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The Two Johnnies could be part of Irish life for the foreseeable future

TV review: In The Two Johnnies Do America their persona is that of minor hurlers who’ve got lost on their J1 holiday and are skating by on charm and confidence

Who are the Two Johnnies? What are the Two Johnnies? Why are the Two Johnnies? The simple answer is they are the Cahir duo of Johnny O’Brien and Johnny McMahon and they have gone from local fame in south Tipperary to nationwide stardom thanks to a hit podcast, sell-out live appearances and a 2FM radio show.

Another answer is they are Ireland’s Ant and Dec — cheeky chappies with the common touch who have bypassed snobby metropolitan gatekeepers by appealing directly to the masses. In this scenario, they will inevitably be on the airwaves for the next 20 years and will doubtless end up hosting everything from Dancing with the Stars to the Sunday Game. So get used to those brash, lads-from-down-the-local grins. There is every possibility they are going to be part of the daily experience of living in Ireland for the foreseeable future.

But before global domination Irish-style, they are back for a second season of The Two Johnnies Do America (RTÉ 2, 9.30pm). Here, the template is not Ant and Dec but those Top Gear specials in which Jeremy Clarkson and pals drive across exotic landscapes and have hilarious interactions with the locals.

In the case of O’Brien and McMahon, most of the driving is at a motorbike convention near Austin, Texas. And the thrills and spills take a turn for the gory when O’Brien topples his (tiny) motorbike and ends up with a bloodied knee.


He guffaws through the pain which is the Two Johnnies brand in a nutshell. Their persona is that of minor hurlers who’ve got lost on their J1 holiday and are skating by on charm and the confidence which comes with having come on as a sub and scored the winning point against Limerick at Semple Stadium.

So this is Marmite telly with all the toppings. If there is a surprise, it is that is some actual reportage along the way. They start in Juarez, Mexico, a cartel- town that backs on to El Paso, Texas.

With a Texas journalist as guide, they walk along the fence separating Mexico from the US while American border guards maintain a close watch. Will their snooping be held against them when they attempt to enter the United States? Puffing up his chest O’Brien tries to look confident.

“I was able to get into the nightclub in Cahir House when I was 16,” he says. “This is really like trying to get into a nightclub,” agrees McMahon. “I only had a couple of drinks ...”

The duo brim with chutzpah, though are perhaps not as hilarious as they think they are. “If you had a kid, your daughter would have to be called Verity or Jewellery,” says McMahon as they drive through Texas and reflect on the difference between Irish and American names. O’Brien forces himself to laugh.

They have a packed itinerary. They meet a farmer who lost half a hand when electrocuted, sit down with an etiquette expert, sip cocktails in Austin and hang with some masked Mexican wrestlers.

These encounters are an opportunity for them to go crazy with the lovely hurling, boys routine. And yet they also display a genuine curiosity toward the people they meet and the Texas way of life.

Much like Ant and Dec, the pair have already worked out that it is fine to be ubiquitous so long as you dial down your shtick now and then. In the Two Johnnies Do America O’Brien and McMahon have the self-awareness to step outside their lads-from-Tipp brand and explore the United States without a Cahir in the world. It isn’t subtle — but at moments it is undeniably smart.