Ahead of the return of the Late Late Show, presenter Ryan Tubridy opens up to Denise Smith
An outburst from a rogue robot hoover nearly breaks the 49-year-old’s reverie, but with a swift kick we’re back on track as Ryan explains why he’s reclaiming the joy in life and revelling in the idea of turning the big 5O.
“I have a Miele at home, but I’m useless with technology. The older I get the more stupid I get,” laughs the charismatic presenter, as I attempt to wrestle the vaccum cleaner into submission.
It’s a self-deprecating remark from the beloved broadcaster and one that prefaces his next revelation.
“I am going to be 50 in May and I am just going to say that loudly because I know you can’t quite believe that. As I get a little older it does become easier to switch off,” admits the star, who has just arrived back from his summer sojourn to launch into a new season of the RTÉ juggernaut.
“Only that I asked my mother recently for my birth cert I thought the whole thing was a ruse, but unfortunately I am going to have to roll with it and it is happening.”
With a stellar career that has spanned decades on the airwaves and the small screen, the devoted dad of course has some nuggets of wisdom he has picked up during his 49 years earthside.
“It’s a long road and your 30s are hard work, your 40s are all about consolidation, and as far as I am concerned, your 50s are the fun time.”
Svelte, stylish and impossibly well put together, Ryan’s skincare regime seems to be the next logical line of questioning.
“If you are asking me do I moisturise after I shave, I am going to be completely straight with you and say I do — and that’s because I was told to by my good colleagues in makeup.
“They said, ‘If you want to mind your skin, keep it hydrated’ so I don’t use the cheap stuff. That is why I look so young and amazing!
“I never thought I was going to make it to TV for obvious reasons but I mind myself, I try to dress well and I haven’t succumbed to the paunch yet, which comes part and parcel with age.”
Entering his sixth decade has also meant the family man has nurtured his more sensitive side.
“With age, I think the emotions are starting to show more because my mental strength is weakening. I can’t keep the barricades up and some things are too moving — I can’t fight it,” he admits.
“Anything to do with dads and daughters gets me too — I was trying to watch the movie Coda and the daughter was having a conversation with the dad. The acting is sublime and the conversation is so moving, then I realised I was having a cry and I said ‘OK, I need to shake myself off and go for a walk and stop being such a baby’.”
Of course, nobody would accuse the notoriously private family man of not having a backbone. Regularly using his platform to stomp out bullying and vilify trolls, the radio host has no qualms about stepping up for social justice.
“I try not to be too preachy. I will speak my mind on what I have to say but I don’t want to pontificate,” tells the Dubliner.
“I remember when Barry Keoghan was on The Late Late Show and people were very mean about him and I remember saying, ‘Why don’t you just check yourself for a minute and imagine Barry is your brother, or nephew or uncle, and imagine the pain you are inflicting on people.’
“The speed at which people judge is a bit disturbing sometimes. That’s why I am not really present online.
“Instagram is a pleasant place to be and it’s fun. My kids joke and say, ‘You’re just a dad on Instagram’, and it is just wonderfully embarrassing. It has now become ‘endearing’, which is more offensive than ‘embarrassing’ but you just keep marching on.
“The clock is running out so why don’t you just enjoy yourself without worrying about what fools in a toilet are saying.”
It’s little wonder that Ryan has become a role model for so many of the young children who have passed through his show.
Beaming the most tenacious, joyous children into our living rooms each week, it’s hard for the dad not to get attached to the children that share their often heartbreaking realities.
“Some of those kids become surrogates, they are like little nieces and nephews. I can’t leave that behind.”
Saoirse Ruane is just one little girl who captured the nation’s hearts during her Late Late Toy Show appearance.
Having recently undergone surgery to remove a tumour on her lung, Ryan made sure to keep his promise and visit the young Galway girl at her home.
“I think Saoirse’s mum was shocked when I drove down on my own and she said, ‘Where are your people?’ I said, ‘I am my people.’ I am not trying to be the big man because [the team] of course put everything together behind the scenes.
“You go down and you make the time, and you commit to them in the same way they committed to you, and it feels good. They are happy and I am happy and the people following the story are happy. I love to leave a situation where everyone is winning — some stories can’t just end in the studio.”
It seems some people’s infatuation with the star surpasses the small screen.
“I was in Iceland recently and a guy on the main street said, ‘Welcome to Reykjavík,’ and I just burst out laughing — there is no escape, but I take it all in good fun,” continues Ryan.
“It can feel like a reality show sometimes when I go out the door. There are a lot of cameras and filming and pictures, it’s ‘Living with Tubridy.’
But the television star wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I really think Ireland has been pretty amazing in the last couple of years.
“Week in and week out, Irish people dug into their pockets during Covid when they had better things to be spending their money on and we were pulling in millions — between €30m from the Toy Showand the regular show. It was a win for Ireland.”
And just to be clear, it isn’t a role that he’s about to relinquish anytime soon.
“We do something very special, and I can’t think of another country in the world that does a live chat show and focuses on Irish stories. You can’t get that on Netflix or Hulu. It’s Irish, it’s earthy and it’s who we are.
“I love that I still have the hunger and the gratitude for it all. When I don’t feel starved and interested, then that is the time to walk away but that hasn’t happened yet. I am as hungry as ever.”
And if he wasn’t in telly’s best gig with guests like Boy George and Bob Geldof, what would he be doing?
“I would probably be a hyperactive librarian in Dun Laoghaire, running around the history section complaining that there aren’t enough books about Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera. I would be a history teacher, a bookseller or a documentary maker. I will never be bored for long.”