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Return of the 'Match

Despite rumours of relegation, RTE's Apres Match team of BARRY MURPHY, RISTEARD COOPER and GARY COOKE release a live video for Christmas, return to the live arena this winter and are looking forward to Ireland's World Cup final games. STEPHEN ROBINSON reports

Stephen Robinson, 06 Dec 2001

Think of it as a football stocking-filler. Apres Match – Live At The Olympia is the first ever video-outing from RTE’s Après Match team, the comedy trio who joined the station’s soccer comentary team in 1996 to inject some much-needed humour into RTE’s soccer coverage. The video contains almost an hour and a half of live footage, most of it previously unseen on TV.

If, like me, you’re not one of the biggest soccer fans in the world, the video is still among the finest on offer from Irish comedy acts (though it might well be worth brushing up on your football viewing just to appreciate the more obscure jokes). As well as poking fun at the presenters and panellists the boys work with on their RTE show, there are some hilarious swipes at TV 3’s Champion’s League coverage. We also get the wickedest U2 impersonation since The Joshua Trio, and an extended Three Joe Duffy’s sketch, in which the housewives radio-favourite is mercilessly, if accurately, lampooned. Other targets for the Aprés Match treatment are Riverdance, Marty Whelan and, perhaps inevitably, 2FM DJ Tony Fenton.

Ireland being a relatively small nation, it’s inevitable that the trio must at some point meet some of the targets of their ire. How do their subjects react when they meet the comedians in the flesh?

“On the Olympia video there are a couple of people in the audience, like Bill O’Herlihy, that we do on-stage,” says Barry Murphy, “and you can see that they’re laughing away. I don’t think people take it seriously. People who have a sense of humour are generally quite intelligent. It’s a joke!”

“The RTE crew are well used to it by now,” says Ristéard, “but initially they were a bit wary. You have to realise that what we’re doing isn’t an accurate portrayal of how these guys really are, it’s more of a cartoon than a portrait. There’s a huge amount of exaggeration and imagination involved. Bill O’Herlihy really does say ‘Okeydoke’ occasionally, and that’s perfectly normal and not particularly amusing. When you combine that with him spinning around like a child in his chair, which of course he doesn’t do, at least not on camera, then that’s funny.”

But have the team ever met, for example, Joe Duffy?

“I have,” admits Gary Cooke, “and to be honest with you he did seem a bit fazed. But he didn’t comment on it and neither did I. I was invited to dinner by a friend some time ago and I happened to have a videotape of the U2 piece on me, and I confess I’d had a few drinks. Of course, who’s sitting next to me apart from the Edge. I was very, very, tempted to stick the tape in the video but I resisted. He seemed quite nice, very quiet, into his own thing.”

How different is it doing the show live compared to the TV recordings?

“The obvious difference is that you’re performing in front of an audience, an audience who in many cases have had a few drinks,” ponders Gary. “That introduces an element of uncertainty to the show, you do get heckles and it can be distracting. There’s also the fact that it’s very immediate in that you’re expecting them to laugh and if they don’t, you go ‘Oh shit’. That’s not a concern on TV.”

Barry: “There’s a different energy to doing it live but some of the funniest moments live are ad-libs that come from either audience reactions or mistakes that one of us might make. For example, there’s a bit on the video where ‘Alex Ferguson’ comes on and a significant section of the crowd who aren’t Manchester United fans boo. And we go ‘Ee’s only pretendin’, which got a big laugh.”

Are the trio looking forward to the 2002 World Cup?

“Obviously it’s great that we qualified,” says Gary, “but I’d wonder if we have what it takes to go all the way. We’ll have to be very careful regarding injuries and it very much depends on who’s available to play. So much depends on Keane. If you’re asking me how far we’ll get I reckon we’d confidently get as far as the second phase, but after that, I couldn’t say.”

As Gary comments with the absolute seriousness of the committed football fan I’m reminded of many of the pundits that the trio lampoon. In fact, I’m almost tempted to offer my own ‘Gary Cooke on Ireland’s World Cup chances’ impression. But I wouldn’t dare. Unlike them, thank God.

Apres Match – Live At The Olympia is available in shops now. The trio travel – Loive – to Cork’s City Limits Comedy Club on December 14th and 15th, and play Vicar St., Dublin from January 3rd-6th, 2002

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