‘It’s a good thing, when you get into trouble, to blame yourself’
In Conversation: Pat Shortt and Mark O’Halloran
Mark O’Halloran and Pat Shortt. Photographs: Alan Betson and Brian McEvoy
When did you last cry?
Mark: I’m a great person for crying at films, I have to say.
Mark: I love when that happens because it means you’re having an indulgent weep for yourself.
Pat: I’d be self-indulgent too. Waking up in the morning after having a load of drink the night before, I once found myself at the end of the bed watching two elephants on a David Attenborough programme and the baby elephant was dying. I thought, ‘couldn’t someone just step in and help the baby elephant?’ Just getting really emotional. Then I realised I was out late last night. I genuinely don’t cry, so I don’t know when was last.
Mark: With movies or plays, you’re in the dark. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, particularly Barry Keoghan’s dislocation from things, that made me cry.
Why do you think it is you do what you do?
Mark: Definitely because of my family.
Pat: That’s interesting.
Mark: I was the eighth child of ten. My father was a great singer and raconteur in the pub. I’d see my brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles get together for family dos, and being able to speak or to tell a story or sing a song meant you were alive, it meant people respected you. I loved all of that.
Pat: It’s too easy for me to say ‘I couldn’t do anything else’. I played music since I was a kid, so I followed that and that led me to comedy, led me to working with Jon Kenny, led me to theatre, film. It’s kind of like what you’re saying, Mark, I envied people who could get up and sing and do things. I really, really wanted to be that person as well. For a long time I would have say ‘I could do nothing else, that’s all I can do’, well, that’s not true, but I really wanted to do that.
What is your death row meal?
Mark: Potato wedges
Pat: McDonnell’s curry sauce and chips
Mark: Has to be potato something
Pat: Let the record show that’s Mark talking about potatoes. I’ll have a Smith & Wollensky steak. I’ve had them in New York and London, jaysus, they’re amazing, that big, fat, American steak, do you know what I mean?
Mark: I’m vegetarian. Potatoes for me is the steak. None of your fancy yams or sweet potatoes. Kerr Pinks.
Pat: Kerr Pinks! Yes.
What is the subject you wished you studied more of in school?
Pat: I would have loved to have studied business more. This world we work in, there’s a huge amount of business involved in it, and sometimes I just sit there in a haze.
What’s your favourite item of clothing?
Pat: A pair of skinny jeans that make me feel a lot skinnier than I am.
Mark: I’m a great man for a t-shirt. I’m very picky about it. I wouldn’t allow anybody to buy me a t-shirt as a present.
What is your favourite destination to visit?
Pat: This summer I went on a big bike trip to Finland and went through ten different countries in three weeks. It was fantastic. I love Latvia and Lithuania. I’m planning a trip to Mongolia. I drive motorbikes, that’s my thing. I love the whole Ghengis Khan thing, and the majority of it is cross-country, not on roads.
At Christmas season I go out with my friends and have three glasses of wine and am s***faced
Mark: I’ve often thought that if one day I got to Ulaanbaatar, I’d ring somebody: ‘hey how’s it going, I’m just in Ulaanbaatar.’
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever got?
Mark: I think it’s a good thing, when you get into trouble, to blame yourself. You don’t get bitter after that.
Pat: Bad advice is like pain, you don’t remember it. The best advice I ever got was when someone once said to me, ‘don’t try and get it right, just write it’. I thought that was brilliant. It changed my perspective on writing.
What artist are you feeling very connected to right now?
Pat: I’m a retro man. I look back rather than forward. With music, back into the 70s and 80s, there’s a band called Looking Glass who I can’t stop listening to.
Mark: If it was an author, I read Samuel Beckett all the time. I just love that work. It makes me laugh, and is the most important work of the 20th century, for me.
Pat: I’m reading Donal Ryan at the moment. He’s fantastic.
Mark: That’s for sure.
Can you guess what the other person’s go to drink is?
Mark: Is it Powers?
Pat: Yes. A simple man’s drink, but a fantastic drink. I wouldn’t say you’re a lager man. White wine?
Mark: I’m teetotal, for a long time. Except at Christmas season where I go out with my friends and have three glasses of wine and am s***faced. Wine was my drink. I just got tired of it.
Is there any ambition you want to fulfil next year?
Mark: I’ve a film script I’d love to get made. That would be the thing that I’m focussed on.
Pat: I wrote a short film recently, with a friend of mine we’re putting it together and we’re trying to get it into a festival in America. We’re going to shoot it in June, probably.
Do you have a personal mantra that when things get rough you tell to yourself?
Pat: I do, but I can’t tell you! It’s very personal. I do have one thing I look to and it always gets me through. It’s not religious, it’s very practical.
Mark: If something bad happens, I try to take as much responsibility, and get over it and work through it. That’s basically it.