Monday, March 27, 2006

Please turn off all egos before the show

Probably out of some tendency towards masochism, I sometimes listen online to Ryan Tubridy's radio show (RTE) on weekday mornings. It's a pretty pointless exercise, because it in no way helps me to keep up with what's in the news at home - now that he's got his primetime radio show, Tubridy has abandoned any of the pretensions towards being a thorough or clued-in commentator that he might have exhibited a couple of years ago, when he was being energetically touted as the biggest talent in Irish broadcasting. Now that he's secured the fat salary, he doesn't seem to feel the need to bother making any of those noises anymore. He's free to wallow, instead, in his own considerable collection of prejudices and pomposities, preaching from the confines of his narrow range of interests and expertise, and dealing with everything else through a combination of small talk, generalisation and downright bluster. He's been compared over and over to Gay Byrne, but he has none of Byrne's intelligence and empathy. He's much closer in style to Val Joyce, whose absent-minded ramblings on Late Date are punctuated only by cranky outbursts against the perceived errors of his producers (which usually seem to consist, rather, of Joyce's inability to put a CD into the machine). They also share a taste for truly terrible music, the sort of tunes you might hear at an afternoon disco in a nursing home.

And then there's the arrogance. Tubridy substitutes arrogance for authority and for argument at every turn. And usually it points to something even less pleasant; witness the slow emergence into daylight of what can only be described as homophobia last month, as he tried for weeks to get out of going to see the film on which he passed snide comment nearly every day, and about which his listeners had plenty of thoughtful comment to make: Brokeback Mountain . Instigating a backlash against the hype is one thing, but it's difficult to take seriously the criticisms of someone who seemed either too lazy or too apprehensive to actually go and see the film. When he eventually did, his comments were just as snide and even more telling, despite the fact that he grudgingly admitted he thought it good; good, that is, apart from the love scenes between the two men. Gay love scenes just weren't for him, he said in a tone of undisguised distaste. He implied that he really didn't see the need for that sort of thing to actually be shown. And you can be damn well sure that he made no apologies for this position. Tubridy seems to see his conservativism as something quirky, daring, different; it's not. It's random, shallow and unconsidered, just like his broadcasting.

This morning he was on again about one of his cripplingly dull hobbyhorses; mobile phones and their use in public places. This sort of bitching was funny in 1999, when mobile phones were new; now, it's just embarrassing. Yet Tubridy makes the same jokes, does the same dreary imitations of phone users, almost every morning. And this morning, he started the show by hailing Ralph Fiennes not only as one of the greatest actors of his generation (questionable, very questionable) but as a hero. Why? Because, apparently, when the mobile phone of an audience member rang during the opening minutes of his performance at the Gate in Brian Friel's Faith Healer , Fiennes broke out of character and barked into the audience, "turn that fucking thing off". Hero, says Tubridy. How, exactly? If Fiennes really did this, it's deeply unprofessional, an insult to the theatre that's hosting him (not that Michael Colgan will give, well, a fuck), to the audience that paid to see him in a role, not in a self-indulgent rage, and to the playwright, the director and the other actors who've worked on the play. Breaking out of character like this is the most unthinkable thing for an actor to do - I've only seen it once, also at the Gate, and in this case it was justified, because the actor in question (Declan Conlon, in The Book of Evidence three years ago ) saw an elderly woman taking ill in the audience and very reasonably believed she was having a heart attack - he then called for someone to help her, and after she'd been taken out (she had had an attack of some sort, but recovered) sat down, took a moment to regroup, and then went seamlessly back into full-flow as his character. Actually I thought that was somewhat heroic. But Fiennes, carping and sniping about something that, while undesirable, just happens sometimes and is hardly a disaster in the scheme of things, something that, while understandably distracting to an actor, does not merit that sort of behaviour, swinging the attention of the audience back to him as The Star (as though it weren't sufficiently there already) instead of to Friel's character...that's not heroic, that's histrionic. And Tubridy, who happily admitted a couple of weeks ago that his trip to Faith Healer was the first time he'd been to the theatre in years , laps it up and read it as some badge of Fiennes' legend, like he's Brando up there, or even Donal McCann, who would never have pulled that sort of shit, who would never, whatever his flaws, have substituted conceit for character, arrogance for art. He would just have done the job. If Fiennes can't do that, I don't care about his fame. And if he pulls that kind of stunt on Broadway when the play comes here later this month, I'd bet good money that the response will be a lot less sympathetic.


cornaroy said...

I bet Tubridy would not have minded if a mobile phone gone off in the cinema when he was peering through his hands at Ledger and Gyllenhaal snogging each other.. On the other hand, It sounds to me like Mr Tubridy 'just cant quit' Mr Fiennes. The lady doth protest too much methinks? Perhaps Tubridy split with his wife cos he wouldnt stop talking about Fiennes on his mobile phone.

hesitant hack said...

oooh you're mean. You'd give Barry Egan a run for his money!

Barry Egan said...

Leave me out of this. Though i gotta admit, Tubridy is always checking me out man when we are partying with Brian Kennedy and Louis. Fiennes too. Everyone wants a piece of me. Glass of Moet, anyone?

Twenty Major said...

Excellent. Beautifully written.

I would have just said 'Tubridy is a fucking cunt' but I'd take your version every time.

boondocks said...

How true, how true! The guy reeks insincerity. And I wonder, how will he keep this up? I forsee rehab and tell-all interviews fifteen years from now. Your comment about the music and the nursing home is so so right!! Why do I still break down and listen to his horrible show??

P.O'Neill said...

They also share a taste for truly terrible music, the sort of tunes you might hear at an afternoon disco in a nursing home.

You're a bleedin filistine, Val is a God - don't mention Him and tubby in the same sentence.

I sincerely hope you're tuning in for the Final Late Date to atone for that morteller!!