Life is Shortt
Pat Shortt discusses his new role in a recession comedy and life as a national treasure
Do the stage-door fanatics gather for Radcliffe? “About 200 a night. Really. They have to put up crash barriers. If you go for a pint there is security.”
So where does all Pat’s charisma, talent and self-confidence come from? It’s hard to shake the notion that growing up in a family of 11 must have driven his compulsion to perform. It can’t have been an altogether easy life. When he was just eight, his mother died of cervical cancer. His father, a schoolteacher, later remarried. So, there was a great deal of noise, emotion and activity in the house. He must have had to shout to make himself heard.
“Being from a big family probably did help,” he says. “I think I was always messing around at home and entertaining people. I started out in a brass band playing music in Thurles at the age of nine. I think I played at more Munster finals than most hurlers did. Those experiences from a young age brought me in front of an audience. I enjoyed all the rounds of applause and as I got older, I loved it more.”
Watch the trailer - Life's A Breeze
Pat’s ambitions remained in music. But, somehow or other, he ended up at art college in Limerick. He didn’t really have any serious notions of becoming the next David Hockney and happily drifted into comedy when he encountered kindred spirit Jon Kenny. D’Unbelievables were unlike any other comic double-act we had seen up to that point. There was, maybe, a faint hint of Hall’s Pictorial Weekly to the gross rural caricatures. But the act had a fizzing, improvised energy that was all its own. The live shows were big. The videos (among them D’Video) were even bigger. Oh, ’twas all about Pat and Jon in the 1990s.
“There was an unmistakable Irishness to it,” he says. “There was a daftness. This is the way Irish people behave. It was what we called the ‘acceptable level of madness’ in Ireland. We were always trying to portray that: people chatting at the back of the church and so on. We were just messing and this all came out.”
There is a sort of link here to themes and resonances in Life’s a Breeze. Daly’s film stars Fionnula Flanagan as a grand matriarch who discovers that her largely useless family have thrown out a mattress stuffed with money. Shortt plays her mildly idiotic, but inherently decent, son. Very much concerned with recessionary pressures, the film seems to hark back to the grim years – the late 1980s – when Shortt and Kenny were constructing their lunatic troupe. How has the country changed?
“It’s hard to know. I think it went through a bad period during the Celtic tiger period,” he says. “I think we’re a bit nicer now. It’s funny. I am in London at the moment and one of the guys on the crew is Irish. He left when the Celtic Tiger kicked off. He’d no time for it. People became intolerant. People became ruder. Now we are all in the shit and everyone is a bit more forgiving. It’s hard to know what’s going on.”