GIFT­ING US THE GAB

In­con­sis­tency is key as Baz Ash­mawy fills Ryan Tubridy’s shoes with wide-eyed glee; while Cian Mc­Cor­mack dis­cov­ers whether teenage dreams can be­come re­al­ity

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - AUDIO -

He may have a hit tele­vi­sion show un­der his belt, but if Baz Ash­mawy is look­ing to make his name as a day­time ra­dio pre­sen­ter, he’s go­ing the wrong way about it. For one thing, he for­gets to tell his au­di­ence what his name ac­tu­ally is. Stand­ing in as host of (RTÉ Ra­dio 1, week­days) on Wed­nes­day, Ash­mawy has been talk­ing un­in­ter­rupted for 20 min­utes, when he sud­denly sounds an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sheep­ish note. “I’m get­ting given out to,” he says, “I didn’t in­tro­duce my­self.”

The pre­sen­ter, best known for his TV show, 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy, has al­ready held forth on how he quit smok­ing, how many mince pies he ate the night be­fore and how scarred he is af­ter a Christ­mas with “too many chil­dren and in-laws from Ser­bia”. Amid all this over­shar­ing, you’d think he might have told his lis­ten­ers who he is.

Per­haps by way of com­pen­sa­tion, Ash­mawy later re­veals his nick­name. Dur­ing his in­ter­view with Laura Be­ston, a stu­dent who has given up al­co­hol for a year, Ash­mawy re­calls how he used to be called Fun Bazzy. He ex­plains that his ex­u­ber­ance in so­cial sit­u­a­tions ap­par­ently re­sem­bled that of a drink-de­pen­dent char­ac­ter, Fun Bobby, from the sit­com Friends. As he lends

TheRyanTub­ridyShow

a sym­pa­thetic and en­cour­ag­ing ear to Be­ston’s story, the host seems to con­cur with his guest’s ver­dict that al­co­hol is ul­ti­mately a de­pres­sant, not­ing that he too no longer drinks. (He has, by his own ad­mis­sion, “given up loads of stuff”.) De­spite that, the host also re­marks, “I can’t be around loads of peo­ple who don’t drink. There’s zero crack.”

With other pre­sen­ters, such a lack of con­sis­tency might be a hand­i­cap. With Ash­mawy, it’s a prime as­set. In a ra­dio world where strong opin­ions are in­creas­ingly de rigueur, he seems un­sure what he thinks and, more to the point, doesn’t care if peo­ple know it. When he asks his au­di­ence about mo­bile phone eti­quette on buses, he shifts his stance on the is­sue with each new re­sponse.

For all that the fortysome­thing broad­caster calls him­self “an auld lad”, he still has the wide-eyed air of a per­pet­u­ally ex­cited but some­what mud­dled ado­les­cent.

The corol­lary of this un­fo­cused en­thu­si­asm is an ap­par­ent lack of in­ter­est in po­lit­i­cal or so­cial mat­ters. There are no Tubridy-es­que riffs on US pol­i­tics, which may come as a re­lief to some. In­stead, Ash­mawy calls on his store of colour­ful per­sonal anec­dotes, re­count­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences on an over­crowded Cairo bus. He also de­liv­ers his pat­ter with in­ven­tive brio: he be­moans his teenage chil­dren hav­ing “the sleep­ing habits of Shane MacGowan”.

In short, he’s a per­fect re­place­ment host for a chat show in early Jan­uary, when big top­ics and celebrity guests are in short sup­ply and an abil­ity to gab away is a prized qual­ity. Just don’t ex­pect his name to knock Tubridy’s off the mar­quee any time soon.

Teenage dream­ers

With much of the pop­u­la­tion em­bark­ing on the an­nual Jan­uary rit­ual of turn­ing over a new leaf, or at least at­tempt­ing to, (RTÉ Ra­dio 1, New Year’s Day) takes a novel look at our as­pi­ra­tional im­pulses. Cian Mc­Cor­mack talks to a panel of five guests to find out whether their lives have been shaped by, yes, their teenage dreams. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, no clear an­swer emerges, but the pro­gramme is more thought-pro­vok­ing than its slightly con­trived set-up sug­gests.

If there’s a com­mon theme run­ning through the pan­el­lists’ di­verse ex­pe­ri­ences, it’s that their ca­reers have taken un­ex­pected di­ver­sions: even by con­tem­po­rary stan­dards. The word “jour­ney” is bandied about promis­cu­ously. Au­thor John Con­nell moved to Aus­tralia to be­come an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist be­fore re­turn­ing to Long­ford, where he ful­filled his orig­i­nal am­bi­tion to be­come an award-win­ning writer. Ni­amh Sweeney was an RTÉ jour­nal­ist be­fore com­plet­ing an MBA in the US and be­com­ing a top ex­ec­u­tive at Face­book. World cham­pion boxer Kel­lie Har­ring­ton left her dream job in the army even as she pur­sued her sport­ing am­bi­tions.

Depend­ing on one’s out­look, such tales of suc­cess could be in­spir­ing or in­tim­i­dat­ing, but the in­quis­i­tive Mc­Cor­mack keeps the con­ver­sa­tion tick­ing along at a nicely judged pace. In quizzing his guests about their mo­tives and un­cer­tain­ties, he raises the same ques­tions for his lis­ten­ers.

His guests, in turn, talk about work­ing hard for their achieve­ments, but ad­mit that cir­cum­stances were some­times favourable when op­por­tu­ni­ties arose, for in­stance not hav­ing to raise chil­dren or pay a mort­gage. “You have to work within the bounds of your own sit­u­a­tion,” says Sweeney, cut­ting some slack for the less driven among us.

As to what ad­vice they would give their

Teenage Dreams

teenage selves, Mc­Cor­mack’s guests of­fer pos­i­tive if vague phrases. “Just re­lax and go with the flow,” Har­ring­ton urges, while Sweeney says, “En­joy it when you’re on the jour­ney.” It’s a gently up­lift­ing start to the year, though prob­a­bly not much use if you’re only look­ing for help on how to lose a few pounds in Jan­uary.

Ir­re­sistiblyfe­el­good

An ac­count of Lim­er­ick’s 2018 All-Ire­land hurl­ing vic­tory told through the sto­ries of four fans, (RTÉ Ra­dio 1, Sun­day) is marked by an al­most ir­re­sistible feel­good fac­tor, though lis­ten­ers from Gal­way may dis­agree. Pe­tula Mar­tyn’s doc­u­men­tary cap­tures the an­tic­i­pa­tion sur­round­ing the fi­nal, as well as the time-hon­oured tra­di­tions of trav­el­ling to Croke Park: Lim­er­ick jour­nal­ist Áine Fitzgerald laughs in mock em­bar­rass­ment as she re­calls pack­ing tea and sand­wiches for the drive to Dublin.

While the pro­gramme vividly con­veys the joy of the oc­ca­sion – Lim­er­ick had last won the hurl­ing cham­pi­onship in 1973 – it’s less suc­cess­ful at cap­tur­ing the ten­sion of the match it­self. No amount of clips of Marty Mor­ris­sey’s commentary on Gal­way’s late come­back (and there are many) can dis­tract from the fact that Lim­er­ick won. It’s the doc­u­men­tary’s rai­son d’être, af­ter all. But such quib­bles dis­solve in the face of the ex­hil­a­rat­ing emo­tions on show. “It was the best day of my life,” says Fitzgerald. For any­one grap­pling with a new year res­o­lu­tion, it’s good to know dreams can come true.

Pure Proud

‘‘ With other pre­sen­ters, such a lack of con­sis­tency might be a hand­i­cap. With Ash­mawy, it’s a prime as­set. In a ra­dio world where strong opin­ions are in­creas­ingly de rigueur, he seems un­sure what he thinks and, more to the point, doesn’t care if peo­ple know it

Baz Ash­mawy: ‘wide-eyed air of a per­pet­u­ally ex­cited but some­what mud­dled ado­les­cent’

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