David McSavage: ‘If I were a woman I’d be very f***ing angry’

The comedian believes that Irish men are so mollycoddled they cannot see women as equals

Irish comedian David McSavage is the first guest on The Irish Times's 10 Questions. Interview: Kate Holmquist, Video: Daniel O'Connor


Angry Emer is a strident career woman whose clipped nasal Mount Merrion accent would cut flesh. She will appear in the fourth series of the satirical comedy sketch show The Savage Eye for RTÉ TV. “She’s very professional and very angry,” says her creator, David McSavage (48), the controversial stand-up comedian, comic writer and actor.

“Women in this country were suppressed for generations, so only recently have they had a voice, so, like anything that is kept bottled for generations, it all goes a bit mad. You have women going a bit nuts at the moment, which is fine,” he says.

Angry Emer’s tone is “there’s no judgment in my voice but there is judgment”, and, while exaggerated, her anger taps in to women. “If I were a woman I’d be very f***ing angry, because men in this country are so emotionally retarded,” says McSavage.

He’s been tinkling on the piano in the penthouse suite of the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, answering questions, and has taken a break to smoke a roll-up on the roof terrace, where a sign on the hot tub says “currently out of order, sorry”.

“I was at 37 nightclub at, like, two in the morning. I was talking to somebody, and this guy started nudging in against me to get to this woman, and I thought he was her friend but he wasn’t. He was just some really idiotic animal trying to get close to a female. His face was a mixture of fear and desperation and desire. It was really embarrassing. For these kind of clubs – the Copper Face Jacks – to exist, it’s bad energy. Pornography as well has a big part to play. A guy literally sees tits, doesn’t see a human being, doesn’t see a life story.”

The hot tub sign says it all, really. “Women never fail to be surprised at how emotionally stunted men are, and they think we’re playing games, but we’re not really as emotionally intelligent by a long shot. Some women are so emotionally intelligent they’re almost to the point of clairvoyance.”

Yet women hold each other back, he believes. “Feminism tries to take on, but will never fully take on because women are so competitive against themselves, they’re not united. There’s a sort of divide-and- conquer thing among women, and when women do hang out they have all kinds of issues, whether it’s around weight, whether they’re trying to drag each other down, there’s a sort of subliminal war that goes on between certain types of women.”

Women want equality, but Irish mothers have raised sons as emotional cripples who can’t cook, he thinks. “Irish men are spoiled. We can’t handle women having a voice or being seen as equal. If I were a woman in this country, I would be raging,” says the 48-year-old, whose dark comedy is full of rage.

“Ultimately an Irish man just wants his mammy. I know this from my own mother. Your mother would do anything for you – she’d cook, she’d clean, you were the apple of her eye – but she sort of sent you out into the world like some sort of useless orphan in terms of your life skills, just basic things like hoovering, cleaning, ironing, cooking, being able to look after yourself and for that not to be a chore, just part of living,” he says.

McSavage, who lives alone, cried “for many months” after the break-up of his relationship with Fiona Shaughnessy in 2012. The highly accomplished Irish actor plays the role of Jessica Hyde in the British TV drama series Utopia . The split “was f***ing awful. I did a lot of therapy. The reason my relationship didn’t work out, it’s my responsibility. I wasn’t ready. Fiona was the most important person I’ve ever met, so there’s not an ounce of recrimination or bitterness. I love her and I love Hannah” – his ex-wife, with whom he has two sons: Daniel (20), who works with a theatre company in Belgium, and Jack (14), who is studying acting, neither following in the footsteps of their father’s father and brother, politicians David and Barry Andrews.

McSavage quit drinking in 2003, but has had “a couple of slips” lately and thinks he’ll be 55 before he’s ready for another relationship. “I did feel lonely, but now I’m getting much more used to it. I can’t handle a relationship the way I can’t handle alcohol because I’m an alcoholic, that’s the way with love – I can’t cope with it. It brings up too much stuff inside me, so I just leave it down.”

Love is all or nothing for him. “A therapist told me that I deal with love like a gambler, putting everything I have on to one horse, investing all my emotions in one relationship. Co-dependency. It’s too dangerous for me, and it’s too much pressure to put on myself and to put on someone.”

What do men want from women? “That feeling of being cared for is a bit gorgeous,” he says.

So, equality aside, what do women really want? “Do you think people know what they want? You have to live and make mistakes. For me, the way I found out what I want is by doing things and failing and learning from them, so I don’t imagine it’s any different for women.”

He is failing rather well, with a film role in John Michael McDonagh’s black comedy Calvary , opposite Brendan Gleeson, and a show coming up at Vicar Street on March 14th, where he will debut his new TV show concept, Poor Me and the Bastards , in which he and fellow comedians “sort of” play themselves.

His idea of perfect happiness? “I don’t want to know because it would be taken away,” he says. He cuts a lone, troubled figure. “I’m the kind of person who walks along the street and looks in to see people having dinner parties and thinks, oh to be normal. I would like to go to dinner parties, but I would say something to upset someone.” He heads out on to the roof terrace for another roll-up.

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