Growing up in Castleknock as the youngest of three siblings, the broadcaster quickly learned the value of comedy. She talks about having the craic with her new radio-show co-hosts, the highs and lows of social media and snagging Paul Mescal for her podcast
It sounds a little like she was at the centre of a Montrose version of The Bachelorette, I tell Doireann Garrihy. We are, of course, talking about the “secret” pilots that were underway in May to find the broadcaster a co-presenter for 2FM’s breakfast show. It had previously been reported that, in the wake of Eoghan McDermott’s departure from the show, a number of up-and-comers — among them, Marty Guilfoyle, James Kavanagh, Bláthnaid Treacy and Greg O’Shea — were all mooted as potentials.
“It was definitely strange, but I kind of embraced it as well,” Garrihy admits. “It’s pretty cool to go, ‘Oooh, they kind of have to work with me.’ Of course, in this industry you’re never sure. What if [executives] turn around and say, ‘Well Doireann, you’re not really gelling with anyone.’
“We didn’t want it to feel like, ‘OK, this is my show and you’re coming on board.’ In the end, it was a tough decision, but ultimately we knew that these guys were the ones for the job.”
As befits breakfast-time tradition, chemistry and banter were paramount, and in the end, former rugby star Donncha O’Callaghan and Carl Mullan were eventually called up for the gig.
“When we did the pilot, I think we just threw everything into it. We did a few pilots, but I remember thinking after this one, ‘Wow, this is the one to beat,’” Garrihy recalls. “I couldn’t put my finger on what the chemistry is between the three of us, but the backbone of it is that we’re all rooting for each other, genuinely. We just want to make the best show we possibly can.”
“Ah we’re having an absolute ball,” Garrihy adds of her new co-presenters. “I believed we’d have some sort of tiff at some stage, but we’re constantly having the craic. Donncha has an unbelievable amount of energy. He just bursts into every room and is like, ‘Let’s do this,’ which is what you need in the mornings. We’re not afraid to absolutely slag each other all morning long.”
Naturally, some internet commentators wondered why Garrihy, by now a seasoned and able broadcaster, couldn’t helm the slot on her own.
“If it was my show, on my own, I’d be able for it — well, obviously I’d say that — but this is three hours of bang, bang, bang. It’s not laid-back chat. People are depending on you on their morning commute. I think I could do it on my own, but it’s great to have other people there.”
Having co-presenters helps, too, when you’re not naturally a morning person, Garrihy adds. These days, Garrihy’s alarm clock goes off at 4am every morning.
“But I wish, I wish, I wish I was a morning person,” she laughs. “It’s almost like I get FOMO at night time. If I’m asleep by 9pm, I’m a bit like, ‘Well, what happens between 9pm and 11pm that I might have missed?’”
“At the start, I had that airport feeling, when your body is just like, ‘What’s going on here?’ and you don’t know if you’re hungry or sick. But now… bish bash bosh. Look, people have much tougher jobs and much longer hours, so I don’t mind one bit.
A comfortable and easy presence in front of the radio mic, Doireann has had the bonus of being effortlessly funny, and gathering a huge online following for her wry — and very spot-on — impersonations of influencers, celebrities and her fellow broadcasters.
Growing up in Castleknock, Doireann was the youngest of three girls; her sister Aoibhín is an actress, known to many for her work on Fair City and Love/Hate, while Ailbhe works in PR/talent management, and also as a general manager in the family business, Dublin Bay Cruises.
“As eldest siblings go, Aoibhín was just so great and set a really great example. She was always so ambitious,” reflects Doireann. “She just went after whatever she wanted to go after, which was great for Ailbhe and I to see. She was never a ‘get out of my room’ type of sister.
“Ailbhe was the business head, and I suppose we did always say that, ‘Yep, that was what Ailbhe was going to do.’ I was always the absolute attention seeker. You just want your older siblings to think you’re cool. I quickly discovered that making them laugh was a way to make them think I was cool, so that made me home in on comedy, sketches and impressions. When I realised I was good at that, it became my personality trait.”
Entertainment was evidently in Doireann’s cross hairs from a young age: “I did a horrendous thing. I enrolled at the Billie Barry school and Twink’s stage school at the same time,” she laughs. “My mum would tear across to Fairview and I’d do three hours [at Billie Barry’s school], and then we’d tear back to Castleknock for the other class. The acting was funny, but I loved the singing and dancing as well.”
Initially, Doireann went to study theatre at Trinity College Dublin, but then moved across to The Lir Academy to train more seriously in stagecraft.
“I was lucky that I came from a family who were very, ‘Well, if that’s what you want to do.’ They were never asking me to line up the teaching or get a real job.
“I’d done two years at Trinity, so they really wanted me to stay the course with that, but I was like, ‘Well, I’ll never talk to you again if I don’t go.’ I so badly wanted to do it.”
Even though Garrihy signed up with agent Teri Hayden, effectively becoming an agency stablemate of Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson and Marie Mullen, acting turned out to be a very unforgiving mistress. After a year of trying to bag auditions and weathering industry rejections, Doireann decided to change tack, doing a radio training course, run in association with Today FM instead.
“I suppose the way you look is part of it,” Garrihy reflects of her first foray into acting. “I’ve never been a size 8 and never will be size 8. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grand, a normal size, but I think I got it into my head, ‘I don’t look good on screen. I’m not maybe as beautiful as Aoibhín is.’ Looking back I think, that was stupid, why did I overthink it so much. But I did pack it in.
“I didn’t really say to myself, ‘You’re never doing this again,’ more like, ‘Let’s veer off for a bit and maybe come back to this.’”
To say it all worked out in the end is an understatement. RTÉ Player eventually commissioned The Doireann Project, a comedy sketch show in which Doireann performs some of her most crowd-pleasing impersonations — she had come full-circle and returned to acting.
“I always kind of did impressions in school and college, of the teachers and the professors,” she recalls. “When Snapchat started to explode, Pippa [O’Connor] and James Patrice were big, so I did an impression of Pippa, then a reel of them.”
It was the day that Donald Trump had been elected president of the US in 2016, and the nation was in sore need of comic relief.
Doireann’s uncanny impressions clearly hit a nerve and her Instagram following swelled from 1,000 to 30,000 in 24 hours.
Garrihy’s comedy work has been the bedrock of a portfolio media career that involves not just radio presenting, but podcasting and social media influencing. Also in the mix are advertisements, brand partnerships and hosting events for private companies and charities.
Garrihy’s social media reach is immense — she has 259,000 followers on Instagram alone — although it has an occasional downside.
“Ninety per cent of the time it’s absolutely fine,” she notes. “There’s no issue, I can put up what I like and feel like I know my followers and what they expect from me. But the more your following grows, the more likely you are to get people who are maybe following you for the wrong reasons, as in they don’t like you or are waiting for you to make a mistake. Recently, I went out on my estate on my new bike and I showed it on my Insta stories, and I wasn’t wearing a helmet and I got about 30 comments and messages, like, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be sharing that.’ It can feel a bit stifling sometimes.
“So that was a moment of, ‘I am human, I did make a mistake. I should have worn my helmet,’ but look, I’m gonna make mistakes. I got uptight about it during lockdown, but I had to let it go. If I was to worry about what every single person says or thinks of me, I’d never post anything ever again.”
Whatever Garrihy is doing professionally, it’s working. Last month, it was reported that assets at Garrihy’s media company had swelled significantly in the last year alone.
According to one report, the leap in value of her assets had been threefold, whereby Garrihy amassed a cash pile at her eponymous company, Doireann Enterprises Limited as her assets jumped from €84,509 in 2019 to €235,254 for the year 2020.
Things have been equally as sunny in Garrihy’s private life. On the weekend of March 15 last year, she celebrated a big milestone as she moved out of the house she shared with her sister Ailbhe and Ailbhe’s new husband Ruaidhri, and into her own apartment in Castleknock. She was mostly looking forward to gussying up the place and very much making it her own. But 2020, as well all know, had other plans.
“All was going well with Paddy [Wilson, her boyfriend] and I thought, ‘Well, within a few months’ time, maybe we might think about moving in,’” Doireann recalls.
The pandemic lockdown, Garrihy says, was still an intense time.
“He’s working from home for the most part — he works in events, so it’s a case of me being gone first thing in the morning and getting back home at about midday, and then in the height of lockdown, we were both here all day long,” she recalls. “I suppose there was a lot of comfort in the fact that everyone was doing this. I think you just embraced and thought, this is our routine, we’ll get through it and we’ll eventually have stuff to look forward to and we’ll be able to make plans.”
Garrihy’s podcast, The Laughs Of Your Life, has been described as a “comedy Desert Island Discs”. It launched in 2019 and has soared in popularity during the pandemic. The podcast received another boost recently when retailer TK Maxx signed on as sponsor.
“I’d get these lovely messages on Instagram of people saying, ‘I just want you to know, I’m heading to do a 14-hour shift, I’m a nurse on a Covid ward,’ and it was just incredible to get that kind of feedback.
“I just love to delve into people’s sense of humour,” she adds. “I’m fascinated with the idea of what makes people laugh, and why people have such a different sense of humour.
Already Chris O’Dowd, Samantha Harris and Samantha Barry have been among the high-profile guests.
Doireann also scored something of a coup when she enlisted Paul Mescal as a guest on the show in 2020. It was an interview scored in the if-you-don’t-ask-you-don’t-get tradition.
“It was really hard to get hold of him — the Emmys were coming up and he was very much the man of the moment, but loads of people got behind it on Twitter,” Garrihy notes. “I think it was Chris O’Dowd who tweeted him, saying, ‘C’mon Paul, we’re doing this.’”
Naturally, Doireann has a wish list of podcast guests as long as her arm. “The dream would be Michael D Higgins… so would Graham Norton,” she enthuses.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Garrihy has many ambitions for The Laughs Of Your Life, and beyond it.
“With the podcast, ultimately I think it would make a great TV show,” she reveals. “Either that or live shows. I’d love to do a bit more presenting, or maybe documentaries.”
Ultimately, the idea of five-year plans or career strategies have been shelved for perhaps obvious reasons.
“Tanya, has the pandemic not taught you anything?” she laughs. “What are these ‘plan’ things you speak of?”
TK Maxx sponsors the upcoming season of Doireann’s The Laughs of Your Life podcast, launching in August 2021. Find your local store at tkmaxx.ie