Ryan Tubridy and Anton Savage – masters of silly-season banter

Radio review: ‘The Ryan Tubridy Show’, ‘The Anton Savage Show’, ‘Second Captains’

Just as the swallows' return heralds the advent of summer, so the re-emergence of chirpy midmorning radio presenters from their holidays signals the arrival of the silly season. To drive a daytime talkshow on the fumes of the August news cycle takes a special skill set possessed only by a select few, such as Ryan Tubridy and Anton Savage, radio rivals freshly returned from their summer breaks.

Chief among the prerequisites for this role is the ability to riff at length on any subject that crosses one's mind, from newspaper trivia to last night's television. The former is particularly skilled. On Tuesday's Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays) he discusses the merits of the blockbuster superhero movies he has seen before ruminating on the facial quirks of the films' stars.

That there is little domestic news around doesn't bother Tubridy, not least because it allows him to talk about US politics, a topic he discusses so often that it could be his chosen subject on Mastermind. The train wreck of a campaign of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, provides much material, with Tubridy unable to hide his horror at the whole business. But he also recalls an argument he had in New York about the necessity of voting, a recollection at once flimsy and faux profound.

It’s not all off the cuff, however. He hosts an interesting interview with James Cawley, a teacher whose condition of arthrogryposis multiplex congenita has left him in a wheelchair. Cawley is a sparky guest with a fine sense of humour – his nickname for his “deformed” hand is the Hook – and he is determined to follow the same educational, social and career paths as everyone else.


Tubridy is a good foil, hearing out Cawley’s tough experiences while conversing blokeishly.

Indeed, Tubridy is so concerned with treating his guest the same as others that his main bugbear is not so much the obstacles Cawley has to negotiate than the notion that his guest might be patronised by that egregious evil political correctness.

The presenter notes that, as the youngest in a large family, Cawley wasn’t “mollycoddled” when he was growing up. He also remarks, in reference to his guest’s “hook”, that people can be too po-faced and PC when talking about disabilities.

Maybe so, but Tubridy contemplates these developments in much the same affronted spirit that the spoof radio star Alan Partridge bemoaned the Spastics Society changing its name to Scope. This attitude creeps in elsewhere, as when the presenter imagines followers of the one-time US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders “stroking their beards and drinking their nut juice”. It’s a neat line, but it equally suggests that pint-drinking, banter-loving, heterosexual males like Tubridy are the natural repository from which all common sense springs.

That Tubridy doesn't come across as a Daily Mail-reading caricature is a testament to his easy-on-the-ear approach and to his deft personal touch. He can connect with his guests while asking tricky questions, such as whether Cawley feels he has been handed an unfair deal in life. Tubridy has more substance than his flippant style sometimes suggests.

For all his protestations to the contrary, Tubridy is po-faced compared with Anton Savage, a man so terminally laconic that his eyebrow muscles must be ripped from the frequency with which he raises them. On Wednesday's Anton Savage Show (Today FM, weekdays) the presenter discusses the likelihood of people finding "coitus" via Tindr, the dating app, and analyses the different expectations of men and women in this regard. According to Savage, not many men use dating apps to search for long-term relationships or, as he puts it, "to cuddle under a slanket". His witty turn of phrase prevents his archness from slipping into full-blown smart-arsery.

Given the fallow news agenda, Savage also examines the excesses of Trump's White House run, but from a refreshingly atypical point of view. He speaks to the US expat Tom Plank, who resigned as Irish chairman of Republicans Abroad after Trump became his party's nominee.

Plank is an unabashed conservative with a dislike of Hillary Clinton. But his distaste for the Democratic candidate is exceeded only by his alarm at Trump’s rise, not least because he thinks the whole fiasco all but guarantees a Clinton victory.

It’s an interesting item less for the Trump bashing than for its articulation of certain deeply held American values that are rarely heard on Irish radio. It’s telling that Savage eschews irony for his interview with Plank: he is a canny enough broadcaster to know when it’s appropriate or not.

There are other times when it’s simply futile for him to use his trademark wryness. He interviews David McGowan, an undertaker who has set up an idiosyncratic campsite in Enniscrone, Co Sligo, complete with old buses, cars and a disused passenger jet, and who is as eccentrically driven and immune to subtlety as one might expect.

As his guest describes buying old trains in London and finding a helicopter “in a hayshed in Mullingar” Savage can do little but laugh at the incongruity of it all. It’s Irish life at its most surreal, and memorable radio to boot. Who needs the news?

Moment of the Week: Peter Coonan bares more than his soul

Less a sports programme than an irreverent interview show, Second Captains (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday) features the eponymous broadcasting (and Irish Times podcasting) team grilling a celebrity about their past, sporting or otherwise. There is much to enjoy when Eoin McDevitt interviews the Love/Hate actor Peter Coonan about his prowess as a schools hurler and his bond with his late mother, who fed his love of acting. But there is also much tittering humour, with McDevitt keen to learn more about Coonan's appearance naked in a production of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy. As the double entendres flow Coonan is the only one to emerge with some decorum. "It's not Sunday-morning talk," he says. An invigorating morning listen.