HIS cha cha charm offensive on Sunday night’s Dancing with the Stars brought the studio audience to their feet.
Comedian Fred Cooke has no problem hamming it up in front of the nation “because I’ve been doing that for 11 years anyway”. But he finds it difficult not t o compare himself to superfit contestant Peter Stringer, the former Ireland rugby player with whom he currently shares an apartment.
“He gets up just before me to go for a shower, so it’s an incredible sight to see him walk out of the bathroom with a towel around him. He’s incredibly fit — I don’t think he eats breakfast. It sends the message home,” says the 38-year-old.
His dance partner is Italian Giulia Dotta who is back for a third series. “She’s great fun. She’s the right amount of crack and discipline. She gets me to the stage where I can enjoy the dance and work on the dynamics. I am very lucky.”
He’s also counting his lucky dancing stars that her first name has the same pronunciation as his girlfriend’s: Julia Jay. “It’s convenient,” says the Co Meath man.
It’s one less thing to think about as he goes all out to learn the next dance routine.
Dancing with the Stars, RTÉ One, Sundays, 6.30pm
What shape are you in?
I was in really good shape before I took a break for Christmas. It is a thing of three steps forward, two steps back. But I’m still in good shape. I’d no problem getting back into it. We’re practising every day five times a week for four to five hours, depending on what’s needed. I’ve no professional training. I’m full of the passion but none of the technique.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
During my first week dancing with Gulia, I got a burger and chips. Afterwards, I tried to dance and it was just a waste of time — I’d meat sweats coming out of my head. Now I’m into salads and constantly drinking water, about two litres a day.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
A full-Irish at the weekend. I love Chinese food so much that when I ring up my local in Kells they know my order. They just say, ‘Yes, Fred we’ll have it for you’.
What would keep you awake at night?
The only thing that would keep me awake is if I went straight back to a hotel room after a gig. Without a big drive home after a performance, I would find it very hard to sleep.
How do you relax?
I’ve got the Headspace app which is brilliant. I’m paying for it as well. I’m four sessions in. The more you use it the less the guy talks. I was using it last week and the battery went on my phone — I didn’t realise it so I must have been sitting in silence for 20 minutes. I wasn’t able to do that this time last year.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Donncha O’Callaghan — he’s naturally funny. I’d love to have Michael Jackson if he was still alive. Comedian John Colleary from Sligo — he’s a very intelligent, hilarious man. I would love to have Mary Robinson as well — but then I’d be afraid to have meat at the dinner table. And Richard Pryor — he’s sheer perfection.
What’s your favourite smell?
I love the smell of cold cement in the morning — I think I associate it with going to school. And I like the smell of Chinese food.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
My weight has been an issue since I’ve been 31-32. My metabolism seemed to change quite a lot around that time. However, at the same time, I’m still reasonably healthy. I have to be careful because there would be quite a lot of heart disease in my family.
When is the last time you cried?
After the Manchester Arena bombing. An eight-year-old girl was killed and I felt so sorry for her because she was a big Ariana Grande fan. And when I was eight, I went to see Michael Jackson live in Cork. I was so obsessed with it I couldn’t concentrate at school.
What traits do you least like in others?
People on their phones when they are socialising. They are basically saying I am more interested in my phone than you. Also, I just can’t stand bullying.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
I have a very bad attention span. I’m naturally very lazy. it takes me ages to get the simplest job done.
Do you pray?
I do. I light candles. I say prayers every night.
What would cheer up your day?
Unexpected chaotic laughter. It reminds me of my secondary school days.