The Kieran Shannon interview: Conor Moore is all about making a good impression

A week after his Masters video caught the ear of Sergio Garcia, Mullingar impressionist Conor Moore has gone global; with everyone from the BBC to NBC’s Golf Channel interested in his talents. But a dyed-in-the-wool GAA man, and lively corner-forward, is not about to neglect the unholy trinity of Davy, Brolly, and Ger

Conor Moore, in Joe Brolly mode.

If you thought the Masters didn’t go well for the Irish, think again.

As a certain sketch alluded to, Pádraig Harrington didn’t even make it to Augusta, probably more so for “not playing great golf” than any alleged fluctuation in his cholesterol levels. Shane Lowry likewise was left to watch forlornly on from the margins over a pint or two of stout. And though Rory McIlroy did make it down Magnolia Lane and even the final day’s final pairing, an underwhelming fourth round meant that green jacket is still “the one major I don’t have”.

For the creator of that sketch though, the 2018 Masters has been nearly as much of a breakthrough as for Patrick Reed.

With two minutes of comedy gold, a 29-year-old from Mullingar called Conor Moore didn’t just go viral but global. On the eve of the tournament Sergio Garcia endorsed and retweeted it to almost a million followers. Soon a handful of major American TV networks were playing it — NBC, ABC, CNN, ESPN Sports Center. Even if the reference to Harrington’s interest in his cholesterol was lost on them, they loved it.

“It was surreal,” says Moore. “Relations of mine were texting me on Facebook, ‘We’re just after seeing you come up on the TV’ and sending me videos of these anchors calling me ‘actor Conor More’.”

His 15 minutes of fame didn’t end there. It’s going to last and spread a lot longer than that. He’s in talks with NBC’s Golf Channel and Fox about doing some work for them. He’ll be in Florida next month, then Shinnecock Hills outside his beloved New York for the US Open in June. The European Tour want him around for the Ryder Cup.

His schedule was hectic as it was. The BBC want him to do some work for the World Cup. RTÉ have him down to produce, write, and perform a weekly five-minute Conor Sketches radio slot on Saturday Sport for the duration of the championship. And while he’s handed his notice in to Joe.ie to go out on his own, he’ll still do some work for the organisation he appreciatively credits with giving him his initial big break.

He’d been aware for a while of golf’s huge possibilities. A little over 18 months ago when he was starting out at this crack, he had the idea of doing something around the Ryder Cup “because no one had ever done the golf before”. But then he had a lost weekend in a bar in New Amsterdam and the video never got done, nobody else to blame except his sweet self.

This year he was ready. He’d been working on material since January. “I knew putting it out the week of Augusta was the time to do it, just to get the views.”

He had a sense that his sketch could take off like a Woods’ drive torpedoing over a fairway. He just had no idea it would land right by the pin.

Like all the best rounds, he got a few fortuitous breaks. Niall Horan from One Direction is a friend of the family and renowned for how accommodating he is to anyone from Mullingar. A few years ago, Horan invited him and a group of mates backstage to a gig out in Jones Beach. Come the Masters, Horan again extended his generosity, his retweet generating almost as much traffic as Garcia’s.

Like all the best rounds though, Moore’s success was primarily down to his own skill and graft. It wasn’t just Augusta’s conditions that were, as Tiger tends to say, “really, really tough”. Nailing Tiger’s voice and mannerisms was as well. Moore splits his time between living in Rathmines and coming home every Friday to train and play with Mullingar Shamrocks and one weekend he only left the room for football, trying to master Woods.

“The mother was thinking I was going mad in there, listening and listening to Tiger, from eight in the morning ‘til four at night. Some of them are easy to get. Tiger was very hard. A lot of it is his mouth. His lower jaw barely moves. So I had to keep my jaw nearly static.

“The voice actually isn’t that important. Sometimes these lads will send you stuff and say ‘What do you think of that?’ but you’ve to remind them it’s more than the voice. It’s the content, the mannerisms.”

It’s on such basics and nuances that Conor Sketches scores so high. Butch Harmon and the way he might look at you, the way his latex-headed Ger Loughnane positions his head as if he has no neck. Above all, it’s the script, stupid.

The golf sketch began with Sergio Garcia and referenced his strained rivalry with Mr Woods. And yet that line very nearly didn’t make it. Close to the final edit, Moore was mulling over whether or not to keep it in, conscious that Woods or Garcia might see it and be offended which could hamper any prospects of getting work in their domain. Then Moore checked himself and remembered a bit of advice he got starting out in this game.

The week he started with Joe.ie he called up a number of celebrities that he’d be taking off, wondering if they’d agree to him interviewing them. All but one turned him down. Joe Brolly was happy to be interviewed by Joe Brolly.

“I remember he said to me that day, ‘Make sure you look like you’re enjoying what you’re doing because people will buy into that. Don’t take yourself too seriously. And don’t be trying to make friends. If something’s funny, do it.’ So the other week when I was having doubts over the Sergio-Tiger thing, I went, ‘Naw. Remember what Brolly said.’ And sure then the first person who retweeted it was Sergio.”

Other confidantes offered some great advice. In Moore’s game, there is a small but increasing number of players, all of whom he considers more as colleagues than competition: Al Faron, the numero uno Conor McGregor impressionist, whose gig in Vicar Street he’ll attend tonight; the excellent Aidan Tierney of Tierney Talks; and another performer in the GAA comedy scene, Rory O’Connor of Rory’s Stories.

“We’d be all chatting back and forth the whole time,” says Moore. “So when I was doing Tiger, I actually sent a clip on to Rory. And he was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about a seven [out of 10]. It’s alright.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I still need to work on it.’

“Then he said, ‘Are you doing Bubba [Watson], man? And I said, ‘No. I’m after picking up eight new impressions. It’s too late in the day for another one.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, but sure just have him crying!’ And so I did!

“It was a bit like doing Gooch. I don’t open my mouth doing Gooch. Maybe I’ll never talk with Bubba. I’m going to try to learn him, and Phil Mickelson too, but maybe I’ll have Bubba crying all the time.”

A MULLINGAR MELEE

As big and flamboyant and even domineering as many of his characters are, Moore himself is strikingly and surprisingly slight, bordering on shy, upon first meeting in person.

He’s just about 5’6, like Brolly a corner-forward who bemoans how physical and defensive football has increasingly become. Over the hour he is terrifically sharp-witted and engaging company as expected but the lasting impression is of how quietly spoken, unassuming and unfailingly polite he is. He’s still Conor from the block who this time two years ago was selling phones for 3 for a living.

“I bounced around a lot of jobs. I worked in finance but it bored the hell out of me. I was very much of the view that if I didn’t like a job, I’d just leave it and I’d eventually find something I like.”

The unlikely turning point was a first round game of the 2016 Westmeath senior championship. Moore’s family are steeped in the GAA. He has the distinction of having two brothers play in the Connacht Championship: Dean for London, Darren for New York. Their uncle John would have set up the Westmeath Supporters Club in the ‘90s, while another uncle Ned now manages the Shamrocks. Two years ago, an injured Conor was on the line alongside Ned until a row broke out near the end of this first-round game. They didn’t remain on the sideline then.

“My cousin must have been surrounded by five or six of the opposition so I jumped in to help him and Ned did as well, so there were three Moores involved in this ruckus. The following Tuesday the local paper was out and my mother sent me a picture with me in the middle of it.

“It was actually a harmless ol’ scrap, just handbags, but I did a sketch on it then with my phone, Brolly and Mourinho condemning ‘Those Moores, they’re not men at all! Total disgrace!’ I sent it into the WhatsApp group and all the lads in the club were texting, ‘You’ve got to put that online.’ But I knew if I put it online it wouldn’t go anywhere. It was just a match in Mullingar. But the following morning I was eating my Weetabix and I just took the phone out.”

That one he put online was immediately picked up by Joe.ie. They invited him up to Dublin for a week, mentioning something about a possible job, but when he arrived up there, they all soon realised he had little in his armoury. Moore could easily have interpreted their message as stick to the day job. Instead he packed the day job in.

“I learned a lot that week. I used to think, ‘You either have it or you don’t’ but what I realised then was actually, it’s a learned skill. The same way with the golf video I couldn’t do Tiger a month ago, I can do him now. So when I came back from Joe that time, I was like, ‘I’m going to go for this.’ I genuinely never doubted myself. I just thought, ‘No, I’ll get better at this. I’ll show them!’”

The following week he’d quit the job selling phones and was out shooting videos down the side of an alley with his clubmate Paul Christie. “I remember a lady in our estate looking over at me with my top off out the back, going around as Roy Keane swinging a hurley.”

That summer he raised enough money to buy himself a green screen, a microphone, a decent camera and same props. In September he shot a video with an an array of characters giving their take on the upcoming Dublin-Mayo All Ireland final. And with that Joe.ie offered him his old new job again.

BROLLY, DAVY AND GER

In this game you need a range of characters but a handful of core ones. Although he’d later go on to master Klopp, Neville, and Pep for an English audience, his holy trinity remains the homegrown trio of Brolly, Fitzgerald, and Loughnane.

So how was Loughnane about it?

“I rang him one day to say, ‘Jesus, look, I hope you don’t mind me taking the piss out of you?’ And his exact words were, ‘Listen, if a fella is getting annoyed over something like that, he deserves to get the piss taken out of him!”

Why did you check in with Loughnane?

“I was trying to get him to do an interview, but he was like, ‘No, you’re making a big enough eejit of me already!’”

Where did the idea of Loughnane the partyman originate?

“Well, myself and brothers would always have loved Loughnane because he’d just shoot from the hip and could say anything. He said something on The Sunday Game one night and we were just in stitches laughing. So a couple of weeks later I sent a video to my brother of me doing Loughnane and asked ‘Well, what do you think?’ And he said, ‘Ah, it’s only alright. It’s a bit Pat Shortt-ie. ‘That’s right!’ He needs to be… different.’

“So I suppose the idea came from thinking, ‘Gee, I’d say Loughnane would be a great man to have a beer with. God, what would he be like to go on the beer with?’ Now, obviously, he’s a family man, happily married and all that, but we just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if he was this playboy, up to all kinds of wild shit?’”

And then you had him teaming up with Davy…

“Yeah, it’s a bit like Del Boy and Rodney [from Only Fools and Horses]. Loughnane is the cute hoor, Davy’s the guy he’s bringing along.”

So how’s Davy with you?

“Well, there was a night there last September in Naas for Adam Burke, a brilliant footballer, just 20 years of age, who is recovering from a stroke. It was an amazing night, half of Leinster was there. They asked me to come along because Brolly and Davy were going to be there and everyone would get to see me taking the piss out of them in front of them.

With Brolly, the more I take the piss out of him, the more he loves it. With Davy, Marty [Morrissey, the night’s MC] asked him at the end, ‘Well, what do you think?’ And Davy kind of looked at me, then said, ‘Listen, if people are laughing, sure, fire on!’

“Honest to God, I don’t think anyone has ever [objected]. I’ve never heard anything back. But I’d be quite conscious never to make it overly-personal. I did slag a player off once about how they looked and I deleted it the following day. Now, it was going down well but I deleted it. There was no real comedy in it, it was too obvious, it was [a] cheap [shot].”

Is there someone you’ve been trying to crack and you’ve yet to get him?

“There’s only one fella. Now, I haven’t worked too hard on him but I stopped because I’d just lose faith in myself doing him… Marty Morrissey! I don’t know what it is about him.”

But do you need to go there with Marty? The two other boys [Mario Rosenstock and Oliver Callan] have him well covered?

“Well, Mario doesn’t do him well at all! He just does, ‘How you doin’?!’ Oliver does a good Marty. It’s quite accurate. But yeah, I can’t do Marty! He’s the only one!”

Mention of those two, there’s quite a tradition of this in Ireland, going back to Dermot Morgan. Apres Match, then the two boys…

“I grew up listening to Mario and Oliver. Mario is brilliant at what he does. As he says himself, he’s not an impersonator, he’s an impressionist. Like his Roy Keane, if you put it beside Roy Keane, he doesn’t really sound like him, but it’s hilarious. He’s not trying to sound like him. He’s trying to get something funny out with it and he runs with it. And he’s genius at that.

“I always enjoyed Oliver as well. Now that I do it, I probably listen and watch them a lot less because I don’t want to be overly-influenced by them.”

Where did you get the Loughnane-Pep head?

“I literally googled ‘bald head’. I was buying props the second week I started doing this. And this cap, it looked class on this fella online. So I thought ‘Great, and it’s only a fiver.’ Came to the house. Put it on my head, some swimming hat or some latex or some shite. I thought, ‘That’s some crap.’ But then I thought Apres Match. ‘No, it can be funny, because it’s that shite.’

“I was over in England one day and they said, ‘We want you to get real props when you’re doing Pep [Guardiola] and start painting and making it look real.’ And I was totally against that. Because it’s parody, it’s satire, it’s supposed to be a piss-take. We don’t have to look brilliant. As long as it’s funny. Often the more stupid it is, the funnier it is. I’d say of them all, Apres Match have had the most influence on me. Because they bring the props, they act, they write a script. They incorporate everything. They do everything.”

Conor Moore of Conor Sketches speaking on stage with Colm O’Connor, Irish Examiner, during the Irish Examiner Breakfast of Champions in the Clayton Hotel Cork City. Picture: Denis Minihane

Afew weeks ago, he was playing for the Shamrocks against his childhood hero, Dessie Dolan, down in Garrycastle. The pitch was soggy but Dolan’s class was permanent.“Like Andre Pirlo gracing the pitch,” says Moore. The following day a picture emerged on Twitter with a struggling Moore grabbing Dolan’s jersey, and the accompanying caption: ‘I see Conor Moore trying to do an impression of a footballer last night! Useless!’

Does he get grief like that on the field much, though?

Nothing, he says. Just the odd corner-back coming up before the throw-in and impersonating Davy Fitzgerald as ways of an introduction, “Well, Ger!”

“Anytime you meet anyone, they’re dead sound. No one has ever come up and said, ‘You’re a bollix.’ People say Ireland’s a nation of begrudgers but I certainly haven’t come across that. Everyone just likes a laugh.”

Or at least he’s making everyone laugh.



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