Every September just before the Autumn / Winter TV schedule begins, Ireland’s national broadcaster opens a public lottery, to win free audience tickets to its flagship Friday night chat show – the Late Late Show. This is a behemoth of Irish broadcasting, and the world’s second longest late night talk show (after the Tonight Show in the USA) having first broadcast in 1962. Originally hosted by Gay Byrne (from 1962 to 1999); followed by Pat Kenny (1999 to 2009) it is currently hosted by Ryan Tubridy. An audience ticket is highly desired for two reasons – the show can be interesting and also you’ll acquire a decent quantity of freebies (‘One for everyone in the audience’ was one of Gay Byrne’s catchphrases).
For the first time ever I entered my name in the Late Late Show lottery. I wouldn’t be a huge fan of the show, but if you’ve ever lived in Ireland you will have seen it at some point.
When I applied for the tickets, I simultaneously applied for audience tickets for RTE’s Saturday night talk show – The Ray D’Arcy Show. This is a relative newcomer to the schedules – now in its fourth season. It is hosted by former DJ and children’s television presenter Ray D’Arcy. He started his career on TV in 1988 as presenter of a show for teenagers called Jo Maxi. From 1990 to 1998 he presented the classic daytime children’s show called The Den (also starring Zig and Zag, and Dustin the Turkey). As well as a successful career as a DJ on Today FM. As a teenager I had strong feelings for him.
A week after my application I was contacted by RTE asking what dates I was available to attend the Ray D’Arcy Show. I selected last Saturday night, and I was instructed to present myself at audience reception, area 4, at Television Centre at 8.30pm. How exciting.
On Saturday evening I dressed myself up to look presentable in case the cameras should pan over me, or even better should I win an audience prize. I met my friend at Yamamori Izakaya restaurant on South Great Georges Street at 6pm for some Japanese nourishment, prior to the cab ride to the leafy suburb of Donnybrook, where RTE is situated.
Arriving on time we were whisked past security to reception where we were given our tickets – with our assigned seat number – and told to hold on to them to redeem any audience gift. Kerching! This sounded promising. We were taken into the audience waiting area where the wine was flowing. It was as if they wanted us to be semi-lubricated so we’d be as responsive audience. When in Rome I suppose. Glancing around at my fellow audience members I noticed that like myself, effort had been made on appearance. Much more than had been made by myself in fact – some of them looked like Christmas trees.
Shortly before we entered the studio a pregnant woman came from the studio to tell us that we were to be called soon. To keep quiet while cameras were rolling; to turn our phones off and that if we left to use the toilet during the ad break then there was no guarantee we would be readmitted.
When we entered I was surprised at how small the studio seemed compared to on screen. Clever camera work perhaps but the audience seating area was very close to the sofa where Ray sits.
Another floor manager came you to warm us up and bribe us with chocolate. And to tell us we’d get a prize if we applauded on cue and with enthusiasm. ‘Ha!’ I thought to myself – that means a gift is inevitable. Result.
About five minutes before show-time Ray D’Arcy appeared and started chatting. He appeared to be slightly nervous. Understandable I guess. He seemed older than I remember him – then again I was a fan of his when I was a teenager. He positioned himself in the audience. The floor manager mouthed ‘We’re live in ten’ and then counted down.
Reading from the autocue he began ‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s Saturday night, welcome to the Ray D’Arcy Show’.
The show passed quickly. The guests included DJ John Creedon; author Louise O’Neill; singer Jake Carter who sang his appalling new song and then gave an achingly insincere interview; and Meghan Markle’s mercenary sister – the toe-curlingly fake Samantha. My favourite guests were the audience members who’d been playing a sports game when one of them suffered a cardiac arrest, and her opponent who was a nurse performed CPR on her and saved her life.
The audience gift was a gift bag of Ballymaloe relishes and sauces and a family ticket to a Halloween showcase in Cork – which is en route to Cork as I type.
As the show ended Ray posed for pictures with audience members who were keen. We departed as I can live without a selfie.
All told a very interesting experience.