As Ryan Tubridy gets ready for his eighth Late Late Toy Show, he’s as enthusiastic as ever about a night that really is all about the children, writes Des O’Driscoll
The first year of the Toy Show must have been quite daunting, but since then you’ve looked as relaxed as could be in the show... how much do you actually get to enjoy it?
Ryan Tubridy: From the get-go, I love it. It just comes very easily to me. The excitement builds from the week before and by the time I get to the night itself, I am like a kid on Christmas morning. It is not complicated for me. It is far from a chore – it is the most fun a 43-year-old child can have.
What’s the secret in presenting a show like that... there seems to be an element of surrendering to the madness?
Largely that, and not to underestimate the intelligence of children, that is the key. They are brighter than they ever get credit for and also, just talk at their level, because if you try talking down or up to them, they will have the measure of you, just talk to and with them. You eyeball them and accept their answers for what they are, regardless of how goofy they are.
How long do the kids get with the toys before the show?
About two weeks and afterwards all the toys go to charities. The kids know that, and they are more than happy to hand them back, given that they are going to a good cause.
The Toy Show has enjoyed incredible longevity, not least due to a few tweaks made over the years. Is there a long term plan?
I would see the Toy Show as U2 albums, it is the same band, we have just evolved the sound and the look. We are in a constant state of evolution trying to make it better and fun. We will move with the times.
So many toys are digital now... that must present challenges in presentation?
Not if you box clever with them. For example, a lot of the digital things can be useful for a child’s imagination. They can co-exist — imagination and technology together. We need to work well with what we have got and if that is lip-synching or dancing, or doing something physical or fun, that is the bit we will do on the show.
What is it that makes The Late Late Toy Show so special?
It’s a magical night. When you see the excitement on the kids’ faces as they arrive into the studio, it’s a wondrous thing. I try to build a relationship with them quickly, so that within a minute or so, we’re goofing about and having the craic. I think that comes across on screen — that everyone is enjoying themselves immensely.
How do you get the best out of the children who appear on the show?
You get down on your hunkers and eyeball them — you get to their level. You don’t patronise them, you talk to them like fun-sized adults and you go a little dark with your humour. And you must have a healthy disrespect for authority. In my experience, kids respond really well to that — that licence to be a little bit bold.
Any special guests this year?
That would be telling! That said, I think the real beauty of the Toy Show is the kids — the performers and the toy demonstrators are what make it a special night. We are always open to having those big names on the show — the Ed Sheeran appearance is still a major highlight for many people — but there has to be a reason for them to be there. It’s about the children and how they will react ultimately, as we saw with Johnny last year when Evelyn Cusack came on. Here was this boy who had a deep, deep love for meteorology and he was meeting his hero — the look on his face was just magnificent. That is what the Toy Show is all about.
The Toy Show gets bigger and bigger, do you feel pressure to make every year bigger and better than the last?
We take every Toy Show on a year-by-year basis. We have had a great run — last year’s was the second most watched TV show in Ireland this century — but I don’t dwell on that too much. We have a show to put on and once that red light goes on and you’re in people’s homes, it’s about getting stuck in and forgetting about everything else around it. It is brilliant that so many people love the show but it’s not the reason I present it — I do it because it’s tremendous fun and I love it.
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