Tuesday 12 December 2017

TV host Dermot O'Leary -- more Irish than spuds

He's British-born but couldn't get more Irish if he changed his name to Spuds O'Shillelagh, writes Darragh McManus

Honourary Irish star: Dermot O'Leary hosts the 2011 Channel 4 Comedy Gala
Honourary Irish star: Dermot O'Leary hosts the 2011 Channel 4 Comedy Gala
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

It is said that the Normans, who settled in Ireland in the 12th century, became "more Irish than the Irish themselves". The same could definitely be applied to Dermot O'Leary -- despite the fact that he has an English accent and was born in Colchester.

Born Seán Dermot Fintan O'Leary in 1973, it's not surprising that he considers himself as much Irish as British. He supports Wexford in GAA (his ancestral home), Celtic and the Republic of Ireland in soccer, and London Irish in rugby. He regularly visits Ireland as an adult, just as he did as a child.

He has said several times that he'd like to host The Rose of Tralee, a show he remembers from his youth. He's even a practising Catholic, and has written about his faith.

Dermot O'Leary couldn't get more Irish if he painted himself green and changed his name to Spuds O'Shillelagh.

He's worked his way up to becoming a real player in UK television and radio.

And tonight he goes behind the scenes of the 2011 Channel 4 Comedy Gala, held every year in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. O'Leary meets the good and not-so-good of British comedy talent, from the very funny Sarah Millican and Alan Carr to the inexplicably popular Michael McIntyre. The event itself, which took place at the end of May, will be televised in full by the station tomorrow night.

O'Leary got his first major break on Big Brother's Little Brother, a sort of sidekick to the iconic programme hosted by Davina McCall, and has since presented or worked on numerous other shows, including The X Factor: probably his biggest gig so far.

He also achieved some international fame in 2009, when introducing Michael Jackson to the press conference for his series of London concerts. They didn't take place, of course, because the pop legend died soon afterwards, making O'Leary one of the last men to interact with him in public.

He studied Media and Television with Politics at Middlesex University, and began his broadcasting career as a DJ and runner at Radio Essex and then Channel 4. After working on the midday chatshow Light Lunch, he moved on to Big Brother's Little Brother in 2001, the series' second season.

For some unknown reason this reality TV travesty was hugely popular for years, until it started to wane in about 2006. O'Leary sensed the changing winds and jumped ship in 2008. In the meantime, he presented the BBC gameshow 1 vs 100, and in March 2007 was appointed Kate Thornton's successor as MC for The X Factor. Now O'Leary was really in the big-time. The X Factor is probably the largest TV phenomenon of the last decade, dominating the airwaves, internet and online for months every year.

When appointed, O'Leary commented: "I was very flattered to be offered the job to host such a hugely successful show. I'm really looking forward to working with Simon and the team."

He's also done stints across various channels, presented a special one-off edition of the prestigious current affairs show Question Time aimed at first-time voters, and co-hosted entertainment channel E!'s coverage of the Royal Wedding in April.

On radio, O'Leary manned the decks at indie rock station XFM from 2001-2003, before leaving for BBC Radio 2 where he's been ever since. He now does a show focusing on new music and live sessions and the big names that have played in his studio include Massive Attack, Oasis, Beck, Foo Fighters and Lily Allen.

O'Leary also finds time to do some charity work: he has acted as advocate for the Make Poverty History campaign, and travelled to the war-torn African country of Sierra Leone with the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development.

He's also a patron of male cancer awareness charity Everyman, and in 2003 played an American football match to raise money for children's charity Barnardos.

It's not all been sweetness and light during his time in broadcasting. Some of the shows O'Leary would probably rather forget are the headwrecking "youth" show T4; the profoundly stupid reality show SAS: Are You Tough Enough?; and the even more stupid Shattered, in which contestants had to go without sleep for seven days.

Of course, Big Brother itself was one of the worst things ever inflicted on the public by TV bosses, but the key difference was that it was very popular and made lots of money.

It also catapulted O'Leary from struggling broadcaster to national star. The question as to which nation that is remains much up for debate.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment