Liam Cunningham and The 2 Johnnies discuss 'mad journey' to fame with Tommy Tiernan

Fresh from the news that the current season of the show is to be extended by six weeks, among those who joined Tommy Tiernan for this weekend’s episode were Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham and 'craic merchants' The Two Johnnies.
Liam Cunningham and The 2 Johnnies discuss 'mad journey' to fame with Tommy Tiernan

Liam Cunningham: 'I get paid to do what kids do when they're five: play dress up'

What happens when a butcher and a hurley maker team up to make funny videos to share online? Comedy gold, as The 2 Johnnies learned.

After a year of seeing their videos go from strength to strength, butcher Johnny "Smacks" McMahon and hurley-maker Johnny B O’Brien from Tipperary gave up their day jobs to explore a career as, in their own words, “craic merchants” and they told The Tommy Tiernan Show on Saturday night they haven’t looked back.

“A year in, we went full time,” McMahon said. “On the day I qualified as a butcher, my diploma came and my boss said ‘here you go, frame that’, and I said ‘can you take two weeks’ notice?’" 

The career move came after they’d been invited to perform in New York and, after worrying they had been mixed up with comedy group Foil Arms and Hog, they toured a number of Irish bars in the US.

America wasn’t the only continent beckoning. “We went to Australia for six days. It was just me, Johnnie and our tour manager. It was incredible,” McMahon said of their whirlwind tour where they played standing-room-only venues.

“There’s not really too many downsides. Someone might say you’re a prick, but that’s not that bad,” McMahon said of their success, but the pair are still down to earth and tog-out every Wednesday evening for Cahir GAA, where they both play junior hurling. This year, they told Tiernan, they also took on managing roles with other teams.

“The Under-10s are a goldmine of entertainment,” O’Brien said of his charges.

Having found such success as adults, they said they feel more appreciative than if it had happened in their teenage years. 

The 2 Johnnies: 'We feel like we’ve won the Lotto'

The 2 Johnnies: 'We feel like we’ve won the Lotto'

“How do you go back to normality?” O’Brien said. The pair now hosts two podcasts and on their subscriber-only offering, they interview local characters, including McMahon's mam, the local gravedigger, and a member of the Tidy Towns.

“We feel like we’ve won the Lotto,” O’Brien said while McMahon added: “It’s a mad journey we’re on and we don’t know where it’s going to end but it’ll be some craic.” 

Earlier in the show, actor and Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham spoke about life in the public eye and told Tiernan he doesn’t mind being well-known but feels there is more of a strain on a famous person’s partner than on the person themselves.

“It’s very tough for partners of people whose job it is to be invited into other people’s houses with a remote control. It’s very hard. You must have the same problem,” he asked Tiernan, who remarked he enjoys being known in Ireland as “to be well known in Ireland to me is a blessing.” 

Cunningham agreed, adding: “that’s why I stay here.” He added he finds the Irish attitude towards the well-known to be refreshing and grounding, a stark contrast to the situations he has experienced with fans in countries such as Spain and Australia.

“There’s a healthy begrudgery here, isn’t there? I like it, walking down the street: ‘you think you’re bleedin’ great?’ I love that. You wouldn’t be let get ahead of yourself, I have a healthy respect for that, to be honest. There’s no falsehood with it, it’s nice,” Cunningham said.

He revealed he once used to work for the ESB but his boredom led to him experimenting with acting.

“I started acting as a distraction to take me away from a job that I was bored with and when I started doing it I fell in love with it unexpectedly."

Cunningham said he has a simple view of his acting career: “I get paid to do what kids do when they're five: play dress up.” 

However, he said he finds the high pay actors receive to be hard to justify when “I was a lot more useful when I had a box of tools.”

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