The popular comic talks to Nancy Previs about her Christmas show
It wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual June Rodgers show. This year, as she’s done for over two decades, Ireland’s queen of comedy will once again delight her fans with songs, dances, prances, crazy yarns and capers, and a whole walk-in wardrobe’s worth of oddball costumes.
“I was brought up during a time in Ireland when variety was huge on TV and that’s where I got my love for it,” says June, chatting during a break in rehearsals. “And I want to keep that tradition alive.
“Mine is a show for all the family. We’ll have music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, with Irish themes of course and comedic twists, with plenty of comedy sketches. I’m very much into visual comedy, so I’ll have 18 or 19 different costumes! I believe that if a costume gets a laugh you’re halfway there.”
She continues, “As ever, I have wonderful singers and dancers, and they can do comedy as well, so everybody will get a bite of the cherry! It’s really a night where people can come along, leave the world outside and sit back, relax, have a nice fourcourse dinner and a good laugh.” The only difference this year from her annual festive show, June tells me, is the venue. After many years at the Red Cow on the Naas Road, she says “I’ve moved it to Taylors Three Rock in Rathfarnham.” It was Taylors, she explains, who invited her to relocate. “And I said I’d love to, because they were able to give me the nights that I needed – I have a lot of people who travel up from the country to see the show – so that’s how it all came about.”
June cherishes her fans, many of whom have been loyal since her early days doing shows in Clontarf Castle; many have become dear friends. There’s the family in Santry: they chat on the phone, mark each other’s birthdays and even go out together.
June tells me about another lady, Colette, who would always be at June’s shows with her mother. “I called down to see her because her Mum passed away this year, and that’s what you do. We spent hours chatting about things. I’m very fond of her and was very fond of her Mum too.”
Preparing for her upcoming Christmas show is tough work, but June still makes time to perform her monthly slot on Liveline’s Funny Friday. Not only that, she tells me she was thrilled a couple of months ago when Brendan O’Carroll asked her to be a special guest on his annual Mrs Brown’s Boys’ Christmas special. Unfortunately, she can’t give details about her character. All she will reveal, with a polite giggle, is that it’s “June Rodgers, probably as you’ve never seen before…”
When she’s not on stage or before the cameras, June is a self-declared happy homebird. Her 120-year-old granite cottage in Firhouse (just down the road from Tallaght village where she grew up) is especially dear to her, because she and her father bought it after her mother died, more than 30 years ago. “The house had been left vacant for many years, and when we bought it, there was a tap in the front garden and a toilet in the back garden. My Dad did a lot of work on it, but sadly he didn’t live long enough to enjoy it. He never even had the chance to sleep in it. There’s so much of him in this house and that’s why it means so much to me. I could never see myself selling it,” June says fondly.
Twenty-one years ago, after June got married, she and husband Peter Lane extended the bathroom and added a dining area and another bedroom. The cottage, which was once in a quiet rural setting, now has suburban housing all around. Nonetheless, June’s large garden remains her private oasis of tranquillity. “You’d never think you were in a built-up area. It’s a lovely big garden,” she tells me.
Weather permitting, it’s usually where you’ll find her. A keen gardener, she works with her plants and the soil, learns lines or plays ball with Beauty, the black Labrador. She has another dog, Poppy, which June says looks more like a little fox. “Out there I can be learning my lines while deadheading the plants. It’s nice to potter around, away from technology.” The cottage has further advantages: it is convenient to all amenities, something which June says has become increasingly important with age. “You realise that you’re getting that bit older, and then you start thinking, ‘Well, we’re near the bus, the hospital and the shops…’
“I have some friends who retired and moved down the country and it was the biggest mistake they ever made.” However, as much as she loves her cosy home, come January, June will be away off, riding the high seas. When the festive shows are done and all her costumes have been cleaned and carefully packed away, then she takes the opportunity to scarper.
“You can too easily get wrapped up in this mad world… after I had the fall in 2015,” (she fell just before going on stage to do her show, had to have shoulder surgery and an extended period of enforced rest) “and I couldn’t do anything but sit and think.
“I realised what’s good in life, so Peter and I decided we should spend more time doing things together. So last year, for the first time, we set off on a Mediterranean cruise. It was so laid-back and it really suited us. Peter was able to chill out and there’s something going on every hour of the day. It was great to have somebody back home looking after the house and the doggies, so we could get away for a week. We’re going to do that again in the new year.
“And”, she adds, “my eldest niece, Karen, has given birth to another grand-nephew, so I also want to spend time with them. Family and friends are very important.”
The June Rodgers Christmas Show, 30 November 30 and December 1, 6-9, 13-16, 21, 27-28 & 31, Taylors Three Rock, Rathfarnham. Tickets at Eventbrite and Taylors Three Rock, taylorsthreerock.ie