Bartender, politician or comic . . ? Comedian takes swipe at Cowen


THE FALLOUT from the Taoiseach’s Morning Irelandinterview has lingered on after Brian Cowen was featured on a recent airing of NBC’s influential Tonight Showwith Jay Leno.

On the internationally syndicated show, Leno used his stand-up slot to present a game titled “bartender, politician or comic?” in which he asked his studio audience to guess what various people did for a living by looking at their photographs.

A photo of the Taoiseach, who appeared to be socialising, was shown. Following loud applause when the “politician” option was suggested, Leno declared the photograph to be “Brian Cowen, prime minister of Ireland” in an apparent mock-Irish accent during the September 22nd edition of the weeknight show.

The programme was re-screened on financial and business channel CNBC Europe, which airs the Tonight Show.

A clip of the sketch on YouTube has attracted several hundred views, although the comments facility has been disabled. It has also been discussed on social networking site Twitter and online message boards such as

There was a mixed reaction from listeners to RTÉ radio’s Livelineshow yesterday. One female caller said any calls for an apology over the sketch only brought more attention to it, noting former US president George W Bush “has been at the butt of countless, thousands . . . of jokes and sketches”.

Another woman said it was a bad advertisement for Ireland and that the Irish “are known all over the world for one thing . . . drink”.

The Tonight Show, which carries a nightly monologue from its comedian host, features what its website describes as “a unique and humorous look at the daily happenings in the news and in pop culture”.

The programme also carries political clout. It was the first late- night show to host a sitting president when Barack Obama appeared as a guest with Leno.

Mr Cowen’s radio interview on September 14th followed a late night at Fianna Fáil’s annual think-in at a hotel in Galway.

The Taoiseach had regaled the media and political colleagues, including senior Government Ministers, with a song and impersonations. Mr Cowen has since apologised for his performance on Morning Irelandand said he had the full support of the party amid speculation over his leadership.

The reaction to the interview with RTÉ’s Cathal Mac Coille attracted international headlines, with media outlets worldwide running the story on their websites.

The BBC placed the story in the Northern Ireland section of its UK news pages under the headline “Irish premier denies being hung-over during interview”, while the New York Timeswebsite linked to an Associated Press report with the headline, “Irish premier denies being drunk, hung over on air”.

The morning interview was described as “croaky” in an AP report.

The Fox News website featured the headline: “Ireland’s embattled prime minister denies being drunk, hung over; opposition demands election”.