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...
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