His morning radio slot ended earlier this year – but Bernard O’Shea has never been busier, starting with his debut book, writes.
Two years ago, Bernard O’Shea’s wife Lorna turned to him and said: “I’m married to a feckin eejit.” She had, to be fair, some just cause for expressing this opinion.
O’Shea has often been the cause of the mini-crises the couple and their three small children experience in family life.
There were the holidays from hell, the first trip to the supermarket with his daughter that ended in a meltdown. There was the time he tried to wash the lino floor tiles in the dishwasher, the mixed colours in the wash that ended disastrously.
There was even the time he bought Lorna a vacuum cleaner for Christmas.
He wouldn’t be the first Irish person to be described as a feckin eejit by their spouse, but in the playful put-down, O’Shea saw comedy potential.
“When she said it, I started laughing and said that would make a great website. And she went and registered a website, I am married to a fecking eejit dot com.”
On learning that his wife had started compiling a greatest hits list of his eejitry, he started to incorporate some of the stories into his stand-up comedy.
“About a year after I got married I came down with Useless Bollocks syndrome, which basically means you just become an eejit in the eyes of the partner that you had for years,” he explains.
Not taking out the bins any more, not getting up at night with the kids, not emptying the dishwasher, not wanting to go to any meetings. Just being a useless bollocks.
Now he’s set to share his wackiest family failures with the nation. My Wife Thinks I’m A Feckin Eejit came about following a meeting with agents interested in him writing a book.
He thought of his wife’s list and knew he had to put pen to paper. Other escapades go right back to his college days, such as the time he tried to dye his hair blond with domestic household bleach.
“There’s a story in every one of them. I started writing up the stories and some of my friends are in them.
“They’d come back and say: ‘That was actually worse than what you wrote down there.’ There’s one story where I tried to dye my own hair blonde when I was in college. When I wrote it I sent it to one of my friends as a laugh and he went: ‘It’s a lot worse than that. You were blinded for a full twelve, thirteen hours.’”
The decision to dye was taken the day after a girl he’d been kissing spurned him because of his red hair.
“I was 18, a virgin, from the country, on the verge of going home with an actual woman. And I vowed the next day I’m dying my hair.
“I went into a hairdresser, and they said: ‘I don’t want you doing something stupid like going home and buying a bottle of bleach’ and I thought: ‘That’s what I need to do.’
“I put it in my hair. I felt this burning, got under the shower and then found I had burnt my scalp, burnt skin on my face, burnt my back - but my hair remained red!”
Wife Lorna’s favourite memory of all is when Bernard made his first trip to the grocery store with their first-born child, Olivia.
“I was always very anxious about going anywhere with a child on my own, in particular a baby. I’m not great with babies, I’m better with toddlers because I think they understand me and I understand them.
“Olivia was all excited to be off the shops with Daddy. I put her in the trolley and she was loving it. She actually said: ‘Yahoo.’
“About two or three minutes in, an older man came over and asked us did we want a hand, was everything OK? Everything was fine. But then a staff member came down to us and said: ‘Are you all right. Need a hand with the trolley?’
“As I got near the till, I realised I’d faced her the wrong way in the trolley. I actually taught when I was going around they were really badly designed. Her legs were so far apart.
But she said to me: ‘This is so much fun, I can see everything.’ Try and put a three year old out of a good position. She screamed and screamed. Eventually I decided that I was going to become one of those parents that give her chocolate to stop her from crying.
Then there was the holiday from hell in Co Clare, where they stayed in a caravan but a storm hit and his wife developed food poisoning. He went to great effort lifting the huge container of waste from the toilet up a hill in the storm.
“I was covered in crap. I took a shower, in cold water at 3am in the morning. Later, my father-in-law rang me and said there were wheels on it. It took me an hour to drag it up a hill.”
Bernard and Lorna first met when she was attending a stand-up gig he was performing in Dublin’s International Bar.
A comedian friend told him he thought she liked him but he could not read the signs.
Later he got in touch with her through social media and they’ve been together since, marrying two and a half years after that night, and raising Olivia (5), and little brothers Tadhg and Sean.
His quick wit has made him the star of shows like The Republic of Telly and Bridget & Eamon, while a stint on last year’s Dancing With the Stars brought him to a wider audience.
It also introduced him to fellow entrant Marty Morrissey and their subsequent hit show Marty and Bernard’s Big Adventures. But initially, he says, he didn’t consider a career in comedy at all.
“I liked comedy but I had no real interest in doing it, I was always playing music. I played music with my dad since I was 12 and we would play three or four gigs a week. So by the time I got to college I was probably road hardened in terms of gigging.”
It was a college comedy night organised by his friend, for which he won a crate of Harp and fifty pounds, that got him interested.
The prize also offered the chance to support comics Joe Rooney and Patrick McDonnell at a local gig.
“That was my first ever gig, and afterwards the lads give me a number for the guy who runs the Ha’penny Bridge Inn. I went to do a gig there and then I met Des (Bishop) who ran the International Comedy Club.
“It was a great scene at the time. The beauty of comedy is that you don’t have to have any qualifications, you don’t need to know anybody. The hard side of it is whoever gets up on stage and is the best, wins.”
Earlier this year, a shake-up at 2FM led to the end of Breakfast Republic, the show he’d co-hosted with Keith Walsh and Jennifer Maguire.
It was a hit with listeners, but he’d struggled with the 5.30am starts in the final year.
I was exhausted. I’d done Dancing With The Stars, Bridget & Eamon, Bernard and Marty, a stand-up tour. I was writing the book. My third child was born, my dad passed away all within the space of four months.
“I was just exhausted. We’d gotten our five years. And I suppose maybe I was 40 and I was thinking: ‘I want to do other things now.’
“Radio is brilliant but I always say it’s like a planet that moves around you. It gives you sustenance and life and energy but it also is always around you.”
He’s found new opportunities, including a role in the theatre run of Little Miss Sunshine the Musical.
And just the day before we meet, it’s been announced he’s developing and will star in a new TV comedy with top Irish company ShinAwil.
Polar Opposites will tell the story of an Irish comedian and stunning former Miss Finland whose lives are transformed when their paths cross.
Much of the humour comes from his experiences of the Finns from touring stand-up there.
“They’re very like the Irish. They like to party and our sense of humour is the same, except things run on time. They never get into debt.
“I thought there was a nice dynamic there between Ireland and Finland. It’s going to be six or eight half hours, and it’s kind of like a Modern Family for Europe, set in Lapland, Helsinki and Clare.”