime their stumbling around, freezing, panicking.

How not to survive

"That's what most people die from," says Bernard. "Panic."

"This is not Bear Grylls," he adds, to Marty's amusement.

"You won't learn anything from us about survival from watching it," Bernard says. "In fact, it should be shown as an instructional video of how not to survive in the wild."

They hope, however, that both episodes will be entertaining and will also say something about the nature of friendship.

Both Marty Morrissey and Bernard O'Shea are well known to the Irish public. Marty is a long-standing viewers' favourite for his sports commentating, but has, in recent years, "with RTE's support" branched out into presenting the Bloom garden festival and, well, being Marty.

Bernard, for his part, writes and stars in the comedy series Bridget and Eamon with Jennifer Zamparelli and co-presents 2FM's Breakfast Republic, again, with Zamparelli and Keith Walsh.

Both, of course, competed on last year's Dancing With The Stars, though they take the 'competed' bit with a pinch of salt. As contestants, Bernard referred to himself and Marty as like "the junior infants" of the line-up, and they forged a union out of being possibly a little less fleet-footed than the rest.

"We all hit it off on Dancing With the Stars," Bernard says, "but I suppose what me and Marty had in common is we both work in RTE, and we're there during the day bumping into each other, and we struck up a bit of a friendship."

"My catchphrase [on the show] was, 'I can't speak for Marty Morrissey, but...'" says Bernard, "but the two of us were not the most amazing dancers."

"I will contradict you there," interjects Marty, faux indignantly.

"Well," clarifies Bernard, with a laugh. "Certainly I couldn't dance, but the two of us were looking at each other after every week going, 'Are we still here?'"

The experience was great fun, they agree.

"We did party every single Sunday night," says Marty. "It was genuine fun, and a genuine connection."

"Yes, there was an actual Marty Party, but I couldn't go," says Bernard, who's in bed at 10.30pm every night and up at 5.30am for Breakfast Republic.

"You came once," says Marty.

"Yes, I went once, but then it all went completely pear-shaped," says Bernard, who not only gets up early, but has small children. His third child was born at Christmas, so he's not getting much sleep.

"More than my wife, though," he clarifies. "She lets Marty come around and help. But I have to keep Marty away from the house now; I don't want a fourth."

"Nothing to do with me," says Marty, his hands raised in innocence.

Bernard was the fourth dancer eliminated from the 2018 Dancing With the Stars, while Marty followed him off a week later.

"You never want to go, but when I went was the right time for me," says Bernard. "I was dancing with Valeria, and I broke her shoulder dragging her around the place. And when you see Jake [Carter, the ultimate winner] doing a backflip, you know you have to go."

"If I had taken my shirt off, I'd have won," Marty muses.

"They never asked," said Bernard. "They made a point of never asking."

The chemistry between Bernard and Marty became apparent in particular when they did a little comedy skit on Dancing With The Stars.

"It got a good response," Bernard says, "and then it arose whether we would be interested in making a show together."

A bit of crack

RTE asked you were you interested? I ask.

"Bernard is being modest here," answers Marty. "He said to me, 'Would you be interested in doing a show of some kind together?' and I thought, 'I'd have a bit of crack with your man, so why not?'"

The chemistry that is key to Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure was first given free rein in the front seats of a small Fiat. Larry Bass, whose production company Shinawil makes Dancing With The Stars, took Marty and Bernard out in his daughter's car, filming the pair of them chatting away as they drove along.

The conversation wasn't just having the crack, Marty explains, it was "insightful, thoughtful" talk about life and all that goes with it. It was two friends, enjoying each other's company, and until late last year, that was all they had filmed of their two-part show. The in-car footage was shown as a taster to journalists at the RTE schedule launch last autumn, but Marty and Bernard couldn't illuminate any further.

Not only had the series not yet been filmed at that stage, Marty and Bernard say, but they hadn't been told much about it. Half the point and half the crack, they explain, was to be had from putting them into situations such as male grooming, fashion modelling, abseiling down the Cliffs of Moher, or sitting in buckets of ice-cold water and seeing how they got on. Not only with the experiences, either, but also with each other.

I wonder what the chemistry is between them, two men who are both in broadcasting, who seem very different otherwise.

"I think people have certain preconceived notions of our personalities," says Bernard. "Not so much me, but Marty anyway, because he's so well known."

"In personality, Marty's more assertive, while I'm more reserved," Bernard explains. "When they say, 'Dance, monkey, dance,' I can dance, or maybe not dance, but, well, I'm quite reserved, really. But we both observe things in the same way and see what the crack could be in certain situations. And there's security in being a pair. You do things you might not do on your own."

For Marty, these things you might not do on your own extend to compiling photographic head shots for a professional modelling portfolio - "I never want to see those pictures. Never." - and catwalk training in New York.

The pair's catwalk training came courtesy of Nole Marin, star of America's Next Top Model.

"Nolay," says Bernard, even though, naturally, they both called him Noely to his face.

"He was looking at the pair of us, wondering what we were," says Marty.

They couldn't go anywhere without people wanting a bit of the Marty Party, though, Bernard adds, even if Nole was bemused.

They filmed in a cafe in Dublin one day, Bernard says, and it took about an hour to get from the door to their table, with people stopping Marty for the chats.

They were on Fifth Avenue in New York talking to a Kerry-born blogger, Bernard recalls, and real Noo Yawk cab drivers were rolling down their windows to call out to the RTE sports commentator.

"Hey Mawdy, how you doin'?" Bernard mimics, laughing.

Marty laughs too, and concedes that this happens a fair bit in London or the US, but then recalls a New York encounter where they ended up rapping with this guy on the street. That was born out of Bernard, Marty says.

"We both have our careers, and they're very different," Marty says, "but we share this bond of communication and laughter. It was outside my comfort zone to work with Bernard, but I've never laughed as much in my life. Bernard sees the divilment and he pushes it."

"And I'm happy just to be Marty's passenger," Bernard says.

Though it goes out at 9.30pm, a bit too late on a Sunday night to be fun for all the family, Bernard hopes that the show will be one the kids beg to stay up and watch.

"I know this is going to be a show that's easy to watch," he says. "We're not getting people thinking. It's entertainment. And laughter is a massive bonus, and that's the essence of it.

"And if it doesn't work out, we're going to do a different show, where we go into people's homes and help them improve them. It's called Marty and Bernard's Big Home Improvement Show."

"Bye, bye, Dermot Bannon," says Marty.

They'd love another series if all goes well, the pair say, but the friendship is more than just working together. They bump into each other in RTE, of course, but they have coffee regularly, too, every couple of weeks.

Friendship and camaraderie

And there are the WhatsApp groups, they add, both born out of Dancing With The Stars. One is the Marty Party one, with everyone on it. The other is the Marty Squad, which is just the male contestants.

"It wasn't me named them, being egotistical," Marty adds. "It was Anna Geary set them up."

"You know," Marty continues, "I used to watch these reality shows and everyone would talk about the journey and how they were all great friends, and I'd think, 'Yeah, yeah, they're really all giving out about each other,' but the 11 of us last year really did bond. It was fantastic."

And out of those connections came this duo of Marty and Bernard, and a show that is very much about the value of friendship and camaraderie.

"It's hard to keep friends, and keep up with friends," Bernard says. "You get to busy periods in your life and for me, right now, I'm on a roller coaster that might end at any time, so you take every gig, and you can't see the wood for the trees sometimes. You are so busy with work and home that you don't think, 'Oh, I should meet the lads I used to meet for years in stand-up,' or, 'Oh, I should ring Marty.'

"But you should. We all should. And that's what this show is about. It's about friendship and making time."


'Marty and Bernard's Big Adventure' starts at 9.30pm, Sunday, March 31, RTE One, and continues the following Sunday

Photography by Kip Carroll

Styling by Chloe Brennan

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