Radio: Money talk is taxing, but happy talk doesn’t come cheap
Sean O’Rourke still has a newsreadery tendency on his RTÉ show – but his colleague John Murray made a poignantly light return to the airwaves this week
Another voice returned to the airwaves on Monday, to immediate impact. After an absence of six months, John Murray returned as host of The John Murray Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) – or, as he dubbed it, in wry acknowledgment of Miriam O’Callaghan’s extended tenure as his replacement, “The John Murray Show with John Murray”. His timbre as rich and his manner as amiably confident as ever, it sounded as if he had never been away – but for one moment of raw candour.
After his customary comic introductions, Murray explained the reason behind his hiatus. “Depression took a fancy to me and decided to take up residence for a few months,” he said. “And, boy, did it make its presence felt.” His voice wavering ever so slightly, he described how “one minute I am happily presenting this radio show and enjoying life, the next I am gripped with dread and anxiety, with the simplest task proving beyond me”.
As he thanked family, friends, colleagues and the general public for their support, his gratitude was palpable, as was his relief at being back behind a microphone: his subsequent interview with the comedian Pat Shortt was infused with the uninhibited laughter that so often follows a difficult ordeal.
It only lasted a minute or two, but for anyone with experience of mental illness at first hand or with a family member, Murray’s monologue had a poignant ring of truth.
It also had the effect of bringing some perspective to the show. During the talk with Shortt, the comedian indicated, between fits of giggles, that he had been stung by the collapse of the property bubble. Murray suggested that his guest didn’t sound too worried about this. “You can’t get depressed about these things,” Shortt responded. “It’s only money.”
As Murray reminded us, there is indeed more to life than dollars or euro. You need your sense, too.
Moment of the Week: The write formula
Arts programmes, particularly those with a literary focus, can be tricky to pull off, sounding either too eagerly populist or overly precious. But the inaugural edition of The Book Show (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday) gave grounds for optimism. Presented by Sinéad Gleeson (who also writes for The Irish Times), the show moved from stimulating interviews with the likes of the American writer George Saunders to unexpected items on football-jersey fonts from the sports broadcaster Ken Early. Most compelling was the extended piece on Maeve Brennan, which used discussion, location reports and readings to present a compelling portrait of the late Irish-born writer for the New Yorker. Like any good book, the show was intelligent, unpredictable and enjoyable: all in all, an encouraging first chapter.