Vogue Williams and Joanne McNally: ‘She’s a business b*tch’ ... ‘She’s the diva’

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Their podcast, My Therapist Ghosted Me, was a lockdown hit. It turned out the studio could not contain them

There are cult hits, there are niche cultural phenomena and then there’s My Therapist Ghosted Me. The podcast, presented by two Irish women, Joanne McNally and Vogue Williams, is a classic of a genre: casual chat and banter about the presenters’ personal lives, celebrity gossip and crowdsourced listener experiences on various themes, especially relationships. Recent topics include nepo babies and celebrity spats. Tales of their social lives, holidays, families, dating history and, crucially, their assessments of each other – Williams, the glamorous personality who frequently appears in celebrity media, and McNally, a high-octane stand-up comedian – fill the 40-minute weekly episodes.

As distant as their lives may be to those of their audience, Williams and McNally have nailed the ingredients that grow and keep an audience: authenticity, relatability, fun and a good producer. Spending time in their company as a listener is uplifting. Their cut-to-the-chase realness, aversion to PR nous and tendency to divulge too much information, is a tonic in a genre weighed down by the overly worthy and generic self-care delicateness that plagues contemporary culture. For a show with “therapist” in the title, it’s remarkably devoid of therapy speak.

It’s hard to overstate the level of success the podcast has created for both women, the podcasting industry and the live industry. My Therapist Ghosted Me (the title is taken from when McNally’s therapist abruptly stopped taking her calls) has between 2½ to 3 million listeners a month. On the evening we meet, backstage at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, they are enjoying a sold-out run of live shows. A new live date for the 3Arena in December went on sale that morning, with Williams, her eyes widening, confiding that thousands of tickets were bought within a few hours. This means that Williams and McNally will become just the fourth Irish act to sell four or more consecutive dates at that huge venue – the biggest indoor arena on the island of Ireland – since it opened in 2008. When their run begins in late November, only Westlife, Picture This and U2 will have achieved what they have.

How on earth did they get here? McNally began her foray into stand-up in small rooms in Dublin. Her stage presence was so compelling, her charisma so glowing, her jokes so splutteringly hilarious that at the time, her new, small audience spoke about her potential in hushed tones after just a few gigs. She was, very obviously, a star.


She had already been cast in Singlehood, by Una McKevitt, which began its journey in 2012, with McNally joining in 2014. McNally’s breakout solo show, also directed by McKevitt, was Bite Me at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016, detailing her experience of disordered eating. The show was a hit, equally devastating and hilarious. McNally was once told she would never book Vicar Street because of her “posh” accent (she is from Killiney, Williams is from Howth). She greeted this affront with a record 62-night sold-out run of her solo stand-up show, The Prosecco Express, at the venue. Her audience was in part expanded by her pandemic-era Instagram presence, where bored and aimless during lockdowns with gigs postponed, she began using Instagram Stories more frequently, waving a burning-sage-stuffed Berocca tube around her latest London house-share.

Williams, meanwhile, was offering insights into her own life also on Instagram, in the pages of glossy British magazines and working on various brand partnerships and presenter gigs. The first episode of My Therapist Ghosted Me was uploaded in April 2021. McNally’s opening salvo was this: “It’s a podcast that works – we don’t know if it works yet but it should work – on the basis of sharing your innermost thoughts with as many people as you possibly can, to make you feel better, and not worse, and not weird.” On paper, it’s a flimsy concept. But very quickly, it was clear their partnership unlocked something compelling. Perhaps unbeknown to them, they had already done their 10,000 hours. Both McNally and Williams are known in their industries as relentlessly hardworking.

The conceit of their dynamic goes like this: Williams’s life is idyllic, sorted, whereas McNally has spent a large part of the past half-decade living out of suitcases, eating chicken sandwiches on trains on the way to gigs and drinking white wine from a mug in the shape of a child’s head. Williams has three children. McNally once made a documentary titled Baby Hater. McNally found success with a personal brand of incredible wit and white wine-flavoured singledom (she is now in a relationship with a former Diet Coke ad male model). Williams lives in London with her husband, the broadcaster and entrepreneur Spencer Matthews, who recently made a beautifully moving documentary for Disney+, Finding Michael, about his brother who tragically disappeared in 1999 aged 22 while attempting to become the youngest British climber to summit Mount Everest.

When we were doing the show, that was one of my fears, that people would think I would be coming up on stage with Joanne trying to do stand-up

—  Vogue Williams

Backstage at the Gaiety, Williams arrives a few minutes late. Hours previously she had texted, warning of this potential delay. McNally arrives half an hour later distraught by her own tardiness. “I’m so sorry! I thought today was Thursday! But it’s Saturday!” (It’s Friday). In conversation, they finish each other’s sentences, talk over each other and pool ideas in real time. As ever, almost everything from McNally is a one-liner. Jokes flow out of her like rolls of prize tickets in an arcade. I suggest a tight half-hour of questions. “Half an hour for me,” McNally says, “and Vogue, if you want to chip in, you’ll ask permission.” Observing the listings in the 3Arena, I point out that they’re doing four nights, whereas Celine Dion, meanwhile, has booked just the two. “That’s because she’s not arsed doing four, I’d say,” McNally says, “we’ll just keep going.”

In its live format, My Therapist Ghosted Me isn’t just a staged podcast episode. It’s a show about their friendship, their screw-ups and the general ridiculousness of their lives. There’s a hydraulic stand that emerges from the stage floor to deliver them drinks. There are T-shirt canons and a show-closing DJ set from Williams. McNally is used to theatres and screaming fans but Williams’s trajectory has been different. First of all, she’s not a stand-up comic. “Excuse me!” Williams feigns shock. “Cut the interview!” McNally roars. “Well,” Williams says, “when we were doing the show, that was one of my fears, that people would think I would be coming up on stage with Joanne trying to do stand-up. I’m not a stand-up comic.”

“The balls on her,” McNally says, “she’s doing it anyway,” before listing off Williams’s qualities, “charming and fun and sound”. For years though, most people only saw photographs of Williams, and her Instagram presence is – like everyone’s – selectively curated. But Williams is a grafter and someone who is known to be incredibly down to earth, disarmingly open, friendly and kind. “Look, people can have a perception of you that’s not very true,” Williams says, “I probably didn’t help it, getting glammed up, going out, doing my make-up all the time, doing shoots, but that was my job. But it’s nice with the podcast that you can get your personality across ... What you see is what you get with us ... It’s nice that people can see what I’m like as a person, instead of judging.”

Vogue is new to ‘live’ but has a neck like a jockey’s b****cks and she’s familiar with live audiences. She’s frustratingly capable on stage

—  Joanne McNally

A live environment, however, does offer a different challenge. “I have to say, I’m absolutely terrified every night. I don’t know why, it comes over me,” Williams says. “Then when you’re on stage, it’s settling, weirdly.” “It’s just adrenaline,” McNally says, “We were show three and Vogue was like, ‘I’m still nervous. Do the nerves go?’ I’m like, ‘F**k you! I’ve been doing this for eight years and I’m still s**tting myself.’ Then show five she’s like, ‘I’m grand!’ Vogue is new to ‘live’ but has a neck like a jockey’s b****cks and she’s familiar with live audiences. She’s frustratingly capable on stage, to the point where I wonder what I’ve been wasting my time doing.” Williams counters, “Ah, I wouldn’t say that. I would say that I feel very safe with Joanne on stage. I know that if I say absolutely nothing–” “I’d be thrilled!” McNally interrupts. “She’d cover me,” Williams says.

“Me and Vogue bring different things to the table,” McNally says of their collaboration. “Vogue is like Alan Sugar. She’s a business b*tch. Vogue talks about trademarking things, merch, s**t like that. I don’t have that.” Williams takes up McNally’s contribution, “Joanne got Una [McKevitt] on board.” McNally nods, “I like the stage stuff – direction, production, sets – so in a way we complement each other in that way. It’s a long time since I’ve shared a stage with anyone. I’m used to doing my own thing. I love sharing the stage with you,” she says to Williams. “I’m not just saying this because I’ve had a glass of wine, but you mean the world to me. I don’t feel competitive with Vogue. I just really enjoy our relationship. I want us to have a good show and give people a great night out.”

But this turn in events for Williams’s career is still landing for her. “When I’m at the side of the stage, all I can think about is why am I here? What am I doing here waiting to go out into the Gaiety where I’ve been watching panto since I was five years old? How have I arrived here and am about to go on?” While Williams couldn’t identify the moment the podcast started taking off, McNally recognised it. “I felt it because I was gigging in London. There were girls coming to gigs off the back of the podcast. That doesn’t really happen when you’re a gigging club comic in London. You’re just a name on a line-up ... I was saying to Vogue, ‘There’s young ones coming’.”

I thought the way you built up audiences as a comic was you just gigged. I was a bit naive about the power of podcasts. They just seemed like extra work

—  Joanne McNally

One night, McNally rang Williams from a club in Greenwich. A bunch of young women had turned up to McNally’s set because they loved the podcast. McNally found herself looking at these new fans thinking, “‘Holy s**t’ ... This is the god’s honest truth,” McNally says, “If it wasn’t for Covid, I would have never done a podcast. I thought the way you built up audiences as a comic was you just gigged. I was a bit naive about the power of podcasts. They just seemed like extra work.” She remembers saying to Williams, “I think this thing is rolling here, there’s girls coming to gigs, they’re young, they’re enthusiastic, they’re loyal, they’re fun.” Both women frequently interrupt themselves to praise their audience. They take heart in what a good time people have at their shows, “everyone is just sound”, Williams says.

Now, Williams finds that people booking her for presenting jobs and pilots want her to bring her personality to the role, “they want me to be how I am on the podcast, because they’ve heard the podcast and they know what I’m like. It’s nice to be able to be completely yourself–” She stops herself mid-sentence, “Jesus Christ, no.” McNally is opening a bottle of Grey Goose vodka to pour herself a vodka and Red Bull. “I tell you what,” McNally says, mid-pour, “this is the difference between doing shows by myself and shows with Vogue. My rider was like ‘em, a bag of grapes please and a bottle of pinot’. Vogue is like ‘seven bottles of Veuve Clicquot’.” Vogue is pantomime-aghast, “Is she trying to blame me for that rider? I asked for Barry’s decaf tea, and I asked for Hunky Dorys,” then admits, “I did say vodka.” I offer to get McNally some ice. “That’s not your job, I’ll go get it. Vogue, you take the next question. Tell her about your feelings,” and disappears out the dressingroom door.

“We wanted the Gaiety shows to be massive,” Williams says, “We wanted people to enjoy themselves, to feel like they had the best night out ever. It’s the same with the 3Arena. We’re adding as many bells and whistles as we can. The stage is much bigger. Everything is going to have to be a bit different because it’s such a huge venue. But the show [structure] is the show, and it’s in place now. Bits of the show will change constantly. The first show we did in the Gaiety is different to what we’ll do tonight, because even today I wanted to cut something out and put something else in. By the time we get to the 3Arena, it’ll probably be way different.” McNally reappears with a word of caution, “Ah I wouldn’t be saying that now. They’ll buy tickets expecting something else!”

Ultimately, it’s clear the greatest pleasure they’re deriving from this expanding podcast circus is their own company. “It’s so nice because comedy is so insular,” McNally says, “In stand-up, you work for yourself, on your own, always.” “That’s why I’m annoyed right now because I know you’re going to go for a nap after this,” Williams says. McNally has an inflatable bed upstairs in the Gaiety. “She’s the diva out of the two of us,” Williams says. “I am in my f**king hole,” McNally counters. “But it is so nice working with someone else. It’s the camaraderie of it,” she says.

I’m not going to be pregnant this year. I’m going around with my pal and I’m having a great time with my family

—  Vogue Williams

“We’ve a lovely team,” Williams says, “Starting with Una [McKevitt].” I say it’s interesting that many of the people around them have been working with them for a long time. “You know when you go into a cafe or a restaurant and there’s a high turnover of staff?” McNally asks, “It’s not a great look.” “I find that with gyms, if there’s trainers going in and out,” Williams says. “Be relatable, Vogue!” McNally says at the mention of gyms. “I did my first job with Corina [Gaffey, the stylist] when I was 17,” Williams says. “That’s 20 years. And she’s coming in after this. It’s just nice working with people who are sound. When you come across sound people, it just makes the job easier.”

When Williams’s manager presents her with new opportunities, she says one of her main priorities is whether those involved will be easy to work with. “That’s one of the main reasons I continue to work with [the same] people,” she says, “because they’re easy to work with, and they get things done.” McKevitt, McNally says, is the person who got her into the arts in the first place. “It’s Una who’ll pull the plug on me,” McNally says, “I’ll never pull the plug on Una.”

Williams’s attitude for 2023 is: “Do a good job and have loads of fun. I want to have loads of fun this year. I’ve been pregnant forever. I’m not going to be pregnant this year. I’m going around with my pal and I’m having a great time with my family.” McNally characterises her year as “professional backpacking. As you get older – and I’m 40 this year – it’s like, Oh, I haven’t done ‘the things’. I haven’t got married. I’ve no kids. So now there’s a freedom to it. I can do whatever I want, and that’s travel.

“I was in New York for shows in January, and I felt I could just go there and live for a month. I know it’s a wanky thing to say, but it’s so inspiring. They’re workers in New York. They hustle. The standard of stand-up in New York, I mean, it was a while since I had done clubs, a year and a half since I had done a club gig. Club gigs keep you fresh. I was in New York doing them and I was bricking it, doing a club with 15 people in the audience. And that’s good. I like the climb. No one knows who you are, you can die on your hole, and it’s fine. I love that. It keeps you sharp.”

They wrap up, Gaffey arrives, and McNally delves into gossip and potters around. “Do you want any of this stuff?” she asks, shoving various items cluttering the dressingroom towards me. “Do you use CBD oil? This one is great,” she says popping a small bottle into my bag, “Seriously, take whatever you want.” Surveying the mounds of bouquets, gift baskets, boxes of crisps and bottles in the dressingroom, she says to no one in particular, “Mad, just mad.”

My Therapist Ghosted Me Live! at the 3Arena runs from November 29th to December 2nd, tickets at ticketmaster.ie from €54.90

Una Mullally

Una Mullally

Una Mullally, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly opinion column