Hot Press

THE REAL AL PORTER

That’s what we were aiming to discover in this remarkable interview, which took place just days before the comedian’s world collapsed, as a result of allegation­s about sexual impropriet­y. That issue, and a whole lot more besides, are on the agenda, in wha

- By Olaf Tyaransen

OLAF TYARANSEN: I missed you at the Vodafone Comedy Carnival in Galway last month.

AL PORTER: It was great, because we did the comedy in the round in the spiegelten­t, which I requested because I think it’s very cool. You look at old DVDs of George Carlin or Louis CK in the round and, particular­ly for me, it works if I have an aside. Or often I have two stories running at the same time, because I’m trying to mimic or capture that kind of gossipy, over-the-wall neighbourl­y kinda thing. You know, “C’mere till

I tell ya’ type comedy, conspirato­rial, whatever you want to call it. I can be talking to this side of the audience and then I can turn around behind me panto style and say, “Well, that’s not what really happened.” You did a show with your eight-piece backing band The Sugar Cubes. Yeah. [Festival director] Kevin Healy is always asking why does Al keep on fucking bringing that band around with him when it costs so much money. But they’re great. They’re mates of mine. They used to do showbands with Dickie Rock and Joe Dolan. We do a bit of everything really: depending on what show we’re doing we might sing swing numbers or ABBA or Louis Armstrong. It could be The Communards, it could be Queen. It’s a fun band.

“I don’t think I’ve sexually assaulted people in the past, but I have toured in theatres since I was a child and

promiscuou­s behavior was the

norm."

When Hot Press met Al Porter in Dublin’s

Central Hotel on November 14, the flamboyant 24-year-old Dubliner was in great form. Why wouldn’t he be? He’d just come from presenting his Today FM lunchtime radio show, which he began earlier this year, as a replacemen­t for Anton Savage, on a reported salary of €140k. Add in his earnings from presenting TV3’s successful Blind Date reboot, his weekly column in the Irish Daily Star, his sell-out stand-up comedy shows, forthcomin­g Olympia Christmas panto, and news of a major BBC commission in the pipeline, and it seemed safe to say that he wouldn’t be stuck for hair gel money anytime soon.

Towards the end of our encounter, I asked him what had been his highlight of

2017. He eventually concluded that it was presenting Blind Date, which only started in October and was attracting 200,000 viewers a week. I didn’t bother asking what had been the low point. Just as well. Whatever answer he might have given would have been completely blown out of the water just a few days later when social media allegation­s, made by four men, of sexual harassment by the young entertaine­r totally scuppered his upward trajectory.

On Sunday, November 19, Porter released a statement saying that he was “completely taken aback by reports in the media and on the social networks over the weekend, and by the scale and tone of the vitriol. While my conduct, which had been in keeping with my flamboyant and outrageous public persona may be regarded as offensive and unacceptab­le by many people, I at no time intended to upset anyone.

“Up until now,” he continued, “I had been unaware of these complaints or the impact of my conduct and I am truly sorry for any distress I may have caused in what I had regarded as light-hearted and good-natured circumstan­ces. Although, on legal advice, I cannot comment on specific allegation­s at the present time, I nonetheles­s sincerely apologise to anyone I may have genuinely offended.”

He’s already resigned from Today FM, is gone from TV3 and the Daily Star, and seems unlikely to be involved in the Olympia panto as a performer. Whatever about his reported behaviour, let’s be clear: every individual is entitled to the presumptio­n of innocence until proven guilt. For now, however, at the young age of 24, his world is shattered. It is hard not to feel sorry for him. Do you play with them often? Depends. I’m so used to doing big cast shows since the time I was a kid, doing theatres, and opera houses. It’s a bit crap when it’s just you and a support act. I know other comedians are shocked sometimes and they say to me, “What are you fucking doing? We can walk out to a stage on our own and fucking take the cash and we are the only rock and roll stars that can do it!” I’m not that. I’m more theatre. Unfortunat­ely money does haemorrhag­e itself when eight people are involved. The great thing for me is they’re like family – and now they’re like my family. Eugene and Maeve are married years. Their son did panto with me over the years. I’ve done shows with Eugene since I was a kid, so the closest thing to us is that Mrs. Brown’s Boys crew. We’re that tight knit. You’re currently active as a singer, actor, comedian, columnist, radio DJ, and TV host. *QY FQ [QW FGƂPG [QWTUGNH!

I’m just an entertaine­r. I’m somebody who will try my hand at things, and to the best of my ability give people something entertaini­ng and engaging. That can be a piece of writing or a radio show they enjoyed. You might think you’re only just spinning tracks, but you’re still moulding that time. It’s two-and-a-half hours every day to give people something to hang onto.

What mould are you using? I knew it was stupid to fight for the celebs – because you won’t get them! So it’s become a show about people. Even today there was a 16-year-old girl ringing from her school, where someone is about to tell her friend that she fancies him; there’s a woman ringing in about a tin of biscuits and she doesn’t know who has taken them. It’s the closest thing that I can create to Gerry Ryan-style radio: punter-driven, curious about the ordinary. It’s not that I’m trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. I just – in my head – put myself in a stock with Frankie Howerd, Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse, who were all willing to be game show hosts one minute, sitcom stars the next, live theatre performers the next. Would you consider a more serious acting role? I’d love it. I’d love to write one. I would love that in my head, as I’m meeting you. My head can change tomorrow. I love stand-up but it’s

almost like, it seems like a long time. I haven’t played Vicar Street since September or August. But I was a long time doing that stand-up show, the Edinburgh award-nominated one. Normally somebody would take it to Australia, to Canada, and sell the shit out of it, get two years out of it. How many times has Panti Bliss – now I’m not slagging him off! – done High Heels in

Low Places? Or Larry Dean’s show? But I didn’t want to and couldn’t go to Australia or America because I had commitment­s at home, like a five-day radio show. So I toured the shit out of it in Ireland. Cork Opera House three times, The Marquee, Vicar St. 20 times, every other theatre. Then I did another new show called Campus

Maximus in Edinburgh, but I didn’t think it was as good – and I think that’s because I was tired. It still got good reviews and sold out, all of that, and I like the stories from it, but I didn’t like it as much. That show was about you coming to terms with your success… Yeah. Campus was kinda looking at new areas, like what is it like to be that fish out of water? What was it like for me to be in the same room as Graham Norton, or to make a show of myself at a party that had Joanna Lumley at it. To be invited to meet Roger Moore and not know what the fuck to say. While incorporat­ing the school stories that I always had. If you mine your past enough, you can constantly come up with new stuff. Billy Connolly said that to me. I met him backstage somewhere and I asked, “How did you come up with so much over the years?” He said, “Just remember. Just try to remember.” So now, I am more interested in writing because I’m writing a panto with Karl [Spain], great collaborat­or.

Is collaborat­ing hard? In the pursuit of sole comedic autonomy, comedians have forgotten what it was to collaborat­e. Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Barry Cryer behind the scenes with Frankie Howerd: in my opinion, writers are essential and important. The comedian can be the driving force and they can create the material, but to have a second party who trusts in what you find funny and tweaks it, I think that is fucking gold.

Do you keep a diary?

I don’t keep a diary.

It might help you remember. I’ve never written anything that I didn’t think was going to be seen or heard. I don’t think I could write a real diary, because I would always know that it's going to be read, or I’m going to want to use it in the future. I would rather rely on my memory, as muddied as that might be… The Kenneth Williams diaries are scary. He hated

everybody. He said in one part, “The only one I could suffer tonight was Barbara Windsor… and even she’s a stupid cunt.” I don’t want people to ever know what I thought about them.

Is the new panto written? Fuck, no! I’m terrible (laughs). Last year I wrote it in two days. The year before I wrote it in four days and then I got cocky last year. I remember I was down in the Royal Theatre in Waterford doing a gig and afterwards I went down to the hotel room. Terry Herron who is a soundman, been around the block, worked with them all – in his late fifties, let’s say – dad was a comedian. Terry is a funny man, and he goes, “Right boss, I’m going to go down to the bar. And you start on Act One there. I’ll come up in an hour-anda-half and you can fucking read me Act One. If you got it done you can come down for a pint, and then you can do Act Two. So I said, “How does this sound for Polly’s monologue?” He goes, “That’s very good, read me the rest.” But that was it. Polly’s monologue is always the first thing and he goes, “For fuck’s sake!” I was up until seven in the morning and then again the next day for another seven hours, but eventually got it down.

Sounds quite stressful! They were auditionin­g people, and the producer who is my friend, said, “I’m going to need some pages of the script to audition these people.” So I sent over a few pages of dialogue and put the numbers 5, 9, 33 on the pages and said they’re excerpts from the script. This year, it’s the second week in November and I’m starting two weeks early so I’m ahead of myself. It’s not that hard. A panto is a mixture between fairytale, farcical carry-on, plus a lot of current commentary, and the golden oldies from the last 30 years. You mentioned Louis CK earlier. What are your thoughts on the sexual allegation­s against him? I think the whole sex allegation­s, it’s just awful. I’m only 24, maybe well known for two years. I haven’t had that long to be in a position of power. When you look at people like [Kevin] Spacey or CK over decades, to have abused a position that… People respected them and the power…

(pauses). It is really disappoint­ing because it is that thing of how can you enjoy – I don’t really enjoy the Woody Allen movies anymore. Loved them as a teen and, when I grew up, I got why my mother didn’t like him. I think the same thing is happening with CK. Not that I was a big fan – I’m more into John Mulaney and Kathy Griffin. Can I go see I Love

You, Daddy and still enjoy it? How do you separate the artist from their art when their art is about the wrong things they’ve done?

I Love You, Daddy is about grooming, you know? It’s just incredibly disappoint­ing. The mood has certainly changed… I think it’s made a change in the atmosphere in theatre in general. There is – however unpopular the opinion – and always has been, an atmosphere of outs«okenness and yamboyance and, for certain adult actors/musicians, promiscuit­y that comes with touring companies and all that. It doesn’t worry me that that is going to change. People need to know that there was an atmosphere that was, for right or wrong, absolutely the commonplac­e and very much accepted. Some directors would argue that they have to bully actors to get the best performanc­es out of them. I don’t know. When you read what Hitchcock did to people, bullying and mental abuse… I don’t know because all I know is, in my experience, in being a drama teacher or when I was doing a school transition programme, my experience with teachers and mentors in my career. I don’t respond to tough love or negativity. I respond to, “That’s good and…” I’ve never responded well to people who have said to me, “It’s just not great, you need to pull up your socks.” That makes me go into myself and feel defeated. (I like) when somebody says to me, “There’s the bones of something there or there’s the seed of something there.” So, no, I don’t think that directors need to bully to get a good performanc­e out of their cast.

Have you ever been sexually harassed? No. I don’t think so. I’ve said that to people in theatre. Obviously this is the topic of conversati­on, if you’re going to sit in a place like Grogan’s and talk about this kind of thing, everybody is going to go “Do you remember?” Everybody has their own stories. It’s not like I

didn’t hear stories about Kevin Spacey. I was over in London and three or four people told me stories about him, laughing, going, “Isn’t

that mad?” This is before it all came out. “What is he like/what a divil” was the tone of what people were telling me. It’s important that real victims of abuse feel like this is a watershed moment for them, and there are real victims of abuse. It’s not my story to tell so I can’t say, but it’s been very close to me and I’ve seen the damage it can do. It’s important that they can say, “Fuck fear, I’m going to say something.” Also important that we don’t rewrite our histories or a past to get a hashtag #metoo out of it, if we don’t sincerely in our heart of hearts believe it to be true because – I’m not trying to be apologetic for people who have behaved inappropri­ately in the past, but it’s important for people to know what was and wasn’t reciprocal, what was and wasn’t consensual. So I don’t think I’ve been sexually assaulted in the past. I don’t think I’ve sexually assaulted people in the past, but I have toured in theatres since I was a child and promiscuou­s behavior was the norm.

In what sense? I would hate to tar a comedian with that brush, but it is my experience that if you are in a gay bar, if I had a euro for every time I was grabbed or pulled or somebody laid a kiss on me and I wasn’t expecting it at all. That kinda thing happens for right or wrong. We’re at a watershed moment culturally where what is seen as decent and acceptable behavior is going to change, but it is important that we note that this is the defining moment and, going forward, I think a lot of people are going to change their behaviour. And that’s what you see in a lot of the apologies. I know a lot of people say that they are non-apologies, but some people you do see that they are trying to say…

That it was the norm at the time? Yeah, but again, we have to be conscious what is or isn’t. For example when you look at Kevin Spacey, there are people who are 14 years of age involved there. There is no doubt that that is fucking awful. The Louis CK allegation­s of trapping women and masturbati­ng, that’s awful. Bill Cosby allegation­s of drugging, Weinstein allegation­s of actual rape. What I would be worried about is that #metoo drags people into that group that don’t belong in it. I know that might sound like I’m defending these people but I’m not. I’m just saying equally, actually victims of abuse have to use this moment to have their voice and to try and give a sober comment on it because there is no point getting caught up in hysteria either. Trial by media isn’t a good thing. We also still have to rely on the fact that if you have been abused or assaulted you should be able to trust the Gardaí to investigat­e it on your behalf and for justice to prevail. The Daily Mail is not An Garda Siochana. That’s important as well. What been the worst thing that has been written about you in the press? I don’t know. Nothing really. You play the game. Everybody knows that you give an interview and if you do the journalist any favours you tell them something that you’ve never told anyone before. That’s the game. What’s the worst thing? I have to think about it… nothing. Nobody has ever written anything about me that I have had an issue with. I’m an outspoken person. Look at any of my interviews, whether it’s saying to Niamh Horan [of the Sunday Independen­t] that certain comedians don’t like me, or whether it’s being honest about depression on The Cutting Edge, or whether it’s going on the Tonight show and saying the media should not be calling Citywest Tallaght just because someone was shot there and it can immediatel­y feed into their narrative. I don’t think that anyone could argue that, on the record, I’ve been a shrieking violet – and so I suffer the brunt of that if and when it may come.

Did you know Sean Hughes? Very briefly. We worked on Don’t Quote Me on Radio One on RTÉ. And Sean was really nice. He was on the fags because he was smoking out the window of the dressing room – I remember being quite nervous. I’d done 8 out of 10

Cats and other panel shows, but I tend to get nervous because it feels like an exam the night before my Leaving Cert or something. Like, I know a little about Brexit, but what if I’m put on the spot? He was a really nice host. I remember that people were worried about his drinking. I remember that he was smoking and he said that I was funny. And he was very funny on the night, ad lib and the banter between guests that night. There’s a lot of affection out there for him – and during my brief encounter he was supportive. Have many other comedians been supportive? A lot of comedians have been supportive. Tommy Tiernan, for example, he’s come to some of my shows and we’ve had a laugh about my Tommy Queernan character and done a few

as gaeilge shows together. He gave me a lovely candid interview for Today FM even though he hasn’t done an interview for Today FM since

Ray D’arcy. He’s a great fella. There’s a lot of them that I get along with. Andrew Maxwell.

Karl Spain. Karl’s great. His introducti­ons to the people are brilliant. Just how he takes them down a peg or two. But yeah, I appreciate their support. I think we could do with being mutually supportive. McSavage was very important when I was starting out. You know, he was off the wall. I mean, why would David McSavage champion this young, gay comic? But he just liked that I was outspoken and I was myself and he just said, “You know, you’re just yourself. A little fairy. You’re just this prancing little faggot and I love it.” And I was going, “Thanks Dave!”

Are you going to continue doing stand-up? The stand-up is something I wanna keep doing, but I wanna do it really well. And so, the next time I come back I will have been practising and doing all that new material, in the clubs in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, wherever. Kind of a residency thing set up with Soho Theatre. I have a week in New York. A week in LA. And I’ve also got time in Australia, so there’s all these places where you can get the material. Social, chitchat. You know, really fucking good. Just funny. Worthy of being a televised special is the next goal. For live shows, there’s a little bit of allowance for, “Oh, that was a bit too long, or a little bit messy.” The next goal for me is going to be like, is it tight as fuck, like. Tight as nun’s knickers and it’s an hour and twenty minutes and it is just beautiful. That is what you gotta aim for. As a radio presenter, can I ask your take on the George Hook controvers­y? Again, I don’t work in Newstalk. Only in Today FM a couple of months. Like what, nine months? So, any interactio­n I’ve ever had with George has been like, “hello”, in the elevator. I just think that George has a very old fashioned point of view. I can’t even remember – what was the scandal? He asked could any blame be attributed to the victim of a rape if she dressed provocativ­ely or took a stranger to her hotel room. Yeah, you see that’s just stupid. It’s just a stupid thing to say on air. Whether or not it’s a stupid thing to say in real life. No. In real life I think it’s equally stupid. I mean, I don’t care how provocativ­ely a woman dresses, or how late at night she arranged to have a business meeting with you. Or whether it was in your hotel room or not. If you’re grabbing her and she doesn’t want it, you’re in the wrong. There’s also the thing of a woman knowing that she’s dressing provocativ­ely. But, does she? Or is it provocativ­e from the male point of view? I mean, is she just wearing something that she feels is empowering and shows off her figure well. Just because we think that’s asking for sex, doesn’t necessaril­y mean that’s what she’s thinking to put it on. It’s kind of like, let’s say I dressed up in sparkly hot pants and a tube top to go to The George. I mean, nobody would say that I deserved to be gay-bashed. So, I think it’s the same thing. But I wouldn’t mind you printing this, if you could, because it gives context to my opinion. Like, everybody in entertainm­ent now, particular­ly people who are willing to talk about things like me. As opposed to people who are very guarded and give like, the kind of ‘press statement’ answers. We’re being asked about sexual assault and human conduct and decency, as if we were experts... Like, far

“What I would be worried about is that #metoo drags people into that group that don’t belong in it."

fuckin’ from it (laughs and shakes head). It’s important to remember that I’ve only actually lived for 24 years. I was in school until I was 18. I was in college until I was 20. I’ve four years in the real world and I only just moved out of my mam’s house. My opinion on the state of affairs of sexual conduct, nationally and also internatio­nally, is not informed enough. I’ve never been married, I’ve never been...

Aren’t you in a steady relationsh­ip? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But like, the thing is that it’s important that people know. And I really hope you print it. But it’s OK if you don’t. But if there’s ever a backlash about the interview, I’ll ring you up and be like, “Olaf, you can release that thing I said.” It’s important that people know that – firstly, entertaine­rs are not experts on this. Even if they’re around 50 years. Even if you ask Barry Murphy or fuckin’, you know, Brendan Grace. Psychologi­sts are experts on this. Counsellor­s, activists, politician­s, gardaí and doctors. People whose only skill is to tread the boards and to tell silly jokes, shouldn’t be asked for important opinions. Equally, I would be wary of how much weight was given to my opinion on, whatever about sexual conduct, racism, politics, you know. Fuckin’ whatever.

So what’s your take on Leo Varadkar then? Ha! I think that he loads the dishwasher very well. I saw the photograph and I rather enjoyed that. Eh, I don’t have a dishwasher. And I wash my dishes by hand. Maybe that would have been a better photo opportunit­y for him rather than putting a spoon into a dishwasher and kind of expecting to be applauded for that. Again, deep now. Now these are very popular answers and I’m very conscious of this. Deep down, Olaf, I really do think that a lot of people go into politics for a good reason. You know? And I think that he obviously grew up in Young Fine Gael, and he was a goody two shoes who wanted to do good things and all that. It’s a pity that sometimes those people end up misguided along the way and there’s a lot of compromise involved in making things happen. Between toeing party lines and negotiatin­g coalitions and things like that.

He wouldn’t exactly be a Tallaght favourite. It was a great shame that one of the first things he chose to do was to go after the working poor. And to launch an expensive campaign about a minority, which is actually statistica­lly a minority. Who apparently are abusing the social welfare system. It really, really pissed me off. I come from a working class background. I wouldn’t see it like that at all. People see me living with Lucy. My house is grand, like. But it is just an average semi-detached house in Tallaght. The thing is, is that enough people feel ashamed of being on the dole or feel kind of unmotivate­d, disillusio­ned, deyated – eh, sorry for all the ‘Ds’ there – on the dole. That we didn’t need to add some sort of demonising campaign. My head is obviously stuck on ‘D’! You know, that was really disappoint­ing. Equally, I’m glad that Repeal the 8th is on the table. You know? And he’s put it on the table. And there will be a referendum. I interviewe­d him when he was first elected and he told me he was against gay marriage. It’s funny isn’t it? I know. And that’s a complicate­d thing, like. You know, there’s more going on there than political. And there’s things that are personal that are going on there. And, you know, this is a small country. I could very easily align myself with people in power. Like I mean, it’s not hard in Ireland to become mates with the Taoiseach. It’s really not that hard to go and sit down in the fuckin’ Gingerbrea­d Man or whatever that fuckin’ pub is called and wait for them to come in from Leinster House. And to kind of be like, “What’s the story, I’m a friend.” And he’s going, “Oh, what’s the story, I saw you on Blind

Date”, and start hanging out and kinda cosy up.

It’s always been important to me – and I hope I will hold myself accountabl­e to this – not to cosy up to people. The strongest position as an artist, is the position of the lobbyist.

You know, to be looking in from the outside. Are you a fan of Bono? I went to see U2 in Croke Park and I thought it was alright. I thought the show was only alright. I think some of the music from the ‘80s is good. He’s done some good hasn’t he?

Is it true that you don’t have a TV? I don’t even have a TV. But I don’t want it, so it’s important that people know. I mean, Quentin Crisp once said: “TV’s for being on. Not for watching.” So I don’t watch it. I mean, why would you watch it? I was there! What do you do instead of watching TV? Do you read books? I don’t read. I was thinking of setting up a book club, maybe setting up my Facebook, maybe using my radio newspaper column to do it or whatever. To try and encourage me to read more books. Because I certainly want to be reading more books before I write one. What do I do in my spare time? You know, I watch a lot of films. I go to the Lighthouse cinema a lot. Because I love going to see old films. In the last while, I got to see The Running Man. I actually went to see The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. It was good actually. Those films are strange.

The Lobster. The people are almost alien in their stilted kind of dialogue, but it’s not so weird that it’s sort of fuckin’ Beckett. I went to see Breathe. And then at home I watch a lot of movies. Yesterday I went from – and this isn’t on the TV, this is on the laptop – a Francis Bacon documentar­y, to a thing from Jean Michel Basquiat, to Scooby Doo, which is a great film by the way. It got like, 6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a really funny film. I really like to read articles, I like to read The Guardian and disagree with it. What else do I do in my spare time? I guess I party. I party a lot. The gay scene is notoriousl­y hedonistic. Do you drink a lot? Do I drink a lot? Ehm… I probably drink more than somebody who works in an office. But I wouldn’t be drinking before I go onstage. That’s not to say I’ve never gone onstage drunk. Like when you had to do Karl Spain’s Late Night

Spell, and it’s the fourth fucking gig you’ve done that day. And it’s 1am – I’ve had a pint or two. But I wouldn’t, as a rule, have a drink before I go onstage. But after a gig I do like to have two or three pints. So if you add that up, plus on the weekend, I like to go out Friday and Saturday. You know, if I’m bored I might go out on a Wednesday. I’m not getting shitfaced by any means. But certainly, I’d be clocking up more than your doctor’s units would tell you to have. But then who fuckin’ drinks what they’re supposed to drink? And then you get drunk and into a state like Christophe­r Hitchens or Shane MacGowan. Because I don’t function on that. I think when I’m that fuckin’ pissed, I’m more inclined to just go online and buy a large canvas of, you know, my ass or something. I did that the other day, when I was locked. It’s a picture of me and my friend Aisling, and she’s pulled down my underwear. And my bum is on show. And I decided this is something I would LOVE. And I printed a canvas about ‘this size’ to hang up. So, that’s the kind of stupid thing I do.

Did you buy your new house? Nah, just renting. I go out clubbing and partying. And you meet interestin­g people.

I go to real clubs. I would go to District 8, or if I’m in Berlin I would go to Suicide Circus. I never bothered with Berghain. Tresor. I like house music. Sometimes I like really dirty, deep house music. Just noise. And then other times I love jazz. Last night I was listening to K Star’s album. And I don’t know, I confuse myself. It’s like Walt Whitman, where he says, you know “I

can’t contain multitudes.” The desire to create a persona that is complete and easily identifiab­le is everyone’s desire at the moment. Through their Twitter, their Facebook, their Instagram. Who am I? What do I look like? What am I about? You know? And this is people who aren’t even in the public eye. I was talking to yer man from Rubberband­its, Blind Boy – eh… David isn’t it? – and he was talking about his book, which is very good. And it is that distance – that chasm – between who you are and who you’re pretending to be that causes a lot of people to struggle. And unfortunat­ely, I don’t have the energy, mentally, at all. And I realised that when I struggled – and ended up taking medication, and still am taking medication – that I actually don’t have the energy to pretend to be one, easily identifiab­le, two dimensiona­l thing, which is “Hi, I’m Al Porter. I like disco music, drinking with the girls and watching Carry On movies.” Easier to print, easier to understand. But, it’s just not true. So, I’ve just given up trying to make it easier for people to understand me. It’s up to other people now to make up their mind. Am I being a little prick? (laughs)

Have you ever done a line of cocaine?

Ehm… I’ve been around cocaine.

Did you like it?

Eh, no. It’s not something I have ever taken to as a party drug. No. If you were going to ask “what drugs does Al Porter do?” I would say, the Lexapro that I take daily, which is 15mg to keep me on an even keel. Alcohol is my most frequent drug. And who hasn’t smoked a spliff? And that’s certainly the most regular thing that I’ve ever done. Particular­ly on little trips to Amsterdam or whatever.

Would you use cannabis for writing?

No, no. Actually, there isn’t even one drug, that improves anything I do. Like, they all actually have a disadvanta­geous effect. I don’t know whether that’s the right word there. None of them are positive. For the work. Now they might be good for clubbing, but no. I’m never a better writer or better performer, or better radio presenter, or TV presenter, than when I’m 100% sober. And I wanna see if I can be absolutely truthful here and not get caught out: yeah, other than a live show and a pint, I’ve never done obs under the inyuence of any drug.

And I don’t think you should, really. I think it’s a dangerous road.

#TG [QW HWNƂNNGF!

I’m getting there. Your priorities shift. And I didn’t expect my priorities, my perspectiv­e and my personalit­y to change so drasticall­y in the last five years. The trouble with that is that, you know, you start as one thing. And realise you’re something else five years later. And then, people have to catch up with you. You have to help them catch up with you, or change their perception. So, I’m on the way. There are things that I want to do, that will make me more fulfilled. Like, I really wanna do things – as corny as it sounds – that would make my mother proud. Stand up shows – yeah she’s proud that I’m doing them or whatever. Blind Date – yeah it’s good fun, you know. But my mother is such a good person. When I offered to buy her a coat last week, she said: “I’d rather for you to give it to the home that I’m going to be working with in Calcutta in January.” She’s always been a devout Christian and, not that Christians are inherently good people, but she embodies everything that is nice about Christian values. She’s humble, she’s caring, she’s selyess. And, I would be more fulfilled if I did more things that made my mother proud. And therefore made me proud.

Such as?

So, there are things that I plan for the future, like, I’m gonna have ‘Al’s Pen Pals’, so I’m gonna have teddies that I give out on the radio. Children have taken to writing in and drawing pictures. That’s something I used to love doing. I used to love writing into The Den and things like that. So I’m setting up this P.O. box for ‘Al’s pen pals,’ and if you write, I write back. And get the pen pal teddy, or whatever, sent out to you.

Sounds good!

If I could write books that are entertaini­ng.

If I could go to secondary schools and give motivating talks about following your dreams and just fuckin’ not worryin’ about being working class and actually just going out and doing what you want. And not regretting past mistakes or anything like that, but looking to the future. And not worrying about coming out and being trans or anything like that. Just go out and get it. And so, like, those are the things that fulfill me the most. And you know, to list top achievemen­ts to be proud of, you know, the two

Tatler awards two years ago. The IFTA award, the Edinburgh comedy nomination. You know,

8 out of 10 Cats. I’ve done all those shows.

I’ve done all the comedy shows you can do in Ireland. I have my own Blind Date series. My own production company, my own radio show. And yeah, there’s things that I want to do and I wanna get better at.

What’s been the high point in 2017 for you?

Of this year? The Marquee was pretty fuckin’ good, like. To walk into 4,000 people, all there to see you, in an arena in Cork is pretty fuckin’ spectacula­r. And that was a real high point. I think, though, that Blind Date has been the real highpoint for me this year, because I coproduced it, I presented it. I like it. I think I stuck to what I said, which was that it could be watched at 7pm. Which it was, ‘cos it was repeated on Saturdays. In terms of figures it was a hit because it’s over 200,000 people a week. So yeah, very proud of my first‡ever T6 series. Plus, I have moved out. I’ve just moved into a little place in town. I’m not going to tell people where it is.

Have you moved in with your boyfriend?

Eh… no. Although I’m sure he’ll be over a lot. But no. So that’s nice because I’m somewhere I can call my own. Like, you have to get roots at some stage. And that’s important for me now. It’s to get roots, and get a bit of work/life balance that allows me to maintain privacy and also be a public person. You know, that’s a hard thing to negotiate. You can’t go anywhere. I mean, not that I’m famous. Just that Ireland is so fuckin’ small. But I don’t think I’m a big star or anything. The thing is, because Blind Date is on at the moment, I’m in people’s minds. If I wasn’t on the telly, I probably wouldn’t be as instantly recognisab­le. It doesn’t bother me. I’m not a comedian who doesn’t like photos. Any of the other comedians or promoters, I suppose, will tell you that I stand 45 minutes to an hour, taking photograph­s with absolutely everybody. Doing the videos for their friends. Getting married or whoever’s getting baptised. I do all that. That’s fine, it’s part of the ob. I actually quite like it. I like the attention.

You’re still very young.

I think that because I come across as older, because I’ve an older head on younger shoulders, and because I’ve been fairly omnipresen­t in different forms of media for five years, people think I’m around a lot longer than I am. And I don’t think they understand that, underneath this, it’s easy to paint me as this ‘big showbiâ figure’ by going ¼producer, presenter, star’. Underneath all that, is a 24-year-old who was doing karaoke in Captain Americas four years ago. Like, to go from that to what I’m doing now – to try and carry the burden and the responsibi­lity that comes with being a radio presenter who represents a big brand – that’s very fuckin’ tough. And I am not gonna say that that’s been easy. That’s actually been quite hard. You don’t get to continue just doing whatever the fuck you want. It’s a sacrifice that you go, ¼I represent this brand’, or ‘I represent that brand’, or whatever.

Do you have a motto in life?

Do I have a motto? It’s hard to know, right. Like, I’ve always gone by my mother’s, which she always pushed when I was a kid, which was to ‘try my best’. And you know, for better or worse, you’ve got to put fuckin’ everything into it. You can be happy. So, I do try my best, but – at the risk of sounding too self effacing – I’ve always said “you don’t HAVE to be good at something to try it.” You only get good by trying it. So, that’s kinda my motto in life. Anybody who goes ºyou were fucking S IT first time I heard you on the radio”, I go well, “Come back to me in nine months and see if I’m any better!” I’m at the very, very start of my career. The tours sell out and the panto sells out and the figures for the radio show are up, so maybe I’m being hard on myself but any critic who says – and the profession­al critics have given very kind reviews – but any kind of ‘punter’ critic, who says “he’s no Ryan Tubridy”, or “he’s no Terry Wogan” – take them back to when they were 24. I have a lot of time to grow here.

I can’t argue with that…

What’s changed the most about me, from the last time you spoke to me, ‘till now, is that I have learned the value of patience. Big time. There was a time where I wanted everything and I wanted it now. Now, I want some things and I want them eventually. And I’m willing to wait.

"My experience that if you are in a gay bar, if I had a euro for every time I was grabbed or pulled or somebody laid a kiss on me and I wasn’t expecting it at all. That kinda thing happens for right or

wrong."

 ??  ?? Al Porter winning the 2016 IFTA Rising Star TV Award
Al Porter winning the 2016 IFTA Rising Star TV Award
 ??  ?? Al Porter didn't know how prophetic his Star column would be…
Al Porter didn't know how prophetic his Star column would be…
 ??  ?? Porter with his Blind Date co-star Tara Flynn
Porter with his Blind Date co-star Tara Flynn
 ??  ??

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