Monday 23 April 2018

'Are we fighting?' - Things got a little awkward with Ruby Wax and Tommy Tiernan on his show

Tommy Tiernan with Ruby Wax on his RTE One Show
Tommy Tiernan with Ruby Wax on his RTE One Show
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Tommy Tiernan faced off with Ruby Wax on his show on Wednesday night and, at one point, things got a little awkward with Tiernan asking the star if they were "fighting".

The Tommy Tiernan Show sees the comedian interviewing surprise guests on the night and Ruby was the first of three to join him in studio.

The conversation was initially smooth as Tommy spoke about being a fan of Ruby's in the 90s when she fronted her own TV show.

She explained why she decided to leave TV, "wean" herself off fame, and study for a masters in psychotherapy at Oxford University.

"I was stupid at a child," she said, "All those girls I went to high school with and were cheerleaders and got As, and everybody said they would do really well, now they're all crack whores and I got into Oxford."

"As long as you're not carrying any bitterness from that," quipped Tiernan.

"Facts are facts," she said.

"Ruby 'facts'" joked Tiernan and she replied, "We'll cut that.  That wasn't your finest."

The masters has led to Ruby writing several books on the mind and has formed the basis of her stage show, Frazzled.

For her latest book, How to Be Human: The Manual, she worked with a monk and a neuroscientist and "between those two every questions I always wanted answered, those guys gave it to me."

Wax explained the thesis of the book at length and Tiernan said it sounded "like a weight of information".

He added, "I'd hate to find out all that stuff," to which she replied, "Then don't buy the book.  Live in your ignorance."

"Don't forget this is a book, it's comedy, but if you want to know certain things like, why you want to have the critical thoughts, what went wrong, why do we not get along with our spouses, all that kind of stuff I think is interesting," she said.

"I like to be funny and informative."

A few minutes later Tommy said it was "head-spinning just listening to it" and added, "It sounds like an unending quest and every time you figure something out there's more to figure out.  Does that increase doubt in you, if everything is explained by an electronic impulse?"

Wax asserted that her book does not have all the answers.

She added, "To be it's liberating to know I'm not just stuck with who I thought I was: I was a comedian, I was just funny, I make people laugh.  Wait a minute, I wasn't smart as a kid as I said but if you keep questioning and you're curious that brain gets really malleable."

A member of the audience's mobile phone went off unexpectedly and the conversation went downhill thereafter.

"Does it seem complicated to you?" Ruby asked Tommy.

"If I had a choice between running through a field on a windy day, a light breeze blowing, and a beautiful smell of flowers and stuff like that and reading a book that would be explaining to me why I wanted to do those things, I'd kind of prefer just to run," he said.

"Can I just say something? That's not what the book is about. You're insisting that's what it about," she replied.

"I'm not insisting.  I probably don't understand that's all.  So, the book is.... ok." said Tiernan.

"What do you want me to say?" she replied.  "I find it interesting.  If you don't, that's fine.  You pour this baby out, it takes a year.  Frazzled did really well.  I think that if you go to university and you're interested in how the brain works, read the book.  I also run through fields.  I also have wonderful times."

Tiernan asked, "Are we fighting?"

"Yes we are," said Wax, adding, "If you'd rather go run through a field than read a book then don't read and go run through a field."

"Why is that a threat to you?" asked Tiernan.

"I'm not threatened, I'm just saying, it's kind of insulting to be honest," said an emotional Ruby. 

"You say, I don't want to read a book like this because I'd really like to run in a field.  I'm saying, well we all want to run in a field.  You write something, it's out of your heart, and it's out of the interest in saying the difference between the mind the brain is, to me, fascinating.  Evolution is, how to raise your kids is interesting.  This doesn't mean I don't run in a field.  It's just I want to know why did I pick my husband, how do I raise my kids, all these questions."

"All I'm saying is I would probably not want to know the answers to those questions," said Tommy.

"Don't read it.  I don't have the answers.  I'm not arrogant enough to say I'm giving you the answers.  I'm asking the questions," said Ruby.

Tiernan then apologised to the star.

"I think one of the things that might happen in this show is that the conversation is honest but also friendly and if that's been in any way not apparent then,  I'm absolutely not dismissing your efforts and I'm very sorry if that's how it felt to you.  Genuinely, Ruby, as sure as I'm sitting here, 100 per cent, but I am involving you in an athletic discussion about stuff so I think that's part of what's happened as well."

He took a different tack and asked, "When you do that work, if it's not about answers, then is it about storytelling?"

Ruby explained it is and said she hopes her show Frazzled makes people laugh but also "sneaks in information" that might make people think.  She said she did not want to be like Joan Rivers.

"I don't want to be 70 years old doing one liners," she said.  "Somebody else should do it.  It's not my gift.  But I would like to keep learning, going back to university, doing archaeology, doing history, and spinning it always into comedy.  That's what I did for Ab Fab - give me a line and I can spin it.  I like it to be about education, about my brain."

After Wax revealed she hoped to start touring in June, with dates in Ireland, Tommy said, "I can tell you, now you can choose not to believe this, I am being 100 per cent sincere about this, I can absolutely guarantee you, as a result of this conversation, I will be buying your book."

"And I'll be in a field," laughed Wax.

You can check out the full interview on RTE Player.

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