'If you're not getting in trouble, you're not doing your job right': Tubridy and Kenny recall a 'legend and icon'

'If you're not getting in trouble, you're not doing your job right': Tubridy and Kenny recall a 'legend and icon'

Gay Byrne’s successors on the Late Late Show have reflected on their relationships with the broadcasting icon, and recalled the advice he dispensed to them throughout their career.

Current Late Late host Ryan Tubridy said he hoped the widespread coverage of Mr Byrne’s impact on Irish society will be of comfort to his family, and described his predecessor as “a legend and an icon who was such a critical part of the country's story in the 20th and early 21st century”.

Mr Tubridy told RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime of how he was "terrified" telephoning Mr Byrne’s home to ask him for advice after he landed the job as the host of the Rose of Tralee.

“We went to a pub on Leeson Street. I had the pint and he had the Jamie. And he did something which I never forget, which was, as I've always described it since, being like the apprentice meeting the sorcerer, and him taking tricks out of the bag saying, ‘You need to know this’.

“He told me a lot about the machinations of RTÉ which is how to an extent I've survived so long because he gave me a few tips I will only tell you when I'm older, but they were bloody good tips I can tell you,” he said.

Mr Tubridy said he recently met Mr Byrne for tea at a hotel near his home.

Despite being warned in advance that Mr Byrne’s ailing health meant he would tire after 45 minutes, they stayed talking an extra hour.

“Right to the end he wasn’t for messing, he was compos mentis, he was lucid, he was interested and that most important faculty for somebody in this business, he was curious,” Mr Tubridy said.

Pat Kenny, who took over from Mr Byrne as Late Late Show host in 1999, said he visited him a day before he died “when it was quite apparent that there weren't too many days or hours left”.

“But a few weeks ago myself and Harry Crosbie had lunch with him. He was in great form, and had his usual whiskey and enjoyed lunch, a great appetite.

"So I had hoped that he would overcome the current bout of illness, but alas, it wasn't to be,” Mr Kenny told the same programme.

He also discussed the “friendly rivalry” for guests and ratings between his Saturday Kenny Live programme and Mr Byrne’s Late Late Show on Friday.

“In the press there was huge rivalry, and the truth was that if someone was going to be free on a Saturday, I got them. If someone was going to be free on a Friday, Gay got them.

"The rivalry was there, we each wanted to be number one on any week in question.

"Gay won more of those battles that I did, but it was a friendly rivalry, we never talked about ratings when we met in the canteen.

"It just never arose, we might talk about guests who appeared, ‘what did you think of so and so, he was great or he didn't deliver, she didn't deliver’, whatever it was.

“Gay's advice to me was, if you're not getting in trouble, you're not doing your job right and the trouble he was talking about was not necessarily the political trouble with Dáil Eireann, although that did happen from time to time, it was more if you're not pushing against the authorities, the establishment in RTÉ to do things that they would really prefer that you didn't do,” he said.

Mr Kenny said the message from the powers-that-be was that RTÉ did not want complaints or solicitors’ letters after the shows went out over the weekend.

“It'd be so much better if none of that happened on the Monday morning after you guys have finished your shows,” Mr Kenny said.

“So, we both fought, if you like, a common battle and often our conversations were about those things and not about the ratings battle that newspapers were so taken up by”.

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