There’s nothing quite so exhilarating as live TV and the chat show format, packaging guests into neatly timed segments, is particularly nerve-jangling for presenters, producers and viewers. There is simply no predicting how things will unfold. Will the guest play ball with the line of questioning? Will the interviewer make a terrible faux pas? Will Shane Lynch turn up late, flip the bird, and swear on live TV? Gasp.
After 56 years on the air, RTE’s Late Late Show has thrown up its fair share of awkward moments. Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny, and Ryan Tubridy, who has manned the fort at Studio 4 for a decade now, have all been forced to negotiate many of these moments. Here are some of the most memorable from the downright hilarious to the weird to the more poignant…
Pat Kenny rips up Toy Show tickets
Given the week that’s in it (the Toy Show airs on Friday night, of course), let’s take a minute to reflect on the legendary moment Pat Kenny tore up a pair of priceless (for no amount of money can buy them) Toy Show tickets.
That night the competition prize was a €10,000 shopping spree and two Toy Show tickets but as Pat spoke to the winner Barbara on the phone, he became incensed by her lack of enthusiasm about her prize. “If they tortured her they couldn’t get anything out of this woman,” Pat said to the audience before asking Barbara who she would bring to the Toy Show. “Oh, I’m not particularly interested,” she said, so Pat promptly and dramatically tore them up, much to the horror of the nation.
“I got into terrible trouble for tearing up two toy show tickets,” he told Ryan Tubridy during an appearance on the show recently. “People were like ‘how dare you destroy (the tickets)’, these are like gold dust, and they’re even more valuable now.”
An angry guest storms the set
Pat enjoyed another rather awkward moment back in 2006. He had just welcomed the judges of You’re a Star into the studio, and as he and Brendan O’Connor took their seats, a member of the audience stormed up to him and shouted about Pat and former Late Late Show host Gay Byrne being “insufferable a***holes”.
Kenny, polite to a fault, initially said, ‘How are you?’ and as the man continued to insult him he simply added, ‘Thank you very much’. The show broke for ads for two minutes before the man, later identified as Paul Stokes, was removed by security. When Pat returned he apologised for the ‘rude interruption’.
There is some slightly salty language:
Ryan O Neal and the weird Tatum comment
Hollywood actor O’Neal appeared on the show in 2015 and spoke movingly about his late partner, Farrah Fawcett, who had died after a long battle with cancer. However, he then made a rather inappropriate comment about his daughter Tatum, who he shared with his first wife Joanna Moore, and who was 51 at the time of the interview.
“[Farrah] was so brave and full of courage and never complained. She never let us feel what she was feeling,” he told Ryan.
“I haven’t been with anyone since. How do you follow that girl? Well, I could be with Tatum, I guess, but it’s a bit late in the game,” he said, as the audience laughed uneasily.
A visibly stunned Tubridy said, “That would be a bit weird” and it seemed viewers were just as shocked as a Twitter storm erupted. Fellow Hollywood star Russell Crowe arrived on stage after O’Neal departed and verbalised the feeling of the nation when he said, “How f***ed up was that?”.
Here’s a nicer part of the interview, in which he speaks about meeting Farrah for the first time:
Russell Crowe goes rogue
In fact, that very same night, Crowe went a little off-script. He may be a Hollywood star, but he’s also a musician. So, after an interesting chat with Tubridy about his new film, The Water Diviner, the host asked him to play out the show with a tune on a guitar he just happened to have to hand.
Crowe, however, does not do things by halves. He made his way to the balcony that houses the house band, The Camembert Quartet, to play alongside them. He took quite some time to adjust the mic. All the while Tubridy loitered on stage, clearly a little concerned by how many precious minutes were elapsing, and wondering what was in store, much like the audience at home, watching through their fingers and clenched teeth.
Once Crowe finally began to sing Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues, however, the awkwardness only increased as he took umbrage with the audience’s inability to clap in time. “If you can’t clap in time, don’t clap at all,” he snarled. Awkward indeed, but brilliant TV.
‘You are an odious little man’ – Linda Martin faces off with Billy McGuinness
In 2014, Ireland’s Eurovision entry was chosen via Eurosong, a competition which played out on The Late Late Show. Former Eurovision winner Linda Martin and Aslan’s Billy McGuinness, who was mentoring contestant Laura O’Neill, became embroiled in a war of words after Billy, who was seated in the audience, lashed out at Louis Walsh’s involvement in the Eurovision selections.
Linda Martin, who was seated on stage, later rose from her seat and approached McGuinness in the audience, branding him an ‘odious little man’. She was up and she was at him and the nation held its collective breath. Tubridy asked everyone to ‘not lose sight of what was happening’ and somehow managed to steer the show to an end point without further histrionics.
Pat Kenny tries on Brigitte Nielsen’s boots
It’s fair to say that the lighter entertainment elements of the light entertainment chat show were probably not Pat’s forte. Back in 2005 he was in his sixth year helming the show when Brigitte Nielsen tried to loosen him up by trying on his shoe and getting him to wear her boots. The Danish actress then insisted they get up and dance. Pat played along. In fairness, he didn’t appear to have much choice. It was all shades of awkward. Some viewers thought she was drunk. Pat told the Sunday Independent, however, that she had simply been emotional and upset after receiving bad news about her son’s health just before the show.
Tommy Tiernan’s crucifixion gag
You can, to some degree, gauge the huge societal changes in Ireland by the timeline of awkward moments on the Late Late Show. Take Tommy Tiernan’s sketch about the Crucifixion of Jesus on the show in 1997, which resulted in over 300 complaints to RTE. Some angry protestors arrived out to the Donnybrook campus before the show had even ended, forcing Tommy to take refuge in the hospitality room until 1am when they finally dispersed. Would such outrage happen now?
“I was genuinely surprised by the reaction,” he told the Irish Times at the time. “I thought the drugs sequence would create more of a stir.”
Padraig ‘Pee’ Flynn’s astounding interview
Another one of those ‘of its time’ moments came back in 1999 when the then European Commissioner Padraig ‘Pee’ Flynn completely lost the run of himself when speaking about the size of his salary – “£100,000 a year net” – and how tough it was to manage his three houses in Dublin, Castlebar, and Brussels. Of the latter, he told an audience member, “I want to tell you something, try it sometime when you’ve a couple of cars and three houses, three homes and a few housekeepers”. Developer Tom Gilmartin was reportedly angered by Flynn’s comments on the show and he went on to cooperate with the Mahon Tribunal, which found that Flynn had “wrongly and corruptly” sought a IR£50,000 payment from the developer in 1989.
Gay Byrne calls a competition winner who is grieving the death of her daughter
Also in 1997 viewers were aghast when Gay Byrne called a competition winner to deliver the news that she had won a car, only to find out the woman’s daughter had died the previous night, having been knocked down by a car.
“Are you happy, Rita,” Gaybo asked after telling her about her win.
“Yes,” she said.
“Are you watching the show tonight?”
“I wasn’t. My daughter died last night.”
Byrne dealt with the situation with humanity and respect. He said he was very sorry and asked what had happened and ‘why did she die?’
Rita replied, “Are you being funny? She got knocked down. She was in a car crash last night.”
Rita’s daughter had sent in the postcard entry for the competition. Byrne asked Rita if she wanted to end the call but she said she would stay on and Byrne’s guests in studio, a nun and poet Brendan Kennelly, offered the woman words of comfort. Kennelly recited his poem ‘Begin’ and Rita wept. Byrne told her she had the support and prayers of the country and Rita said she felt she was doing something important for her daughter accepting the prize for her. It was a hugely moving exchange.