On radio at 6am is a funny place for PJ Gallagher to be

The comedian is revelling in co-hosting 4FM’s Classic Hits breakfast show, says Richard Fitzpatrick

On radio at 6am is a funny place for PJ Gallagher to be

PJ Gallagher is loving his new radio show. The comedian began anchoring Classic Hits 4FM’s breakfast show, alongside Damian Farrelly, in November. Even the 6am start doesn’t bother him.

“I get to finish work now before everyone is taking their lunch. You’re up before the weather is up to catch you. It’s a job I thought I would have loved for years and years and I never thought the chance would come around. I’m always running in and out of radio stations. I love being in them, so when they offered me a job … I’d hate to say it to them now, but they could have offered me ten grand a year and I would have gone, ‘Yeah’!”

The 4FM producers liked what they heard when Gallagher and Farrelly, who is a former 2FM DJ, covered for Radio Nova’s breakfast crew one week. So, the pair were given a run on the morning slot.

But Gallagher was thrown in at the deep-end one day when Farrelly lost his voice.

“I turned up in the morning,” says Gallagher, “and said, ‘How are ya, Damian?’ And he didn’t answer me. He whispered, ‘I can’t speak. I can’t go on. You’re on your own, kid.’ I’ve never panicked so much. It was like one of those movies where they go: ‘We’re gonna need you to fly the plane.’ ‘Well, I’ve only ever done one flight.’ ‘Too late for that, kid. There’s lives at stake.’

“Four days into the job! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was six o’clock in the morning, and I was going, ‘I’ve got four hours of this!’ But there was no getting out of it. It’s funny, we had one of the callers ring in last week for the Hit Bit competition, and he goes, ‘Howya lads, you’re doing great. PJ, I thought you were going to die the first week, but you’re holding yourself together now’!”

Gallagher has been tackling his fears lately. He suffers from stage fright. As part of RTÉ’s Reality Bites television documentary series, a camera crew followed him backstage — and to a hypnotist, a neuro-linguistic programmer, and a Dutch professor, who is an expert in stage fright — to see if they could cure his condition.

When the documentary’s cameras started rolling, it was also Gallagher’s first time back on stage in two years.

“Initially,” he says, “I was like ‘cameras backstage are the last things I need, but maybe if it works it will pay off, as it’s been a real pain in the ass for almost two decades’. “Thankfully, it did make a difference. There was no huge revelation or life-changing experience — and I’m not sure which helped the most — but it did help.

“The routine I was in beforehand was causing all the trouble. Now, if I don’t have a routine, if I go about business as normal, the nerves don’t get there. I used to have a whole routine of re-enforcing how nervous I should be.

“I got to the stage where I thought if I wasn’t nervous the gig would be a disaster. I just learnt to chill out and not worry about it. Now, I can turn up to the gigs and enjoy them a lot more.”

Not everyone enjoys standing on stage to make people laugh.

Gallagher remembers seeing a show at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival, and the laughs weren’t happening for an American comedian.

“He was having a tough one, to say the least,” says Gallagher. “The gig had turned into a staring match. This woman from the audience goes, ‘You’re wanted outside.’ He goes, ‘Who wants me outside?’ She goes: ‘Everybody inside’.”

PJ Gallagher’s nationwide tour, Concussion, runs until April, 2015, and includes a gig at Cork’s Everyman Theatre, 8pm, Saturday, February 14. www.pjgallagher.com.

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