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Doireann Garrihy and Dermot Whelan become TV pranksters on RTE's Big Night In

Doireann and Dermot team up for RTE's variety extravaganza as celebrities are wound up for laughs in new show for the family
Doireann Garrihy and Dermot Whelan host Big Night In

Doireann Garrihy and Dermot Whelan host Big Night In

Lynne Kelleher

Ireland is finally getting its own pick 'n' mix variety show full of elaborate celebrity pranks and studio games to gather the entire family in front of the TV.

Irish people are among the best sports in the world when it comes to getting pranked - with the population famously up for a laugh in The Live Mike and Republic of Telly - but it's unsuspecting Irish stars who are the target of a new gotcha format on RTE One.

Fronted by professional practical jokers, Doireann Garrihy and Dermot Whelan, the hour-long Big Night In will inject some much-needed levity into the nation's sitting rooms.

Doireann said she instantly clicked with co-host Dermot during their screen test.

"We just laughed throughout," she said.

Celebrity wind-ups

Celebrity wind-ups

For Doireann, Ashton Kutcher was a role model for the format.

"I grew up watching MTV so I was thinking 'this is so cool, I'm punking people…'."

She has her own theory as to why Irish people are particularly happy to be at the centre of a wind-up.

"It's almost like I think it was against the law in Ireland to have notions and if you can't laugh at yourself, that is associated with having notions.

"Anyone we pranked they were just so up for being involved. They're almost delighted to have been pranked.

Celebrity wind-ups

Celebrity wind-ups

"That probably the quintessentially Irish bit of it. We all want to be seen as someone who can have the craic and laugh at ourselves."

Although it is on the RTE One schedule as a stand-alone show tomorrow, it looks like the show could fill a family-shaped gap in the schedule.

"I think that's always going to be in your mind when you do something like this," said Doireann.

"It wasn't until we were on stage doing the kind of shiny floor bit looking at the sketches we have recorded over the past while that we were like 'God we really have done a lot, we've jammed a lot into this'."

When it comes to her own family, the Laughs of Your life podcaster said her sister, Aoibhín, would be the most fun to prank.

"Aoibhín is one of those pure ladies so she probably she'd have the patience of a saint but I think she'd see the crack in it."

While the show is in the style of prime time shows like Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Dermot Whelan says it has its own character.


He said: "It's hard not to be influenced by Ant and Dec because their show is so great. It does have some elements of a show like their show but it's really particularly Irish.

"When people see it, particularly the celebrity pranks, I think people will really warm to it.

He added: "Irish people are so incredibly patient and polite when it comes to being in the company of weird people. Other nationalities would say, 'stop it you're being weird'.

"I think part of us wants to see just how weird it can get. That lends itself to doing these kinds of pranks because people will go along with them for so long. It just makes for great telly."

But it's not all hoaxes and subterfuge, there are plenty of other elements to the show.

"It's nice for our conscience that we balanced out our pranks with those nice heart-warming features that are feel-good so we don't feel so bad, but we put our heads on the pillow."

Meanwhile, both stars spoke about how they dealt with the annual JNLR listenership figures.

"I'm nearly 20 years in radio so if JNLRs were the difference between me sleeping at night and not sleeping at night I'd never have continued in the gig," said Dermot. "You still have to turn up in front of the microphone the next day and you need to bring your best, least distracted self to the role.

"So sometimes your ratings will be up sometimes they'll be down and that's life."

Doireann, whose 2FM Breakfast with Doireann, Donncha and Carl suffered a recent drop in listeners, admits she is affected by the ratings.

"I'd be lying if I said I haven't been affected by it or worried about it when things don't go your way.

"But there are an amount of people in the radio centre who would say 'chin up, it ebbs and flows', and it's a brand new breakfast show. I absolutely truly love the two lads and we just have constant craic."

Interestingly, she did point out that the pandemic had affected commuting listeners in the mornings during her time slot.

"I think with breakfast radio as well, the audience we're after, a lot of them are rolling out of bed at 8.45 and at their desk for nine and we're missing them.

"We would love nothing more than for them to be back on the road tuning into us but look, you have to see it as a bit of a kick up the hole, to be honest - my mum will kill me for saying that," she joked. "We will figure it out and we'll come back fighting."

With the Big Night In, she expects it's one for everyone in the audience or certainly everyone in the family.

"Throughout it, I felt like the beauty of the likes of Dancing with the Stars is where everyone can sit around and watch it and the kids get so invested and your granny loves it and I did feel like that's the energy we struck with this," said Doireann.

In the programme, singer Brian Kennedy hilariously gets wrangled into attending the retirement party of a banker and super-fan in one of the sketches.

"Brian Kennedy for me, he's such an incredible sport," said Dermot. "When people see it they will laugh because it's exceptionally funny, but I think what people will take away is Brian Kennedy is the nicest man on earth and will put up with an awful lot.

"Watching the sketches back with the audience, I had tears running down my face."

If the one-off show does turn into a series, Dermot said Today FM is full of possible targets for celebrity pranks.

"Where I work in Marconi House is full of people I'd love to have a go at," he says with a laugh, "What makes it a little bit tricky is Ireland isn't that big.

"I would love to see the show grow legs and continue. It's got a lot of potential. I think when people see it they are going to really want more."

The pranking format is a talent he has been fine-tuning over the years.

"For me, on the Republic of Telly in the early days, we nabbed a few people so the skill set was there in a Liam Neeson Taken way.

"I have a very particular set of skills and I was very happy to use them."

Big Night In is on RTE One tonight, Monday 27 December at 6.30pm.

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