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'alive again' As her new comedy show starts on Sky Max, Deirdre O'Kane talks post-lockdown laughs

Deirdre hopes her new show gives audiences a reason to belly laugh again

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Deirdre is thrilled to be back out doing stand-up shows again.

Deirdre is thrilled to be back out doing stand-up shows again.

Deirdre is thrilled to be back out doing stand-up shows again.

A bucket of makeup and a team of people is — verbatim — what Deirdre O’Kane says it took to get ready to face the bright lights of television once more after three successive lockdowns.

Magazine+ doubts it, since even in an off-duty white t-shirt, black blazer and, black-rimmed glasses, the comedian oozes effortless cool while chatting about her eponymous new Sky show over Zoom.

Kicking off on Sky Max, a new channel launched by the broadcasting giant last month, The Deirdre O’Kane Show will beam some of today’s best comics, including Bill Bailey and Reginald D. Hunter, into living rooms across the land over the coming five weeks.

And host Deirdre is hopeful the old-school stand-up show, recorded live at Dublin’s 3Olympia Theatre complete with its own house band, will help viewers regain a few laughter lines following the pain of the pandemic.

“Really, I just feel relief that we got it made,” says Deirdre, borrowing her son’s bedroom at home in Dún Laoghaire.

“It was postponed and it was postponed and it was postponed; we got it made by the skin of our teeth, and still we didn’t get as many audience in as we’d like — we had like maybe 100 people in the Olympia, which is small — but we got it made.”

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Deirdre O’Kane on the set of her new show in the 3Olympia Theatre.

Deirdre O’Kane on the set of her new show in the 3Olympia Theatre.

Deirdre O’Kane on the set of her new show in the 3Olympia Theatre.

With what she calls a “Jools Holland vibe”, the presenter says comedy fans won’t want to miss sets by Ardal O’Hanlon and Joanne McNally, as well as musical interludes by Dublin rapper Abandoman, and probably won’t be able to anyway.

“Sky are going to put this out three times a week,” jokes Deirdre, who got her big break on the BBC New Comedy Awards back in 1996. “I feel like, OK, you can’t miss it, unless you are actively not watching Sky or you don’t have it.”

“I do think people need and want to laugh again. The live situation is on its way back, but it is certainly not back; we’re not at full capacity yet and maybe at the end of the month [it will be], but I still think people will be very reluctant to go in.

“With the winter months coming, I think people are going to hunker down again at home, so hopefully they’ll be keen to watch it on the telly.”

As theatres shut down and stand-up ground to a standstill, the mum-of-two stayed sane while homeschooling by writing her upcoming tour Work in Progress.

In the meantime, she’s also back as the distinctive voice of Gogglebox Ireland, and most recently joined Boy George and Jedward as a judge on Saturday night talent spectacular The Big Deal, which sadly failed to impress viewers quite as much as winner, aerial pole dancer Lisette Krol.

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“[There’s] no mention of it yet, but there wouldn’t be yet anyway,” says Deirdre of the possibility of a second series of the Virgin Media show. “I would have thought it was early days.

“I don’t know anything about the ratings. I never get involved in that end of the business, I don’t want to know — I just need to focus on my job. You deliver what you can, there’s no controlling figures, it’s just impossible.”

One show fans of the 53 year-old are desperately hoping will return at some point is Moone Boy, which saw her star as rural mam Debra Moone alongside creator Chris O’Dowd over three seasons between 2012 and 2015.

The Emmy-winning comedy memorably followed the exploits of schoolboy Martin Moone, played by David Rawle, and his overgrown imaginary friend, played by the Bridesmaids star.

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Comedian Deirdre O’Kane

Comedian Deirdre O’Kane

Comedian Deirdre O’Kane

“Wouldn’t it be fab?” smiles Deirdre at the prospect of a Friends-style reunion. “Wouldn’t it be just fab. I mean, I think Chris really wanted to do it at one point.

“What’s really interesting is that [child stars] David and Ian [O’Reilly] have both become professional actors, and they’re fine actors, so it would be amazing to do something with them, do the family maybe older — and I know Chris talked about that before.

“So I wouldn’t say never, because I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there was something,” teases the actor, who also famously starred in cult RTÉ comedy Paths to Freedom in 2000.

“Chris has small toddlers — he had no babies when we did Moone Boy, and he’s got two boys now — and I think when you’re in that world, y’know, it’s easier to go and take a job than it is to create a job .

“It’s not going to happen now at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of years there was a special or something.”

Deirdre and husband, acclaimed director Stephen Bradley, recently waved their own “baby” Daniel (13) off secondary school. But the couple, who also have a 16-year-old daughter, Holly, and previously worked together on 2014 biopic Noble, won’t be short of conversation as they also joined forces on The Deirdre O’Kane Show.

“Not at all,” she laughs heartily when asked if the creative pair can resist bringing their work home with them. “God no! We’d be talking shop around the clock — what else would I be talking to him about 20 years in?

“Steve is one of the producers on this,” she explains. “We work well together. We’re on the same page and, when it comes to this stuff, I don’t trust anybody more than Steve, really.”

Drogheda native Deirdre recently helped test the waters with Ardal O’Hanlon and Tommy Tiernan at a pilot comedy festival in Pearse Stadium in Galway — and admits she missed even the hecklers during lockdown.

“Absolute heaven,” she recalls. “That was phenomenal because it was outdoors so we had 1,500 people in the audience. They were chomping at the bit — this crowd were high as kites.

“The three of us were so relieved to be back playing a big gig. It was a bit of rock ‘n roll — it felt alive again.”

Movie lovers can also expect to see Intermission star Deirdre back on the big screen soon, she smiles: “Things are happening.

“I have two scripts to read — I have a telly script and a mockumentary script to read, so there are things in the ether.

“I missed a movie that clashed with this so I was very disappointed. Actually it was a nice [thing] for HBO — bloody raging — but the shoot dates were the same week as my Sky shoot dates. But it happens all the time. This is a regular problem for all performers.

“I never depend on those things. That’s why I’m always so grateful for the stand-up that I can employ myself, whatever the hell is going on out there. As long as I keep writing, I can employ myself, which is a real gift, especially in this business.”

The Deirdre O’Kane Show airs on Sky Max at 10pm on Sundays

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