THE LONG AND THE SHORTT OF IT ALL

He’s one of the na­tion’s most beloved co­me­di­ans but has shown his met­tle in se­ri­ous roles too. Here, the man be­hind Kil­li­naskully tells us...

Irish Daily Mail - - Week­end - BY MAEVE QUIGLEY

We’re great at laugh­ing at our­selves. Peo­ple love the daft­ness and the silli­ness, it’s es­capism

MOST par­ents would be wor­ried if their eldest daugh­ter de­cided she was go­ing to life the pre­car­i­ous life of an ac­tor - there’s the un­cer­tainty of em­ploy­ment for a start, not to men­tion the un­savoury char­ac­ters you might meet, as the #MeToo move­ment has high­lighted.

But Pat Shortt couldn’t be more de­lighted that his daugh­ter Faye is fol­low­ing his foot­steps into the act­ing world and is cur­rently hon­ing her craft at the Gai­ety School of Act­ing.

‘I think it’s great — act­ing has been good to me,’ he says of Faye’s as­pi­ra­tions. ‘I have en­joyed it and I have made a good liv­ing out of it. I was out for din­ner with her last night and we were just talk­ing about her putting a shot to­gether and cre­at­ing work for next year. She is go­ing to hit the fringe fes­ti­val with it and I will be there sup­port­ing her and help­ing her out — as much as any dad would do any­way, but be­cause I know the busi­ness and we have a theatre com­pany in the of­fice.

‘Hope­fully she will en­joy it. I think the way to go for ac­tors now is to cre­ate your own work rather than sit­ting around wait­ing for the phone to ring. That’s a pre­car­i­ous place to be in which can be quite soul-de­stroy­ing.

‘If you’re not a strong char­ac­ter, that’s where you can get very down be­ing an ac­tor. Not ev­ery­body is right for dif­fer­ent roles and there are so many out there and that’s where you have to be strong.’

Faye is the old­est of Pat’s three chil­dren — there’s also Lily Rose, 18, who is sit­ting her Leav­ing Cert this sum­mer and Lughaidh, 15, who will be do­ing his Junior Cert, both of whom live at home with Pat and his wife Caroline.

Faye is the first to leave the nest in Lim­er­ick and, de­spite sign­ing up for an in­dus­try where some very un­savoury truths were re­vealed by the #MeToo move­ment, Pat feels his girl is strong enough to stand up for her­self

‘I think there are bad peo­ple in all walks of life and in ev­ery in­dus­try,’ he says. ‘What’s sa­cred any more — look at the Church!’

And in fact, now the #MeToo move­ment has ex­posed wrong­do­ing, Pat feels the act­ing world might be a safer place.

‘All that shin­ing a light on it might mean it won’t be as easy for peo­ple to get away with that kind of carry-on any more. Hope­fully not,’ Pat says.

‘She is go­ing to meet peo­ple like that, of course she is, but if she’s strong enough and driv­ing the thing her­self, I think she will be strong enough to stand up to it. That’s the good thing that has come out of the #MeToo move­ment, that peo­ple can shine a light on these things now and they un­der­stand they don’t have to put up with it. You would be naive to think it’s go­ing to erad­i­cate it com­pletely but you would hope that it would not make it as easy or as ram­pant as it was be­fore.’

If Faye has half as much suc­cess as her fa­mous dad, she’ll be a lucky woman. Over the years, Pat has man­aged to cap­ture the essence of ru­ral Ire­land in his shows — from the hi­lar­i­ous D’Un­be­liev­ables and Kil­li­naskully to more the­atri­cal roles like his most re­cent foray in a pro­duc­tion of Martin McDon­agh’s A Skull In Con­nemara, co-pro­duced by his own theatre com­pany.

Hey! Is start­ing to tour now and will be hit­ting Dublin’s Olympia for three nights from Jan­uary 10 be­fore mak­ing its way around the rest of the coun­try.

‘I tour ev­ery year with a com­edy show,’ Pat says. ‘I was off the road for a good bit dur­ing the sum­mer as I was here with a Martin McDon­agh play and I think I had done a film or some­thing be­fore that. So for one rea­son or an­other I was off the road stand-up wise for six months. But I love tour­ing — that’s what I do and that’s my main liv­ing, as such. We have an of­fice in Lim­er­ick and a crew down there who do all the book­ings and ac­counts and so on and that is pre­dom­i­nantly what we make our liv­ing out of.

‘So it makes sense to get a new show on the road. If I do a film, I end up be­ing em­ployed by them but I keep on all the staff in my of­fice and a tour would nearly want to be booked a year in ad­vance. So while I am off mak­ing a movie they have plenty to be get­ting on with.’

With ev­ery show, Pat says he writes in five minute bursts and Hey! is cen­tred on a fes­ti­val that might sound fa­mil­iar.

‘The show starts with this fes­ti­val called The Tip­per­ary Tulip Fes­ti­val which is kind of like a Rose of Tralee spoof. I have a char­ac­ter who comes into the hall drop­ping off a wheel­chair but he talks to the au­di­ence as if they are all lo­cals who are there for the fes­ti­val.

‘I think he is a lo­cal char­ac­ter who peo­ple can iden­tify with and then that goes into me talk­ing about my­self and my child­hood and my me­mories of the fes­ti­vals and then an­other char­ac­ter, the host of the fes­ti­val, comes to the fore and so on.’

Pat is, in many re­spects, an old­fash­ioned kind of co­me­dian in that his hu­mour is uni­ver­sally loved by young and old and his tar­gets are peo­ple who you might find liv­ing next door to you. Laugh­ter, he says, is an es­cape from the dreary life we are all liv­ing in and Ire­land where home­less­ness is ris­ing and the di­vide be­tween the haves and the have-nots is ever-in­creas­ing.

‘The world I want to bring peo­ple to is away from all of that,’ he says. ‘We are great at laugh­ing at our­selves and peo­ple love the daft­ness and the silli­ness. It is es­capism.’

Pat is also one of the most pro­lific co­me­di­ans Ire­land has ever pro­duced but even he suf­fers from nerves when it comes to com­ing up with ideas for a new show.

‘It’s hor­rific,’ he says. ‘Any­one that works like this will tell you it is a re­ally tough part of the busi­ness when you de­cide to write a new show. The way I do it is that I stop the tour. You are do­ing a show, sell­ing out to au­di­ences and you have toured all over the coun­try with it. You could prob­a­bly do an­other few months of it but you don’t want to go back to the same places with the same show and it is kind of time to start again.

‘Even though it’s a great show, the au­di­ences might not want to see it again and then if they don’t show up on your doorstep, you’ve lost. So you do the last gig and then you walk off the stage and go “S**t, I’m un­em­ployed! I have two months to write a new show.”

‘That’s one of the worst days be­cause you sit down in front of a blank page and noth­ing is hap­pen­ing.

‘But you just have to trust your­self that you have done it be­fore and you will do it again.’

Of course, Garage ce­mented Pat’s name as a straight ac­tor as well. His pow­er­ful per­for­mance as Josie, the lonely petrol sta­tion at­ten­dant, set him on a tra­jec­tory that con­tin­ues with his lat­est re­lease The Belly of the Whale, which hit cin­e­mas yesterday.

‘It’s very dif­fer­ent from the com-

edy I do,’ Pat con­cedes. ‘I have been lucky — au­di­ences have come with me. Peo­ple who love com­ing to the com­edy shows equally find films fas­ci­nat­ing.

‘It’s great for me as an ac­tor to flex my mus­cles and go from com­edy to straight. It is a dark enough film about a char­ac­ter called Ronald, a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic who at an AA meet­ing was try­ing to raise money to pay for his wife’s cancer treat­ment. He gets a load of toys to sell to the amuse­ment ar­cade but it is a scam. The amuse­ment ar­cade owner played by Michael Smi­ley shrugs him off as they are into money laun­der­ing through a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion. In the amuse­ment ar­cade, He bumps into this young fella who in­ad­ver­tently burns out his camper­van and it is kind of about how the two of them con­nect then. They set up a rob­bery of the ar­cade and it goes hor­ri­bly wrong on the two of them.

‘It is a weird bro­mance be­tween the 60 year-old man I play and the 14-year-old young fella.’

Pat says he finds the switch to film eas­ier these days.

‘I think when I was younger I would have felt the whole weight of the movie in­dus­try on my shoul­ders,’ he says. ‘It’s a load of b ****** s but you do feel you are car­ry­ing this and ev­ery­thing is on your shoul­ders when you start. But of course it is the di­rec­tor re­ally — you just learn your lines and get on with it.

‘I re­mem­ber first walk­ing on to the film set think­ing “Oh my God, if I f**k up here…” but with time you re­alise if some­thing doesn’t work then the di­rec­tor is think­ing of a dif­fer­ent way to do it. You have to re­mem­ber that the rea­son you are there is that they like what you do. You don’t feel the pres­sure, you en­joy it.’

Mind you, back in the days of Kil­li­naskully there cer­tainly was that pres­sure as Pat was pro­duc­ing and play­ing mul­ti­ple roles ‘which was com­pletely by de­fault’, he says.

‘I in­tended do­ing one maybe two char­ac­ters. Goretti was the worst thing that ever hap­pened me. We had a tran­sit shot that was hard to get right and I said “Why don’t we do this power walk­ing characMu­sic ter and come off those on to the shot and it’s a smooth trans­ac­tion. But RTÉ loved her and in­sisted we have her in ev­ery episode. That started my five years of wear­ing very tight knick­ers to hide my manly parts and hours and hours in the make-up chair. If I had it back, I would never have writ­ten that char­ac­ter.’

Kil­li­naskully was one of the most suc­cess­ful TV shows in Ire­land and al­though he would love to, there’s not much hope of the se­ries re­turn­ing in its orig­i­nal form.

‘I’d love to do some­thing with it again,’ Pat ad­mits. ‘I have some ideas of rein­vent­ing a bit of it to a de­gree but it was a very big pro­ject and we were very well sup­ported by RTÉ in it.

‘But then, we did do the fig­ures and the num­bers for it — I think we still have the record of be­ing the big­gest home­grown au­di­ence of over a mil­lion for one Christ­mas view­ing.

‘I don’t think any other en­ter­tain­ment pro­gramme has hit those fig­ures. And prob­a­bly never will be­cause now TV has changed and a lot of peo­ple watch it on the player and so on.

‘But yeah, it was a huge Ir­ish suc­cess story as a TV pro­gramme and well loved but it was very ex­pen­sive to make and I don’t think that bud­get is in ex­is­tence any more. But Kil­li­naskully Lite might be the thing, with just Dan in the bar.’

Bud­gets aside, Pat is still very much in favour with RTÉ. His from D’Telly show is a soar­ing suc­cess and he hints that there could be some­thing else in the pipe­line soon too.

‘I might be sit­ting down with RTÉ talk­ing about do­ing some­thing else in the new year,’ he says. ‘I know we are go­ing to do an­other Mu­sic from D’Telly but we are ex­plor­ing do­ing some­thing else as it makes sense with the num­bers and the fig­ures and all that. I love work­ing on film and TV I love do­ing live shows but it’s nice to mix things up.’

O PAT SHORTT’S Hey! Will be at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin from Jan­uary 10 for a three-night run. For tick­ets see tick­et­mas­ter. ie or check pat­shortt.com for full tour de­tails

Bro­mance: Pat with Lewis MacDougall in his lat­est film, The Belly of the Whale

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