Host’s bizarre antics steal the show at Rose festival

It’s a strange sight indeed when a competition in which 32 women bid to represent Ireland on the world stage is almost overtaken by the male host’s comic quips and wardrobe changes.

Host’s bizarre antics steal the show at Rose festival

However, when those all-too-deliberate clothing malfunctions involve Mardi Gras clown suits, miniature beds, a “kiss my cod” fisherman’s hat and a beard that has a life — never mind a budding fan base — of its own, it begins to make more sense.

Since taking up the mantle in 2010, Rose of Tralee host Dáithí Ó Sé has become a serial show stealer with his bizarre tongue-in-cheek antics that seem the perfect match for the festival.

And while the annual event’s detractors may be less than enamoured at his approach to live TV, this week’s broadcasts on Monday and Tuesday confirm the trend has continued again this year.

Speaking to Kathryn Thomas on RTÉ Radio’s The John Murray Show yesterday, the popular presenter admitted his antics — designed to put the Roses at ease — are what everyone wants to talk to him about.

And despite the critics, he joked that the love-in level means even his new beard — which was the subject of much discussion earlier in the week — could soon be getting its own Facebook and Twitter profile.

As the live TV side of this year’s competition began on Monday night, the Kerryman made his entrance driving in an antique car.

He then dressed up in a multi-coloured Mardi Gras clown suit as the New Orleans Rose unwittingly walked into a wedding proposal, took part in a Newfoundland welcome tradition where he had to dress as a fisherman and kiss a cod, and climbed into bed to be told a bedtime story.

The bizarre antics continued last night as the star performer pretended to be late for the show, was told his facial hair has become the talk of Twitter and to get rid of the beard because he looks “older than Gay”, and joked one Rose was a “cheapskate” for sneaking into events for free while a child under her father’s coat.

The moments are likely to add to his growing army of fans.

And while a section of the population appears to be less than pleased with some of the more eye-catching aspects of the showman’s act, Dáithí is keen to assure fans that it will all be the same again next year.

Renewed popularity

Despite its vocal army of critics, the Rose of Tralee’s at times baffling popularity is back on the rise — after the show recorded its highest first-night TV ratings in three years.

The first TV instalment for 2013 — which saw a successful (we think) on-air proposal, cod-kissing, and barrel-dancing — was watched by an average of 522,600 people, a 45% overall audience share broken down as 434,200 viewers during the 8pm-9pm slot and 611,100 from 9.30pm-11.30pm.

The figures are higher than 2012 and 2011, when the viewership was 470,000 (34% audience share) and 520,500 (36.5%) respectively.

In 2010, a total of 705,000 people tuned in for the first-night debut of host Dáithí Ó Sé, representing a 40.5% share of the TV market.

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