#MindYourself - PJ Gallagher talks about his happy place... on his beloved bikes
As part our 'Mind Yourself' series, comedian and radio presenter, PJ Gallagher, talks about his happy place….
He chats away to thousands of people on radio every morning and can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand during his live comedy shows, but PJ Gallagher (40) is never happier than when he's out on the open road on two wheels. From a simple bicycle to a mountain bike and his beloved Tiger Triumph motorbike, the funny man from Marino says that bikes are the number one passion in his life.
“I absolutely love them,” he admits. “ I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem in my entire life that I couldn’t ride away from - for a short time anyway.”
When he was six, PJ’s uncle placed a 50 pence piece on the ground, and told him if he could pick it up while on his bike, he could keep it. “I absolutely destroyed myself picking it up, but I remember thinking it was the most thrilling thing I had ever done,” he says. “I’ve been addicted to everything on two wheels ever since.”
PJ’s beloved dad Sean died in 1999, leaving him devastated. He was working in a lighting warehouse with fellow comedian Jason Byrne at that point, prior to both of them embarking on their respective comedy careers. One day, Jason offered PJ a go on his motorbike, and to his surprise, he found he instantly loved it and the way it made him feel mentally.
“For the first time after my dad died, I felt I was stuck in the moment again and I really enjoyed it, “ he says. “After that, I was really hooked.”
The irrepressible PJ followed Jason into the world of comedy, initially acting as a sidekick to his funny pal. "I think we ended up in comedy because we knew we weren't cut out for real jobs,” says PJ, who is married to his hairdresser wife Elaine. “When Jason started off doing a bit of stand-up, he was too nervous to do it on his own, so he booked me to do sketches as his 'boot-in-the-bum' guy. We did it for the craic, and never presumed it would turn into a career."
PJ’s own career really took off when RTE's hidden camera show, Naked Camera, came along, and his characters like Jake Stevens and The Dirty Auld Wan were smash hits. Sold-out stand-up tours both at home and abroad soon followed. He also started as a breakfast show presenter on Classic Hits 4fm a year ago, co-presenting with Damian Farrelly. “I only tell jokes to be able to afford to buy bike parts and I’d say that will always be the way,” he laughs.
Two years ago, PJ took a break from comedy as stage fright was getting to him, but was cured when he underwent hypnosis for an RTE Reality Bites documentary. The nature of his job means that his brain is constantly ticking, as he has to constantly come up with fresh ideas for the radio show and material for his live comedy shows. When he gets on a bike, it takes him to his happy place and allows him to live in the moment and forget about everything else going on.
“It’s a sort of high-speed meditation for me,” he says. “It’s a different world inside that helmet to the world outside, and every time I’m on a bike, I feel locked into the moment and stressfree. Even on the worst days of the year weatherwise, when it’s pissing rain and freezing cold, there's something great about being out on a motorcycle. It takes me away from whatever else is happening until I take the helmet off again, and that’s the glorious thing about it. There’s literally nothing you can think about, apart from doing everything on the bike properly like taking the corners right, and it’s ultimately the most peaceful thing I do.”
While roaring off in his leathers appeals to him, PJ also loves to cycle on his mountain bike, hail, rain or shine. We have been having some terrible weather recently, where most of us just want to curl up by the fire, but PJ prefers to relax and unwind by going for a cycle.
“I took the mountain bike to the cliffs of Howth the other day and rode around the quarry,” he recalls. “It was stormy and I felt amazing riding around in the pissing rain and feeling the wind battering me on the back. I was getting muddy and dirty, but I loved it. I find it hard to put into words, but I always feel amazing cycling around and not thinking or worrying about anything else. I get completely lost in the moment and come back feeling great.”
Catch PJ & Damian in the Morning on Classic Hits 4fm, weekdays from 6am - 10am. For tour dates, see www.pjgallagher.com