Podge and Rodge are back, but they’re not funny any more. Maybe they never were

After eight years off TV, the irreverent puppets still say ‘mickey’ a lot. And that’s kind of it

After eight years off of our TV screens, Podge and Rodge return to RTÉ. Video: RTÉ

 

Irish talk shows generally trade on a heady mix of light entertainment, personal tragedy and local gossip. You know, the kind of stuff that only makes sense in a country with no internet and a strange reverence for besuited middle-aged men at desks.

In the UK and US, by contrast, chat shows are anchored by wise-cracking comedians (Graham Norton/Jimmy Kimmel) and/or character actors (Mrs Merton/Mrs Brown) orbited by chuckling famous people eager to appear to be “good sports” (the holy grail of modern celebrity).

That’s what the Podge and Rodge Show aimed for back in 2006 but then, by 2010, it was gone. Well, I’ve news from telly land: like tension on the Border, scurvy and high-waisted jeans Podge and Rodge are back.

First, some context: Podge O’Leprosy originally appeared in the guise of a haunted ventriloquist dummy on children’s programme, the Den (this is also the origin story of Ryan Tubridy). He was very funny and before long this ghostly automaton (Podge, not Tubridy) was co-hosting A Scare at Bedtime with his brother Rodge.

A Scare at Bedtime was, with its dirty jokes, weird stories and sideways digs at RTÉ presenters, quirkily irreverent by the standards of the time and we were happy to have them. It was also, after the cancellation of Glenroe, one of the few programmes on which Dubliners could see real “culchies” with our ridiculous ginger paper-mache heads. The follow-up chat show wasn’t that good, but, you know, they had a fair bit of good will to coast on at that point.

Well, now they’re back and something is awry. From the outset, the filthy self-referentiality of the new show has morphed into a full-blown disorder. The duo appears dressed as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un before referencing their eight-year absence with dubious riffs on #MeToo (“She’s a #MeToo waiting to happen”), the eighth amendment (mistaking it for the US second amendment), and marriage equality (“I just doubled me chances of getting my hole,” says Rodge), while their new foil, comedian/influencer Doireann Garrihy, theatrically disapproves.

“I think Doireann has an opinion,” says one of the Odges. “Apparently they’re allowed to now.” Then they say “fanny” for a while.

So that’s how it starts. Then out comes Josh JP Patterson, who formerly dated Binky on Channel 4’s posh person safari programme Made in Chelsea. He doesn’t know what’s going on. As a wealthy English person, he probably thinks that Podge and Rodge are just regular Irishmen there to work in his stately mansion or fight in his wars.

They say “mickey” to him for a while then show him a picture of Rodge in the nip. JP, clearly trained in interrogation-resistance techniques by MI6, asks what “mickey” means and tells Rodge he looks beautiful.

There’s a strong bang of pathos off this interaction. I feel like JP is a naïve teen who’s just met a weird eccentric down at the dump. I want Children’s BBC to make a bittersweet drama about this. I would prefer to watch that programme, I realise.

After the break, for no reason, Podge and Rodge show us footage of a YouTuber who specialises in syringing spots and removing cysts and I feel like vomiting, and not with laughter.

Enter Dancing with the Stars contestant Erin McGregor, whose brother, violent underwear model Conor McGregor, once assaulted a bus. Podge and Rodge pretend they’re not going to ask her about her more famous brother, but they then do.

Then she tells a story about farting on Dancing with the Stars. It is not, to be honest, the greatest story ever told or even the greatest anecdote I’ve ever heard on a chat show. I wouldn’t even be that impressed if my cat told it, even thought it would mean I had a talking cat.

Finally, electropop combo Le Galaxie play Video Killed the Radio Star, which is very good because Le Galaxie are very good, but as the credit rolls I feel sort of empty inside.

Why do I feel empty? Well, Doireann Garrihy, God love her, deserves better than to be cast as a straight-woman to my generation’s hang-ups. Because that, I think, is what Podge and Rodge are. At a point when we were being regularly trodden upon by censorious priests and venal men in Mohair suits, having a puppet say the word “fanny” rendered us helpless, rolling on the floor weeping and gibbering with laughter. If that puppet followed up by saying “mickey”, frankly we were fit to be hospitalised and might possibly have died of happiness.

But, and I know this is hard for you all to hear, what if it isn’t actually that funny at all? What if the only people capable of finding it funny are just traumatised from living through Ireland the 1980s? What if young people watching Podge and Rodge just see a puppet saying “mickey” and a YouTuber picking his spots?

What then?