A host of memorable moments
IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, but did it ever quite define the times? Pat Kenny’s 10 years at the helm of The Late Late Showhave passed in the blink of an eye, with a few blushes, several bloopers, some bland and some brilliant television, writes FIONA McCANN
This Friday, he will stand down from the show. Whether you see him as Ireland’s answer to Larry King or Larry Sanders, or neither, Kenny has presided over many memorable moments during his tenure:
1. THE THREE WISE MAN
The three wise men first assembled on The Late Late Showin May 2007 to talk about the upcoming general election. Eamon Dunphy, Eoghan Harris and John Waters crossed swords about the likely outcome of the hard-fought elections, with Harris in particular rising to defend then taoiseach Bertie Ahern against any criticism, which on this panel came largely from Dunphy.
The reunion, in March the following year, post-Mahon tribunal, upped the ante, with Kenny, who has always seemed more comfortable on current affairs than culture, in his element. In a particularly impassioned moment, Eamon Dunphy was moved to tears and the audience broke into rapturous applause. Dunphy later decried the clapping, saying: “If you get applause on The Late Late, you are usually doing something wrong.”
2. JOE O’REILLY
In October 2004, young widower Joe O’Reilly joined his mother-in-law, Rose Callaly, on the show to talk about the death of his wife, Rachel O’Reilly, just weeks previously. As O’Reilly appeared at ease, loquacious and relaxed, Callaly was straight-backed, barely even looking at her son-in-law. “Pat, she had a horrific death,” she told the host, while beside her, her daughter’s husband talked through the details of the body’s discovery. In July 2007, Joe O’Reilly was convicted unanimously by a jury of the murder of his wife.
3. THE INTRUDER
There was Pat in his comfy seat, settling in to interview You’re a Star presenters Thomas Black, Linda Martin and Brendan O’Connor in November 2006, when an unidentified man marched up to the stage to harangue the host. In an ironically uncensored moment, the intruder, who was later identified as Paul Stokes, called an unfazed Pat Kenny a censor, along with several other unprintable things. He continued his insults until the show cut to a commercial break, but not before the bemused host had calmly replied “thank you very much”. Stokes later rammed his car into RTÉ’s television building in Donnybrook, and was subsequently arrested and jailed.
4. THE UNWANTED TICKETS
Pat showed just how seriously he takes his job when he called a prizewinner last November to tell her of the happy news that she’d won a weekend in Dublin, two tickets for the Toy Show, and €10,000 to go shopping. Showing no trace of the expected delight at receiving a call from the host, Barbara Heavey from Cork said she was “not particularly interested” in going to the Toy Show.
Without further ado, Kenny pulled the tickets from a breast pocket and ripped them up as he cradled the receiver. Clearly taken aback at the audacity of her acceptance of €10,000 and rejection of the coveted tickets, Kenny rather presciently mused: “I think I’ll give up this job.”
5. FAMILY HOLIDAY FOR ONE
In another classic Late Latephone-line moment, English comedian Jimmy Carr, Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan and actor Michael Gambon looked on as Kenny made the competition call. The prize itself – a family holiday in Austria – was queried by Carr, wide-eyed at the notion of people bidding for a family trip to the country in the wake of the revelations about Josef Fritzl. “It’s in a basement! You’re going to love it!” he quipped as Kenny dialled.
“This is a most desirable prize,” said the host as the winner answered the phone and the competition question to win himself the family holiday. “How many in the family?” asked Pat. “Just meself,” came the deadpan response. It was one of the most delightfully off-script Late Latemoments, and it had Kenny falling off his chair laughing as he offered to send Colgan, Gambon and Carr with the prizewinner if he was stuck. “I’m not stuck at all!” responded the winner, as Pat dried his eyes and wrapped up the show like a consummate professional, with tears of laughter in his eyes.
6. JERRY SEINFELD
It began badly: “Will you welcome Jerry Seinfield,” yelled Kenny as the US comedian – one of the most famous of all funny men, whose surname was also the title of one of the highest-rating shows in US history – came out on stage. Seinfeld, promoting his film Bee Movie, did his best with a series of questions from the host, who appeared to know little about Seinfeld, or how to pronounce his name. But he had seen the movie, apparently, so by God, he was going to ring a good three minutes out of the bee universe, the nub of the plot, what kids learned about the movie and other such opportunities to make Jerry Seinfeld seem the unfunniest man on television. After Pat Kenny.
7. PETE DOHERTY
Pete Doherty is a musician and poet, but that didn’t interest Pat Kenny, who spent most of his Late Lateinterview this February grilling him about his drug use. “This is a nice, cheery conversation, isn’t it?” remarked Doherty, as his patience was slowly eroded. He then sat forward to put Kenny in his place. “I don’t understand how this is the be all and end all of how you look at someone, how you judge someone. Twelve questions, you’ve asked, and they’ve all been about drugs or alcohol.” Interrogating Kenny’s interview technique, he dismissed the follow up question about Kate Moss, and then pointed up the gaps in Kenny’s knowledge. “I don’t think you could even name a song that I’ve written.” “Possibly not,” admitted the host. “Possibly not,” echoed Doherty. Car-crash television.
8. BRENDAN GLEESON
It’s often the ones you least expect that become the voice of public disaffection, and in his Late Lateappearance in March 2006, actor Brendan Gleeson spoke out about hospital facilities so deplorable that his own father’s life was put at risk. “It’s akin to war crime what’s happening there,” said Gleeson as he spoke passionately about his parents’ experience at the hands of a failing health system. Kenny allowed him space to talk, as Gleeson, to resounding applause, said how appalled he was at what was happening. His disgust was clear, as he railed against a government that allowed such things to happen, and against anyone who would vote them in again. And then we did.
9. ENRIQUE IGLESIAS
Latin heart-throb Iglesias oozed so much charisma it only served to highlight the lack of same in his interviewer. When Kenny had him on the show back in 2007, Iglesias was quick to take his measure: “You seem like a serious man,” he said with a glint of mischief in his eyes. “You’re like the Irish Larry King – and even better-looking, obviously.” Kenny held his own, persisting with questions about Iglesias’s relationship with tennis star Anna Kournikova until Iglesias stopped him short. “You’re embarrassing me,” the Spanish singer told Kenny. “You ask the questions so dry and so seriously that it kind of scares me.”
10. THE EXIT
Timing is everything, and while he may have missed the odd comic beat over the years, when it came to finishing his run Kenny chose his moment well. “A bit of news,” he called it, when after 10 years of hosting “this marvellous institution of Irish broadcasting” he announced that, after consultation with his family, he had decided that “it’s about time that I spent Friday nights at home”.
Cannily referring to his decision as quitting while he’s ahead, Kenny made a dignified and understated exit with: “Here’s to whoever will be sitting in this seat next year.”
Over to you, Tubbers.