To mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of the G. Ryan Show on 2FM, JACKIE HAYDEN talks to the mainman himself while various team members and seasoned observers select the best, worst and weirdest moments of the show that's grabbed the nation by its ears.
JACKIE HAYDEN: What's been the highlight of the first ten years of the programme?
GERRY RYAN: I'm not sure it was the highlight, but the most memorable moment for me was when the bastards who work with me put my wife Morah up to ringing in, pretending to be a listener called Nora. We had asked listeners to talk about their partners' most annoying habits, so this "Nora" complained about her husband not cleaning up after him, not putting out the bins and stuff like that. She didn't even put on an accent, and like a complete prat there I was agreeing with her!
What about the worst moments?
It's bad when things go really wrong, but sometimes you can make it part of the programme, so it's not a real problem. But I remember giving this long spiel of an introduction to a guy who was from some Beekeepers' Association, and who had this theory about using bees to cure certain illnesses. So I started off chatting to him, giving him a bit of a hard time, but when he eventually admitted that he actually knew very little about bees I started to give him a really hard time. I noticed he still seemed a bit perplexed. Then he explained to me that he was from the insurance industry. I'd got the wrong guy!
What do you think you'd be doing if you hadn't made the move from your night-time show?
I'd be unemployed, that's what I'd be doing! There's not much work these days for a 40-year-old DJ. I might have gone back to the law, but I think it's too late for that now . . .
Joe Duffy has been reported recently as being very critical of your style of broadcasting. Have you any advice for Joe?
Actually Joe denies saying anything like this at all. Apparently he was on some panel down the country and some guy in the audience who was a journalist asked him how would he feel about somebody who says "Ask me bollox" or something on the radio, and Joe seemed to agree that he'd take a dim view of it, but without actually thinking of it as a criticism of yours truly. So I think Joe might have been stitched up, actually. But when you think of it, that's the kind of language you're more likely to get from him than from me, anyway, isn't it?
What's your earliest memory of your show?
I remember getting some "advice" from 2FM boss Cathal McCabe that no item on the show should be longer than a pop record, that we should have short, snappy "picture postcard" conversations. But in the end we let the listeners design the show with their own suggestions of what they wanted to hear, and that's how it developed to what it is today.
What was your best ever freebie?
I got a Christmas present from a record company of a Palm Pilot, a desk-top computer the size of a pack of cards. But if you're talking about payola here, I have to admit that payola is at an abysmal level in Ireland. You get useless stuff like tins of Bovril, but nothing of real value. It's very sad.
Why do you think listeners will tell you very intimate things that they seem reluctant to tell their best friends, family, priests, teachers or whoever?
I think it's because of their familiarity with the programme and with me. We're in their living room or flat maybe every day, and that familiarity breeds a willingness to speak about important matters in very ordinary language to people they can trust. People feel comfortable talking to us.
What is your most disgusting personal habit?
My wife says it's picking wax out of my ear and smelling it, and who am I to disagree?
When did you stop masturbating?
I haven't stopped! I'm still at it, not every day, mind, because I don't have the time, and anyway I'm often too tired.
Do you pick your nose in private?
Yeah, but my wife constantly monitors that one.
Who was your most disappointing guest?
I'd have to say Phil Lynott. Bryan Ferry says you should never meet your heroes, and Phil was a big hero of mine, but when I interviewed him on the evening show he was very sick, probably from the heroin, and he was very rude. His wife was with him and she was visibly upset at his obvious disintegration. That was a great let-down.
Well there've been lots of obnoxious fascists and nazis on the show over the years, as you well know, but I also remember finding Gilbert O'Sullivan a particularly unpleasant individual. He had a lot of stuff going on in his head, especially about the way he was ripped off by the music industry, but he saw it all as part of some world conspiracy aimed at him and nobody else.
What's been your most enjoyable junket?
Because I have to do a daily show, I don't get as many trips as people think, not like other djs and journalists who don't have a daily schedule. But I really enjoyed my visit to Disneyworld. Disney trips are always the most entertaining. Last year I was flown by BMG Records and Junkster and their manager Aidan Cosgrave to New York for an RCA/BMG Records convention. Because my badge had RTE on it, I think the Americans thought I was chairman of one of their own organisations and they treated me with tremendous respect! It was fascinating to see how they reacted.
What advice can you give someone in the media for getting the most out of their junkets?
Try to have your partner with you, that's always a neat trick. That immediately puts you in a higher category than the other guests who are on their own, and you get better treatment in hotels and restaurants. They assume you must be very important if your partner got invited with you. You've a much better chance of getting an upgrade as well. You should also appear to be as conservative as possible. That way you'll be singled out for better treatment. None of that rock band tantrum stuff, that doesn't work any more.
Have you ever been offered a bribe?
No, unfortunately, but I'd be happy to accept the money if it was offered. If Ben Dunne wants to line the crew up outside and give us lots of money, we'll say anything he wants us to say.
Do you use artificial stimulants to keep you going?
Yes. I drink too much coffee.
Have you ever presented the show while under the influence?
Certainly while still drunk from the night before, but I can't do it any more. It's the passing years. Once upon a time I used to boast about it. Even on air we used to do whiskey tastings and wine tastings, but it doesn't work on the Ryan show, so to answer your question, I suppose I might have, actually.
When you did a very extensive interview with Michelle Smith you appeared to give her an easy time in comparison to others who might have been embroiled in similar controversies. Why did you take that tack?
We gave that a lot of thought beforehand. You see, I'm unfamiliar with the technology of swimming, but I can spot a national hero straight off and we decided to treat her as one.
Is she still a national hero?
Yes, I think so, judging by the response from listeners when we talked about her most recent difficulties. But I can't help wondering if we'll ever know what went on.
As one of the most successful people ever in the Irish media, what challenges are left for you?
I'd still like to do a good tv programme. The radio thing just goes from strength to strength, while we're now at that boring stage of research trying to find out what the RTE viewing public wants to see G Ryan doing on television.
But some successful radio people don't automatically work well on tv, so maybe the public doesn't want G Ryan on the telly.
Well, the profile we have on 2FM is bang on for RTE tv, but it's impossible to transfer a radio programme directly onto tv. So maybe it's me, who knows?
How much longer do you think you can get away with it?
Forever! If you're vigilant and careful and keep your eye on the ball you can keep at it indefinitely, but you have to mind the baby.
Would you go as far as to tape a programme and listen to it critically at home?
Oh yeah. We have regular sessions, at least every three, four months. For example, we look seriously at the music content, which we're planning to increase, by the way. We look at the items that worked and those that didn't, and the associations the programme has, the charities we link up with, the commercial dynamics of this brand and that brand and the affect of those associations on the perception of the programme.
You don't appear to have any problem absorbing criticism.
Well, when you're G Ryan you have to be able to take it. I still can't hear the name "Gene Kerrigan" without wincing after some of the things he wrote about me. But he gave me the armour to take it from everybody else, so thanks, Gene.
Can you laugh at yourself?
Yes I can, you know that, but I also know that some people absolutely loathe me. In a recent poll I came third most hated person in Ireland and the fifth most loved! So it works both ways.
When did you last pay for a concert ticket?
Not for years. My friends own all the halls! It's unimaginable! I wouldn't know what a ticket costs!
What about records?
People don't believe this, but I still buy albums. You see, I don't think you fully appreciate an album unless you go out to a real record store and hand over the few quid for it. I still have to do that, browse through the shelves and hand over the dough. I think paying for a record gives you a whole different outlook on it than if you got it free.
What was the most recent album you paid for?
I bought a double-CD of two Frank Zappa reissues, Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation.
When did you last pay for a meal in a restaurant?
I always pay! I know I often mention restaurants on the show, but all that means is that I might get a better table, or get better service next time I go in. I might even get a free drink or a cigar, and I'll gladly accept them. But last week I went to the Eden restaurant in Temple Bar and I paid #90 and left a #20 tip.
What would you like us to put on your tombstone?
"He should be on now". It's a line from Aladdin Sane by David Bowie. It's about a character who's spent a lot of time waiting in the wings.
Is it true you only got your job in RTE because your brother Mike was working there?
If you were interviewing yourself, what question would you ask?
I'd ask, "Are you for real?"
And what would your answer be?
"Generally, yes." n
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