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Stage fright Comedian PJ Gallagher believes post-pandemic stand-up "won't come back as we know it"

"Can you ever see 1,600 people sitting in a theatre rammed up against each other again? I dunno"

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PJ Gallagher makes a living out of his manically random thoughts

PJ Gallagher makes a living out of his manically random thoughts

PJ Gallagher makes a living out of his manically random thoughts

What was supposed to be a 10-minute chat about his new TV series The Big DIY Challenge didn't exactly pan out that way because, well, nothing rarely does when it comes to PJ Gallagher.

Anyone who listens to his brilliant weekly podcast Dubland - with TV presenter Suzanne Kane - or has been to one of his live shows will know how manically random his head works. And that's how he approaches press too, it seems.

Nothing is off the table as we talk internet comics, cancel culture, how lucky he is and why he should be in jail. We also manage to talk a little bit about the actual TV show.

"I am so glad I am not starting out in comedy right now," PJ blasts when asked about the new breed of comedian coming through. "Jesus, it looks like hard work. All the newcomers are using social media and they are brilliant but, Jesus, I'd be shit at it. I think Justine Stafford is one of the funniest people ever. Genuinely.

"I'm not sure stand-up will ever come back as we know it," he continues. "Can you ever see 1,600 people sitting in a theatre rammed up against each other again? I dunno.

"I haven't been on stage for two years now but I can't really do anything else, so I will definitely go back to it. Thank Christ I have the radio job [he presents Morning Glory on Radio Nova with Jim McCabe] to fall back on. I feel very sorry for working comics who have been out of work for over a year.

"The thing is I know I will have to do it again at some stage for the money. I am good at it. And it pays better than my day job. The problem is I don't really enjoy it. The anxiety gets too much. Even after I got the stage fright issues sorted.

"There is no joy in the gigs for me. The only positive emotion I feel is relief. I am relieved that I didn't balls it up. I just try not to be sh*t, and comedy is one area that I succeed in that goal. That's where my head is at, which probably isn't the healthiest position but it is true.

"When I am at a festival and I am working with other comics I won't be happy unless I was the best performer and I am using the crowd's reaction to calculate that. It's sad but it's true.

"It's a lonely place being a comedian. You are on your own on stage. It's like when I was a bike courier years ago. Only as a comic I deliver jokes instead of parcels.

"I do think comedy has changed a lot, obviously. I hope there is a still a world for comics who have done the rounds for decades once this Covid shite goes away.

"I did see a few of the online comics try and do actual stand-up in an actual venue and completely shit themselves. It is all well and good being hilarious at 30-second sketches online that you spend days making.

"But standing on your own with a mic in front of a packed, and sometimes drunk, audience is a totally different ball game.

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"I've done over a thousand gigs in my career and I reckon one in four or five of them were really shit.

"Like the corporate gig I did once when a Russian lad took offence and threw me over his dinner table. That was a definite low point alright.

"I am in my mid-40s and could be past it unless I get back out there. So we'll see.

"If I do go back on tour I will put my head down and come up with a routine. But I don't know when that will be."

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PJ with DIY experts Jennifer Byrne and Jimmy Englezos on RTÉ show The Big DIY Challenge

PJ with DIY experts Jennifer Byrne and Jimmy Englezos on RTÉ show The Big DIY Challenge

PJ with DIY experts Jennifer Byrne and Jimmy Englezos on RTÉ show The Big DIY Challenge

Another thing that PJ is grateful for is the fact that Naked Camera isn't an up-and-coming show right now with the cancel culture on social media.

"Jesus, can you imagine some of the characters trying to get past the snowflakes on Twitter?" he jokes. "They wouldn't stand a chance.

"Jake Stevens would survive because he's just a bit of a dope and doesn't really offend anyone, but the 'Dirty Aul Wan' and the 'Englishman in Temple Bar' wouldn't survive in today's world.

"Jake was the butt of his own jokes, so he was safe. But if a character was not the butt of the jokes and someone else on camera was… there would have been problems in today's culture.

"It all comes down to timing again. How lucky was I that Naked Camera came around when it did? And then how lucky was I that I got my radio show before the pandemic.

"I honestly don't have any skills," he modestly reveals. "If comedy hadn't worked out for me I'd be in jail right now."

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PJ as ‘The Dirty Aul Wan’ on RTE’s Naked Camera

PJ as ‘The Dirty Aul Wan’ on RTE’s Naked Camera

PJ as ‘The Dirty Aul Wan’ on RTE’s Naked Camera

Luckily for us and him, PJ found comedy which got him into TV, because this week his Big DIY Challenge is back on RTÉ.

"I wasn't sure if it was coming back and certainly not this soon," PJ reveals.

"A lot of things had to change from the first series because of Covid but thanks to the nature of this show we were able to do most of our filming outside.

"There are five people taking part in the series and the winner will walk away with €10,000, which is massive. They don't get any help from experts or financial help along the way. This is just five people trying to win big bucks while at the same time trying to perform in front of our cameras over 10 days.

"We actually filmed it all quite recently, so I haven't seen the finished edits. But I can assure you that I was not a great help to any of them.

"There are five very different projects taken on by people in this series but one thing is the same with all of them," he laughs, explaining, "they were full of cheer and enthusiasm to see me arrive over days one, two and three. But by days eight, nine and 10 they were p***ed off when I showed up.

"I don't even have a vote on this show. The two experts [Jennifer Byrne and Jimmy Englezos] are the ones they need to impress. I just rock on in and present, crack a few jokes, get in the way and then head off.

"I am actually about to do all the voice overs for the shows this week. I'm not looking forward to it at all.

"Stick me on stage with a mic in front of thousands of drunks or dress me up as an old lady and send me on my way around the streets of Dublin... but don't stick me in a chair in a room with a script and expect me to sit still and be professional!"

⬤ The Big DIY Challenge starts this Thursday at 8.30pm on RTÉ One

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