Radio: George Hook un-Laoises his comedic side while Ray D’Arcy does a bad boob job
In an on-air battle of the belly laughs, the Newstalk presenter’s loud, from-the-hip patter was the clear winner
Overbearing: Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
It will hardly come as news to some listeners, but last week it was finally official: George Hook is a loudmouth. The surprise was that this judgment came from the producers of The Right Hook (Newstalk, weekdays) and was passed on by Hook himself.
Not that it was a self-excoriating admission of guilt on the part of the presenter and his team. In fact, as the show was broadcast from the National Ploughing Championships, the statement was delivered with a defiant pride. Rightly so, too: rarely has Hook been in such entertainingly dotty form.
He was undoubtedly operating at a higher pitch than usual, in more ways than one. As he opened Tuesday’s show amid the sprawling outdoor exhibition in Ratheniska, Co Laois, he remarked, “I’ve just got a message from my producer that I’m talking too loudly.” He did not noticeably reduce his volume, however, but it was just as well. One of his guests was the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, whose overbearing manner was mercifully undercut by his equally swaggering host.
Discussing ongoing measures to help the former inhabitants of Priory Hall, the Minister repeatedly stated that his department did not technically have to deal with the problem, but felt a moral obligation to do so. Amid the back-slapping, he glided over the fact that the Government only took this noble action after the death by suicide of a Priory Hall resident, Fiachra Daly. But at least he was prevented from passing the buck by Hook. “The only thing I’m not allowing you to say is that you inherited the mess from Fianna Fáil,” the presenter said, surely echoing the sentiments of a nation.
Such interventions aside, Hook was in a gruffly self-deprecating mood in Laois, as his free-associating patter became ever more bizarre. On Wednesday, a throwaway item about the difficulty of opening modern milk cartons led to a spiel about how “as a child of the 1940s” he shunned such modern affectations as aftershave, mouthwash and, most alarmingly, deodorant. Later, when he spoke to Liz Arnett of Irish Water, Hook extolled the virtues of the minimalist “sailor shower” approach. “I believe we have to send message about the scarcity of water,” he said, before revealing that he liked to spout said precious commodity from his mouth when having a shower “like a huge mammal emerging from the water”.
During one particularly rambling monologue, Hook confessed that he had been asked by his producer “to talk horse manure for 120 seconds”, after the previous item had ended too soon. It’s one thing for a professionally contrarian presenter to spout crap on demand, but quite another for him to admit to doing so.
By contrast, over on The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays), the presenter was talking tits. And that was just for beginners. When D’Arcy spoke to English broadcaster and author Dawn O’Porter about The Booby Trap, her anthology of celebrity-penned pieces on breasts, the conversation took on a saucy hue. Taking his cue from the book, D’Arcy embarked on a taxonomy of informal mammary nomenclature, helping his guest run through slang terms of varying crudeness with childish glee.
The wheeze quickly grew tiresome, but D’Arcy was quick to intone that there was “a serious side” to all this: proceeds from the book went to charities fighting breast cancer, of which O’Porter’s mother had died when she was a child. And some of the discussion on the subject at hand was intriguing, notably O’Porter’s observations on women’s complex relationship with their breasts, from appearance issues to motherhood and illness. But neither D’Arcy nor his guest had the time nor the inclination to further explore this avenue, particularly when there was the chance to shout about “bangers” and “melons”.
It was a shame, because D’Arcy is well able to engage with guests on meaningful topics while maintaining a light touch. His absorbing interview with the writer Bill Bryson was a case in point. As Bryson spoke about the momentous summer of 1927, the subject of his new book, his host put the potentially unfamiliar material into the snappy context of a daytime talk show. The experience of the pioneering but intellectually limited aviator Charles Lindbergh showed, D’Arcy suggested, that “boring people can do interesting things”, a nifty but accurate summation.
While he was at it, D’Arcy might have remembered that, more often than not, self-consciously naughty behaviour makes for dull radio.
Moment of the week
Miriam gets plugged in to youth culture
Throughout her tenure as host of The John Murray Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), Miriam O’Callaghan has been an appealingly versatile presenter. During Wednesday’s interview with three pupils from Kinsale who won top prize at the European Union Young Scientists Competition, however, she sounded a tad over-eager. When one of the students said she might buy a new laptop, O’Callaghan concurred: “I think you totally deserve to splash out on something.” It was, y’know, as though Miriam was, like, totally down with the kids, yeah?