Radio: Summertime, and the living ain’t easy for Tubridy and co
The seasonal news lull is certainly a challenge for talk-radio hosts, but last week’s items sank like a saggy mattress
Mattress Mick, who was hailed by a desperate Tubridy as “the stuff of legend”. Photograph: Dave Meehan
The sunshine may be giving the country a much-needed fillip, but not everyone welcomes the summer. Ryan Tubridy (2FM, weekdays), for one, bemoans the season’s arrival, as he attempts to transform a thin bill of fare into something more substantial.
On Monday the presenter talks to Catherine, who has phoned in with a tip for shooing flies out of bedrooms. As the caller painstakingly explains that turning off a bedside lamp and turning on a hall light prompts the insect to exit, Tubridy’s engagement with the subject palpably wanes, as does the average listener’s will to live.
Summoning all his reserves of professional enthusiasm, he dutifully asks how long it takes for the fly to leave, but he’s unable to suppress the cri de coeur welling deep within. “You’d never guess it’s summer,” he blurts out.
Quite. The seasonal news lull is an occupational hazard for talk-radio hosts. Reading the newspapers on Tuesday, Tubridy again remarks on the paucity of stories. Going by some of this week’s items, his anxiety is well founded.
Monday’s show has Tubridy hailing one of his guests as an “icon” and “the stuff of legend”. Given that such terms have been devalued in an age of pointless celebrity, one doesn’t hold great hopes for what is to come. Even so, for Tubridy to puff a bedding retailer in such extravagant terms smacks of desperation.
His interview with the Dublin businessman Michael Flynn, aka Mattress Mick, is much as one might expect from a conversation with a salesman whose reputation rests on an extrovert manner and long hair: its course has run long before its 10 minutes is up. Flynn seems an affable character, but tales of hugging female customers and lying on beds alongside prospective buyers are not the stuff of legend, nor even of mild diversion. That Tubridy is reduced to asking whether Flynn is a music fan (he’s not) suggests the presenter knows the item is running on fumes.
The frustrating thing is that Tubridy is well able to produce arresting radio with the right material. On Wednesday he talks to Nate Phelps, estranged son of the late Fred Phelps, the homophobic American preacher who picketed the funerals of US servicemen.
The conversation paints a riveting picture of a cowed, brainwashed family ruled by a manipulative and abusive patriarch, with Phelps’s clear-eyed account sharpened by the presenter’s astute questioning.
It would be nice to think that, come winter, Tubridy’s show will feature many more such items. But on past experience, not to mention 2FM’s ever more frenetic direction, perhaps you shouldn’t get your hopes up.