“These days people often ask, ‘How do you stop yourself losing the run of yourself?’ I tell them, ‘Well, five years ago I was working as a butcher in SuperValu.’
Former butcher Johnny McMahon, aka Johnny Smacks of The 2 Johnnies, admits that he still can’t quite believe the bizarre turn his life has taken.
The 31-year-old comic from Cahir, Co Tipperary, tells the Sunday World: “These days people often ask, ‘How do you stop yourself losing the run of yourself?’ I tell them, ‘Well, five years ago I was working as a butcher in SuperValu.
“I can see why people who find fame or get that dream job at 18 or 19 lose the run of themselves, particularly if you’re a kid coming off a show like The X Factor where it happens overnight.
“It seems like overnight success for us, but we started in 2016 and in 2017, we gave up our jobs. For us having had a real job is what keeps us humble and what keeps us hungry too. That’s what drives us on because I don’t ever want to go back.”
And there’s no better men to handle the heat that comes with celebrity than this former butcher and his pal, Johnny O’Brien, aka Johnny B, who used to make hurleys for a living.
Smacks explains that they both love the interaction with people. “It gets hairy at times,” he admits, “But it’s great. I think when people want to come up and have a chat and they want to get their photo with you, that’s a good sign that they like you and they like the work you do.
“If nobody knew who we were then we wouldn’t be doing our job.
“You are humbled that somebody wants to get a photo and we love having chats with people. Before I gave it up, I loved working behind the butcher’s counter chatting to everybody and having the craic with the locals.
“Every day was nearly a show for me in that job. Now it’s no different. I’m still chatting to people and still having the craic and still enjoying it which is the main thing.”
Smacks recalls how he used to approach famous types himself as a child and teenager… “hurlers and lads off the telly,” he says.
There was one particularly memorable encounter with his Liverpool soccer hero Robbie Fowler.
“I’m a Liverpool fan,” Smacks reveals. “My mam brought me to a match when I was nine. It was in Liverpool and we were in a hotel afterwards and Robbie Fowler, who was my hero, walked past. Mam approached him and we got a photo.
“I remember how nice he was and how much time he gave us. That’s something you don’t forget when it comes to my turn to be in a photograph with someone. I still remember that to this day.
“The other thing I remember is that we minded the camera with our lives that weekend because this was before camera phones. We had to wait until we got home to get the film developed, and then we discovered that Mam had been so nervous she cut off half of Robbie’s head in the picture. But we still stuck it on the mantelpiece anyway.
McMahon has been in a long-time relationship with his partner, Annie, and the couple plan to tie the knot this December.
His only concern is that the job of organising his stag party is in the hands of Johnny B.
“Give me 10,000 people in the 3Arena to perform to any day over letting that man organise my stag,” Smacks says. “I am a nervous wreck. I don’t know what to expect.”
The two entertainers are best mates. “It’s unreal to work with your best friend every day,” he says. “There’s never any fights or disagreements.”
Their latest RTE2 TV series, The 2 Johnnies Do America, is set to kick-off tomorrow night and runs for four weeks sees Johnny Smacks and Johnny B take us on a rollercoaster ride that starts in Mexico.
“We show a side to America you don’t normally see, but we also got to do stuff like sing in Nashville,” Smacks adds. “I was reared on the music of Garth Brooks and it was great to finally see him live in Croke Park recently because I was only six-years-old when he last played here. I knew he’d be a proper showman, and he was brilliant.”
The 2 Johnnies Do America is on RTE2 TV tomorrow at 9.30pm.