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Ryan Tubridy bores into Wonderful Life stories

Radio 1 host successfully uses his cultural obsessions to draw out a guest, and there’s a rare outbreak of optimism on Liveline

Loud, obnoxious, a bore: these are just some of the terms used this week to describe Ryan Tubridy (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). An unduly harsh verdict, maybe, but one that Turbridy presumably thinks fair, given the characterisation comes courtesy of himself. One trusts he’s not due to give a self-evaluated performance review any time soon, or he’ll talk himself out of a job.

Of course, Tubridy’s remarks are made in a spirit of gently ironic self-deprecation rather than that of a Soviet show-trial confession. Moreover, the comments are inaccurate, or at least two-thirds so. He may be overenthusiastic on-air, but he’s neither loud nor obnoxious. But when it comes to his zeal for some subjects, he can be, well, somewhat predictable.

Most people would agree that the Beatles, JFK, Connemara and pints of Guinness are all excellent entities, but there’s a tedium to the metronomic regularity with which the host cites such cultural markers as barometers of civilised living. (He recently opined that “Bublé does a cracking version of a McCartney track”, which may be the most Tubridy statement ever.) At this time of year, the 1946 seasonal movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life can be added to the bingo card of Tubridy obsessions, as he admits himself. “I’m an It’s a Wonderful Life bore,” he says on Tuesday, before launching into a paean to the film’s star, James Stewart.

It’s the second day running that the presenter mentions the movie. But for once, his references have a purpose, as Monday’s interview with singer Col Patterson underlines. Patterson is fresh off an appearance on the Late Late Show, where he performed his song Bedford Falls, named after the fictional setting of the film so beloved of both host and guest. Patterson isn’t on the radio just because of this shared appreciation of the movie, however: his personal experience resonates with that of James Stewart’s character, who comes back from the brink of suicide. Or as Tubridy puts it: “That moment where you look over the bridge, the water is choppy and you just think, ‘I hope it gets a little bit better than this.’”


Patterson recounts his lifelong struggle with social anxiety, which came to a head after a random attack on a night out caused him to withdraw from everyday life, to the point that he tried to take his own life. Thankfully, Patterson didn’t go through with the act – “I’m reluctant to get into too much detail,” Tubridy says – with music and marriage providing a happy ending to his story.

It’s a warm, redemptive interview, but much like It’s a Wonderful Life, it deals with difficult themes. The conversation touches on mental health and violent crime as well as social anxiety: “A really important talking point, post-pandemic,” in the host’s mind.

Moreover, the interview is representative of Tubridy’s show in recent times. While he regularly chats with celebrity guests, his stock in trade is the quotidian human drama, usually one that chimes with wider issues. Though the host eagerly discusses history with German film director Edward Berger on Tuesday’s programme, he sounds as engaged when talking to Patterson, and possibly more relaxed: he calls himself “a slightly obnoxious extrovert” during the conversation. It’s an exaggeration, but in this case the host’s easy-going manner and, yes, personal obsessions are put to good use, drawing out guests to share their stories. Looking for the best in people is another of Tubridy’s predictable traits, but it’s to be encouraged.

Overpriced plonk

There’s an unexpectedly upbeat atmosphere on Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), as Joe Duffy presides over a rare outbreak of positivity. It’s not Duffy’s jaunty mood that’s unusual – he’s no stranger to giddily hamming it up on the microphone – but rather the optimistic sentiments expressed by callers.

The week actually has a reliably gloomy start. Duffy hears a litany of woe, from the nigglingly trivial – complaints about €10.50 glasses of wine in Dublin – to the more serious, such as the impact of soaring energy costs on small businesses or the perils of nocturnal public transport at Christmas. But from the moment Duffy delightedly replays a clip of Roy Keane complaining about Brazil’s World Cup celebrations on Tuesday’s programme, it’s a whole different ball game.

Following on from Monday’s gripes about overpriced plonk, Tony tells Duffy about a Drogheda pub selling a full bottle of white wine for a mere €13. The host is impressed, comparing it favourably with the price of the “common or garden sauvignon blanc” mentioned the day before. “It wasn’t Yquem, or Montrachet, or whatever the names are,” the host says, his mangling of the latter name not quite masking a suspiciously easy familiarity with Grands Crus.

This good news story is small beer compared what is to come. With last week’s centenary of the State’s independence having passed largely unremarked, John phones in wondering why the day isn’t celebrated, given what he sees as the success of the past 100 years. “We’re recognised as a happy, progressive, small country,” John says, going on to praise Ireland with such vim that Duffy cheekily begins to play Amhrán na bhFiann in the background. This might appear dismissive, but Duffy seems genuinely moved by John’s generous patriotism.

The host sounds less convinced by Damian’s glowing praise for “the achievement of Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin” in eschewing Civil War politics to “run this country very successfully”, a claim which even Coalition Ministers are loath to make these days. Even here, however, Duffy doesn’t push back with his usual alacrity.

Overall, it’s a change from the discontent that normally prevails on Liveline. It does well not to be predictable, though too much good cheer would be bad news for Duffy’s job.