How Ireland got stuck with its drinkin' and fightin' reputation

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It hasn’t been a good week for lazy Irish stereotypes on mega ratings US TV shows; the creaky, lazy, old ones that the Irish are thick, mostly drunk and always willing to fight.

On Saturday Night Live (SNL) the Oscar skit featured “Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson” burbling unintelligibly with the host joking “Wow and they haven’t even started drinking yet”, then at the actual Oscars, host Jimmy Kimmel in his opening routine noted: “Five Irish actors are nominated tonight ... which means the odds of another fight on stage just went way up”.

And then there’s the long-running trope on US chatshows that the host can’t pronounce Irish first names – a gag they’d simply never use for fear of accusations of racism if the star guest from another country or heritage had a “difficult” non-English language name.

Increasingly the response to such stereotypes in US popular culture has, on this side of the Atlantic, been bristling offence. But is it just a laugh or a damaging slur? Should we get a sense of humour about it or push back? On this St Patrick’s weekend, are we ourselves to blame for perpetuating such stereotypes. Irish Times chief film correspondent Donald Clarke and comedian and podcaster Jarlath Regan give their take. Presenter: Bernice Harrison. Producer: Aideen Finnegan.

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison is an Irish Times journalist and cohost of In the News podcast