'You can watch Netflix all you like but you cannot download soul and that's what we have’ – Ryan Tubridy says Late Late Show format still successful after 56 years
The Late Late Show is heading into its 57th season, and the tenth with host Ryan Tubridy at the helm.
Since RTE's flagship live chat show first aired in 1962 the set has undergone many redesigns, and Gay Byrne has passed the presenting baton to Pat Kenny, who in turn handed it to Tubridy in 2009.
The format of the show - two hours of live TV with guests and music - has remained largely unchanged, aside from the addition of the hugely popular Valentine's and Country Specials of recent years.
Last year Tubridy also left the studio to travel to New York to film a pre-recorded interview with Hilary Clinton and this season will see him leave again to host a special episode from a theatre seating 1000 people in London in October.
"The message is that Brexit is a pain, it's difficult for us between countries, but we have really strong links culturally and in every othe rway so we're kind of reaching a hand across the Irish sea to say, 'Don't mind that Brexit stuff, we still love you and we're still friends," explains Tubridy.
The episode will include interviews with people who emigrated from Ireland to London in the 40s and 50s, the 80s, and more recently.
"It'll be a massive project and prospect," says Tubridy. "It's a very positive, optimistic story and it's going to be huge."
Asked whether the episode is designed to shake-up the show and its format somewhat, he says not.
"I don't accept [it needs to change], because the show is that old and yet it's possibly one of the most popular programmes in television," he says. "If you look at the figures, for example, there is no chat show in the UK or American that even breaks ten per cent in audience share - we're hitting 45 per cent. And that's a massive gap, so we're okay."
He continues, "Irish people love to watch Irish people on television and there's very little Irish live television left so here we are: Irish, live, culturally - we hope - relevant and important nationally. You can't get that anywhere.
"You can watch Netflix all you like but you cannot download soul and that's what we have. We are Irish and we are proud of it. And you can't get it anywhere else. You can't find it online, you can't download it, it's not a box set, it's not something like that. That's what makes us unique. Buy Irish."
Heading into his tenth year fronting the show, Tubridy says he's "more excited this year than I was nearly the first year".
He adds, "The first year I was a nervous wreck and then I was trying to keep it together and then it kind of waxed and waned for a couple of years. Then last year it was great.
"I'm older now. I've more life experience. I know how the world works. You love, you lose, you win, you lose, you go up, you go down. I've seen it all now a little bit more. I'm going to channel a bit of Sinatra this year and just stoicly enjoy it and live it and smell the whiskey off the glass."
It's clear he's still thoroughly enjoying the gig.
"I'll stick around for as long as they'll have me really," he says of his future. "I don't have any plans to go anywhere. I have a very busy head. I'll never be bored and if I'm unemployed I'll still never be bored. I''ll always find something to do and somewhere to go. The world is a very interesting place and I'm a very curious person and that's a good combination."
He jokes about announcing his candidature for the Presidency, "I think it's time. It seems that every other person around the place is having a go so I thought well nice house, good dogs, love my country - I'm in!"
For the time being he's happy to chair a debate on the Late Late, a show which, he says, freaks out politicians because it's an entertainment show but, one or two have told him, "then you throw the knife in".
Although the show takes a break over the summer, Tubridy is not one to rest on his laurels. He's been working on a children's book and spending time with some of the people he met during the year who work in the areas of addiction, homelessness, and the prison service.
The children's book, he says, is about a sheep who is different. It's aimed at 6-10 year olds and is for "every child who doesn't get picked for the team". He quips, "I would say it's semi-autobiographical with an emphasis on autobiographical. It's a lovely story and I'm really proud of it and I've got a great Irish illustrator coupled with it."
Ryan also spent a day at the Tiglin Centre, an addiction centre in Wicklow, and visited the Alice Leahy Trust, a social and health service for people who are homeless, as well Mountjoy Prison.
"I feel if you go to these places and you meet people in these situations it will inform you as a presenter and a journalist because you've smelled the inside of a prison cell, you've been at the coalface of homelessness and you will understand addiction a lot more," he says. "So that was very useful and instructive and enlightening and enriching."