Ryan Tubridy brings a whole new meaning to ‘summer nonsense’

He hits the right note for early silly season. At his best he is entertaining on-air company

As every broadcaster knows, things can be a bit flat during the summer season, so kudos to Ryan Tubridy for starting his week on a high note and sustaining it for days after. The only problem is it's not him reaching said heights, rather the late Luciano Pavarotti.

On the Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), the presenter talks about Pavarotti's ability to hit a "high C", the fabled apex of a tenor's range, with the zeal of a schoolboy who's just had his first snog. While Tubridy's enthusiasm for such a rarified subject is to be commended in the era of the celebrity selfie, it highlights how much of the rest of his show is, to use his own phrase, "summer nonsense". Oddly, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Tubridy's sudden evangelism for opera comes in advance of Wednesday's interview with Pavarotti's widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, who is promoting a new documentary on the singer's life.

Mercifully, he curbs his inner Mrs Merton enough to elide the phrase 'millionaire'

It’s a short encounter, with Mantovani fondly remembering Pavarotti, who died in 2007. But for all its affectionate tone about the singer’s “innocence and curiosity”, Tubridy struggles to lift the interview beyond generic press pack fodder.


Noting the large age gap between his guest and her late husband, he asks, “What was it about Luciano Pavarotti that you fell in love with?” Mercifully, he curbs his inner Mrs Merton enough to elide the phrase “millionaire”.

This pleasant but unremarkable interview is, it’s worth noting, Tubridy’s big ticket item for the week. Otherwise, the fare consists of items such as a brief chat with an aspiring dancer seeking funding and a long conversation with “drone consultant” Ian Kiely.

Lest there be any confusion, the drones in question are of the flying variety, but given the niche subject, the interview is infused with a torpid monotone of its own. Tubridy attempts to inject some buzz into proceedings, but is soon reduced to asking whether “the building industry is interested in using drones”. Cue the drone of snores.

As befits the season, it all speaks of blandness of a time-bending nature. Yet the show has far more spark than such material would suggest, thanks mainly to the presenter himself. Though his opening monologues sometimes seem designed to buff the image of Tubridy as a US television chat show host-in-waiting, at his best he is entertaining on-air company. He wittily skewers celebrity foibles such as George Clooney’s swimming pool malfunctions, and goes on impromptu riffs about the singularities of the Irish accent, delighting in the opportunity to use phrases like “de ting”.

And then there’s Tubridy’s newfound yen for opera. As he plays a clip of Pavarotti scaling astonishing vocal heights, he sounds genuinely awestruck. “There’s no need to comment on that, it is what it is, pure beauty,” he says, inviting listeners to share his joy. Whether he’s talking about a high C or de ting, Tubridy’s approach has the ideal tenor for relaxed summer morning radio.

Hot air

Over on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, weekdays), the atmosphere is less chilled, with host Ivan Yates emitting so much hot air that it's only a matter of time before he's subject to climate change regulations. In fairness, Yates is aware that he's prone to bloviating, but rather than curb it, he makes it a key part of his shtick.

Talking to Prof Bill Rolston of the University of Ulster about loyalist and republican murals in the North, Yates sounds dubious about the merits of such works, suggesting it is little more than graffiti.

His guest replies that some murals have artistic merit, but they are mainly meant as “political messaging”. This sets the host off. “I want to go on a rant now,” he says, before airing his oft-expressed disdain for Northern Ireland’s “sectarian society”.

Practically every interview is overwhelmed by his jokey-blokey style

Having thus vented, Yates proceeds to mis-state his guest’s views, suggesting he’s interested in hearing only one voice: his own.

Of course, there’s an element of pantomime to Yates’s on-air persona. He knowingly ends his banter with newsreader colleagues in a lordly flourish: “You are both dismissed.” But his need to have the final word means that practically every interview, whatever the subject, is overwhelmed by his jokey-blokey style.

But even Yates isn’t immune to the summer slump. Needing to fill airtime, he waxes lyrical about chocolate bars of yesteryear, before inviting listeners to nominate their own favourites.

As he reads out responses about Star Bars and Dairy Milks in staccato fashion, Yates sounds less like a swaggering iconoclast than Alan Partridge opining on what car a king would drive. As a self-professed fan of Cadbury’s Caramel, Yates might occasionally heed the advice given by the animated bunny in an old ad for the chocolate bar, and take it easy.

Failing that, he could emulate the example of Jonathan Healy, who stands in as host on the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays). Healy is a fine current affairs host, capable of teasing out issues and asking pertinent questions. But, more crucially for this time of year, he has a lightness of touch well suited to silly season froth.

Accordingly he is alive to the absurdity of Henry McKean’s attempts to convince Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae of the merits of electric cars, in a report so daffy it sounds like a Monty Python outtake. Moreover, he never lets his frustrations get the better of him.

After talking to American writer Erica Landis about letting children swear, Healy explains how he keeps his own profanity at bay when on the microphone.  “I store all my swear words up, then swear like a trooper the moment I’m out the studio door at 12 o’clock,” he says. Far from sounding a bum note, Healy’s technique keeps him in tune with his guests.

Radio Moment of the Week: Dunne steams ahead

On Monday, as Tom Dunne fills in for Sean Moncrieff (Newstalk, weekdays), his laidback but larky manner is on full display as he discusses movie star and lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow.

“She is a strange person,” Dunne says, alluding to some of Paltrow’s more eccentric activities, such as “steaming things”. He is, of course, referring to the actor’s infamous propensity for steaming her nether regions. “I wouldn’t really go into it too much at this point in the afternoon,” he says tactfully, “but we’re not talking vegetables.” At least Dunne doesn’t land himself in hot water.