Sunday 18 February 2018

2fm's Keith Walsh: Sometimes men have to wear skimpy knickers - mine are black and like a thong

Keith Walsh (42) has worked on breakfast radio for 12 years. He is a presenter on RTE 2fm's 'Breakfast Republic'. He lives in Newbridge, Co Kildare, with his wife, Suzanne, and their children, Anna (13) and Finn (7)

Dave Conachy, presenter on RTE 2fm's 'Breakfast Republic'
Dave Conachy, presenter on RTE 2fm's 'Breakfast Republic'

Ciara Dwyer

Sometimes I think it's a big deal getting up at 4am. You hear about people working early shifts, and how it's not good for their health. It's almost like having a heart attack every morning, because your body is going, 'You cannot be serious. You want me to get up at this time?' That's the jolt. But once you get over that and your feet are on the ground, you just get on with it.

To get up so early, I try to be in bed by 10pm. There can be nights when you can't really sleep, and you have that 'half-asleep, half-awake' thing, where you're waiting for the alarm. It used to really stress me out, but now I think, 'I'm in bed, relaxing'. My wife, Suzanne, is oblivious to the alarm. I've been doing breakfast radio for about 12 years, and 2fm's Breakfast Republic for two years.

My mornings start the night before, because that's when I pick out my clothes - I have them in a bag at the front door, ready to go - and I have to have my lunch in a container in there too. I pick up my bag and go. If there are people in the house asleep, and you start turning on lights and showers and getting dressed, it's not fair on them. I have to be very quiet. It's about getting up and getting out without waking anybody, not even the dog.

I have this old pair of tracksuit bottoms, and I stick them on and put on a hat, and I just go. You wouldn't want to see me in the mornings. I live in Newbridge, and during the drive into work, I usually listen to podcasts. I have what I call my grumpy half-hour - where I sit in the car and there is nobody else around, so I don't have to pretend to be happy. By the time I listen to podcasts of comedians Frank Skinner and Rhod Gilbert, I'm laughing. They get my brain going. I like driving in when there are no cars around. You feel like you've got a head start on everything.

At 5.15am, there's no one in the studio. Shay Byrne, the presenter of Rising Time on Radio 1, is in the building too, and sometimes I'll have a chat with him. We probably keep each other sane. I set up everything, grab a cup of herbal tea - I gave up caffeine recently - and then I have a shower, get dressed and arrive into the studio for 6am. I play a couple of songs, and then I go through the papers. I try to stay away from front-page news, because that's usually grim. I pick the frivolous things. At that hour of the morning, people don't want anything too heavy. Between 6am and 7am, it's a very select audience - people getting annoyed about stuff, and I like to read out their grumpy texts.

I suppose there is an element of performance involved, but from doing radio for so long, I've learnt how to perform, but be genuine at the same time. I host the show on my own for an hour, and then my co-hosts Jennifer [Zamparelli] and Bernard [O'Shea] come in. They had no interest in starting at 6am, but I always feel like I need to improve myself. If I have another hour on air, I'll get better.

When Jennifer and Bernard come in, we get down to business. It gets a little easier for me, because it's a three-way thing. They have stories to tell, and we catch up on what happened the night before. We have all these regular sketches, and my job is to keep the show moving. We get on very well, and having that chemistry is very important. The three of us are happy in who we are; we're not second-guessing ourselves, trying to say what we think is the right thing. Sometimes it might get us into trouble. I think certain radio presenters are very careful; you can hear them stopping themselves, and you just want a bit more. We talk openly and honestly about ourselves and our families.

Sometimes the lads slag me about wearing my wife's underwear, which isn't true, but it has become this running joke. When you're wearing a tux, you don't want to be wearing clumpy boxer shorts, and sometimes men have to wear skimpy knickers as well. Let's be honest about that; or maybe it's just me? I have one very small pair of pants - they are black and look like women's knickers - OK, a thong, to be precise. I don't know where I got them.

I don't have a terribly exciting rock-star life, but if people are interested, I'll tell them about it. Last year, I made a TV documentary called The Gun Show and the idea was to take a guy who had an ordinary Joe Soap body and transform him into having a six-pack stomach in 12 weeks. I had a Dad-bod, and I mentioned that I wanted to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. With a personal trainer and a strict diet, I achieved that. It's all about maintenance. Now that I know how to keep it, it's not a big deal. I have six small meals, which include a lot of grilled chicken. Also, I don't eat sugar. Ever since I did this, I have felt better. It's all part of a plan to look after myself because of the 4am starts. Now, I'm training for the Dublin Marathon in October, as an ambassador for SSE Airtricity.

After the show, I might go for a run or go to the gym, and if my wife is not working, I'll have a nap when I get home. Then I'll collect the kids from school. As I'm making the dinner in the evenings, I'm preparing my bag for the next day. Monday-to-Friday, our lives are about work, getting the kids to school, homework, and then getting ready for the next day. When Friday comes, it's a different house.

A few months into the training for the six-pack, Suzanne was in bed, reading a book. I took off my top and said: 'What do you think?' She looked up from her book, said, 'Ah yeah, you'll get there', and then went back to reading. Afterwards, she decided that if I was going to look great, she wanted to look great as well. Sometimes our date nights will involve going to the gym together. It's just about feeling good. Now that I'm fit and healthy, I sleep better. I'm not running on caffeine any more.

'Breakfast Republic', is on 2fm, 6am-10am, weekdays

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