|The Late Late Show|
|Also known as||The Late Late, LLS|
|Directed by||Niamh White|
|Theme music composer||Chris Andrews, arranged by Brian Byrne|
|Opening theme||To Whom It Concerns (instrumental section) (1970s–1999, 2009–present)|
|Ending theme||The Late Late Show by Nat King Cole (until 1999)|
|Country of origin||Ireland|
|Original language(s)||English, Irish|
|No. of seasons||50+|
|Production location(s)||Studio 4 |
RTÉ Television Centre
Donnybrook, Dublin 4
|Running time||110–120 minutes|
|Original network||RTÉ One|
|Original release||6 July 1962 –|
The Late Late Show, with its title often shortened to The Late Late, is an Irish chat show. It is the world's second longest-running late-night talk show, after the American The Tonight Show. Perceived as the official flagship television programme of Ireland's public service broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), it is regarded as an Irish television institution (even abroad) and is broadcast live across two hours plus in front of a studio audience on Friday nights between September and May at 21.30.
Having maintained the same name and format continuously, The Late Late Show was first broadcast on Friday, 6 July 1962 at 23.20 and in colour from 1976. Originating as temporary summer filler for a niche Saturday night audience (airing at 23.30), it later moved to its current home on Friday night schedules. The format has remained largely the same throughout—dialogue, comic sketches, musical performances, discourse on topical issues. It has influenced attitudes of the populace towards approval or disapproval of its chosen topics, directed social change and helped shape Irish societal norms. It averages 650,000 viewers per episode and has consistently achieved RTÉ's highest ratings.
For much of its early life, RTÉ Television Centre's Studio 1 in Donnybrook, Dublin was its home; this original studio accommodated a small audience of about 120. In 1995, The Late Late Show transferred to the more spacious Studio 4, adapted specifically to cater for this and Kenny Live. Three external broadcasts have aired, most recently from the Wexford Opera House on 5 September 2008.
Original host Gay Byrne presented the show until 21 May 1999. Pat Kenny was Byrne's successor hosting the show for 10 years between 1999-2009. Ryan Tubridy is the current presenter, having succeeded Kenny in September 2009. Under Tubridy, first Quinn Group and then Sky Broadband added sponsorship deals. Tubridy's arrival coincided with a marked increase in audience ratings with some early statistics comparing him to the Byrne era. Kenny was to make an unexpected return as host on 1 February 2013, announced RTÉ on 30 January.
The first episode aired on Friday 6 July 1962 at 23:20[clarification needed]. Gay Byrne was the first presenter. He was then a young Irish broadcaster working with Granada Television in Britain; while there he had become the first person to introduce The Beatles on television on People and Places.
Originally intended as light summer "filler", The Late Late Show soon developed into a forum for contentious opinion and debate, involving topics such as divorce, contraception and a number of areas hitherto unspoken. Much of the populace, especially in the south and west of Ireland, had no previous experience of television, and many were unprepared for The Late Late Show bringing such discussion into their homes (large swathes of Ireland were rural and devoutly Roman Catholic). Indeed, the politician Oliver J. Flanagan, whilst guesting on the show, proclaimed there to have been "no sex in Ireland until Teilifís Éireann went on the air", reflecting this greater indiscretion. Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, was confronted by a guest in the show's first series—a sensational and unprecedented event. Many more such events would follow, each contributing to the folklore and mythical qualities of The Late Late Show.
Two common formats were used: the first—a series of interviews of celebrity guests, most of whom could be defined as Irish or British and involved in the entertainment industry;the second—a defined topic involving live discussion from a panel and studio audience. The latter tended to be far the weightier in content, as people who were directly connected with the defined topic sat in the audience.
Byrne would remain host for thirty-seven years, retiring in 1999. He came out of retirement to present such programmes as The Meaning of Life and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?; as of September 2009, Byrne's thirty-seven years remains the longest period through which any individual has hosted a televised talk show. In the late 1960s, with the launch of BBC 2, Byrne moved back to the United Kingdom, where his career had started. Frank Hall presented The Late Late Show in Byrne's absence. However, after one year, Byrne returned to RTÉ to present his old show, supplemented by his own radio show.
Few of the 1960s editions of The Late Late Show exist, as it was prohibitively expensive to use tape to record at this time.
A minor furore erupted in 1966 when the Bishop of Clonfert condemned The Late Late Show as immoral and Gay Byrne as a promoter of "filth". The condemnation stemmed from a small item on the show in which Byrne was interviewing a number of couples to see how well they knew each other. Byrne asked a Mrs. Fox from Terenure if she could remember what colour her nightdress was on the first night of her married life to her Mr. Fox. The woman first implied it was "transparent" before saying that she might not have worn an item of clothing to bed that night at all. This response was received with laughter by Byrne and the studio audience, with Mrs. Fox then revealing her nightdress had been white. However, the Bishop either misheard or ignored this, feeling the need to protest against this "filthy" programme and the "filth" which was being televised into the nation's homes.
The Bishop of Clonfert sent a telegram: "Disgusted with disgraceful performance", prompting a swift RTÉ apology which the Irish Examiner states was similar to the apology the same broadcaster issued during the Brian Cowen nude portraits controversy in 2009. Meath VEC said it was "anti-national", whilst Loughrea Town Council described it as "a dirty programme that should be abolished altogether". The furore died down after a number of weeks, but is still remembered. When the topic featured on the 2008 documentary How The Irish Have Sex broadcast by rival channel TV3, the Irish Independent's Damian Corless said Éamon de Valera "won't be turning on, but will instead be turning in his grave".
On a March 1966 episode of The Late Late Show a debate was held on the Roman Catholic Church. Brian Trevaskis, a young student and President of The Phil Society of Trinity College, making his first television appearance, criticised the Bishop of Galway, Michael Browne for spending so much on a cathedral instead of helping the poor. Trevaskis described the building as a "monstrosity" and referred to the Bishop as a "moron". He was invited back on the show the following week, 6 April 1966, to expand on his opinions. The student referred to the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising, a pivotal moment in Irish history, when he expressed his concern over the devotion of money to building churches in a society where women who were impregnated outside marriage were considered outcasts and as such were vulnerable members of society. Trevaskis claimed Ireland was not a Christian country and told of how, when asked if the bishop knew the meaning of the word "moron", he replied using his uncertainty as to whether the bishop knew the meaning of the word "Christian".
In 1992, Bishop Eamonn Casey resigned when it was revealed that he had broken his vow of celibacy having fathered a child with a young American divorcee named Annie Murphy in 1973 during his tenure as Bishop of Kerry. In April 1993, Murphy appeared on The Late Late Show to speak about the affair and their child, Peter. Casey had supported their son financially, but had requested that this be kept quiet to protect his career. At the end of the interview Byrne said if the baby was "half the man his father was" he would be fine and Annie Murphy replied that the boy's mother (meaning herself) was "not so bad either", drawing applause from the studio audience. Casey spent most of his time following the scandal outside Ireland, in an effort to avoid media attention but eventually returned in 2006. He had previously himself been a guest on the show on several occasions – possibly influencing Byrne's apparent scepticism of Murphy's motives and claims. More than twenty years later, the Irish Examiner named this one of its "Top 10 moments of Irish television".
In 1999, Pádraig Flynn, Ireland's EU Commissioner, appeared on the show, during which he commented on Tom Gilmartin and a donation of £50,000 to the Fianna Fáil party. Flynn also talked about "the difficulties" in his own life; he talked of having a salary of £100,000 (Irish Punt) and trying to run three houses, cars and housekeepers along with regular travel. The performance was seen as very out of touch, at a time when house prices in Ireland were rising dramatically, and the average industrial wage was £15,380. Flynn also made remarks concerning Tom Gilmartin, a Luton-based Irish developer and investor. In response to Byrne's question that Flynn knew Gilmartin, Flynn answered; "Oh yes, yes. I haven't seen him now for some years. I met him. He's a Sligo man who went to England, made a lot of money, came back, wanted to do a lot of business in Ireland, didn't work out for him, didn't work out for him. He's not well. His wife isn't well. He's out of sorts." Flynn seemed to attack the credibility of Gilmartin at a time when he was making allegations in the media of planning irregularities in Dublin. Gilmartin responded by publicising details of Flynn's failed attempts to meet with Gilmartin to get Gilmartin to change his evidence. This led to Flynn's career being effectively ended, because the government would not endorse him for reappointment to the European Commission after its mass-resignation that year. This "vanity platform" on The Late Late Show saw, as the Irish Examiner later referred to it, Flynn "managed to get both feet into his mouth and talk at the same time".
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The flexibility of the show was augmented by Byrne's position not merely as the show's presenter but also as its producer for much of his period with the show. He intentionally reminded the viewer that the show was being broadcast live through his interaction with people working behind the scenes. Cameras were visible, and if an audience member was invited to speak, the boom microphone could be seen swing in overhead. Some of Byrne's phrases became well known; when instructing that a piece of videotape be played, he invariably announced "you can roll it there, Colette", chat to the floor manager, inquiring as to what telephone line a caller was ringing in on, and on some shows would extend its running time by fifteen or thirty minutes, discussing the extra running time with the floor staff and production team as an "aside" during an interview. The effect of all these mannerisms was said to add to the sense of realism in the show—that, as the theme music at the end of the show stated: "It started on The Late Late Show." This was a clip of the Nat King Cole song "The Late Late Show", which appeared on his 1959 album Big Band Cole.
On 21 May 1999, Byrne presented his last edition of The Late Late Show. The show, beginning at 21.30, lasted four hours (twice as long as a normal edition of The Late Late Show at the time). Tributes flooded in from all quarters for the host. High-profile guests on this final show included author Salman Rushdie and comedian Billy Connolly.
The then Irish President Mary McAleese told Byrne:
|“||You're bearing up well, but people out there are crying tonight, they're very sad. You've entertained us, you've educated us, you've exasperated us. What more could anyone ask over 37 years?||”|
There were also glowing tributes for Byrne from then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, RTÉ broadcasters Des Cahill, Larry Gogan, Mike Murphy, Marian Finucane, American counterpart Merv Griffin, former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and various other celebrities.
There were musical performances on the night from The Corrs, Christy Moore, Sarah Brightman and Rosaleen Linehan. U2 members Bono and Larry Mullen presented Byrne with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as a retirement present. Byrne was spotted on the bike regularly, until January 2003 when Byrne and U2 jointly auctioned the bike for The Children's Medical & Research Foundation at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin.
When Byrne left, The Late Late Show dominated RTÉ's ratings viewership figures, coming in consistently either at number 1 or number 2.a Some columnists writing in the Sunday Independent and The Irish Times called for the show be dropped as its success was linked too intricately with Byrne to work with anyone else. RTÉ, however, retained the show justifying the decision as it being a powerful brand that attracted extensive advertising revenue. Contemporary media reports speculated that Patrick Kielty, Marion Finucane, Gerry Ryan and Gerry Kelly would take over. However, RTÉ gave the show to Pat Kenny, who for nearly a decade had presented his own Kenny Live show in the Saturday night time slot. Even after seven years at the helm of that show Kenny was often criticised in the media for presentation style.
Kenny and his staff changed many aspects of The Late Late Show. Its distinctive title musicb was changed, as was the set design and studio layout. Guests, instead of remaining on, were involved only in that part of the show when the focus was them. A new set abandoned the traditional presenter's desk. Unlike Byrne, Kenny ensured his guests were announced in advance. Other than the title, the use of an owl as the show's symbol and the traditional edition marketing toys to children and their parents,c little of the original remained the same. Byrne's two catch-phrases, "It started on The Late Late Show", and "one for everyone in the audience"d were dropped. The latter of these phrases has since been revived under Kenny's successor, but was not much in use when Kenny was at the helm.
As the 24 November 2006 edition of the show was getting underway, an intruder in a brown jacket — named as Paul Stokes from Monkstown, County Dublin — emerged from the fourth wall to confront a visibly startled Pat Kenny, who was engaged in essential preparations for the interviewing of three guests — named as You're a Star judges Thomas Black, Linda Martin, and Brendan O'Connor. The man approached Kenny. His back to the cameras, the man crouched down to bring himself closer to Kenny and said: "Howye Pat! You're a censor! How dare you! Gay Byrne and you are ... [grunt] ... you're insufferable arseholes. You arsehole, you piece of shit, you piece of shit," live and uncensored as guests and audience watched on bemused. Kenny, at a loss for what to do, repeatedly uttered "thank you, thank you". Viewers were treated to a premature commercial break while RTÉ had the man cornered, snared, removed from the set and led from the building. When the show returned to television screens, Kenny announced to viewers, "Sorry for that rude interruption" and began his interview. The man was arrested but later released.
Today FM presenter Jenny Kelly famously went into labour whilst laughing as the incident unfolded on her television screen. Her initial intention had been, she said, to sit down for an evening of Kenny and to "bore the baby into arriving".
It was later revealed that the intruder's daughter was a member of The Late Late Show crew. Shortly after the initial incident, the man rammed his vehicle into the front entrance of RTÉ's Donnybrook facility; no-one was injured. He was also reported to have stood outside Kenny's house shouting insults and to have painted threatening messages on walls near the house, although a charge of harassment connected with the case was dropped. The man was later sentenced to two years in prison for ramming the RTÉ entrance.
RTÉ launched the last revamp while Kenny was host on Friday 7 September 2007 — involving a new set but retaining the title sequence in use since 2003. Designed by Darragh Treacy of RTÉ Production Design, that set consisted of metal, timber and polycarbonate, with carpet as a floor covering; it made for a more complex and layered background than the previous arrangement, and was heavily dependent on saturated lighting and modern construction materials. According to Treacy: "I wanted something contemporary that would be architectural and structural, [for example] the horizontal lines and boxes that you see running throughout the set. [...] The back wall of the [chat area] has textured panels which just take the light beautifully and give a great three-dimensional effect. Then the polycarbonate boxes sit in front of that. The fins – the large timber sections – to the left of the chat area are replicated in the entertainment area as well, and are large pieces of timber with a paint finish that take the light."
A desk also reappeared, as initially continued after Byrne's departure but disposed of shortly afterwards despite a final-attempt redesign in 2000. Kenny noted: "After eight seasons of sitting around, lounging around, as if in a living room, we decided just for a change that we'd put the desk in and see what difference it made. We'll work with it: I mean if it doesn't work after five or six weeks, it goes – if it does work, well we'll find ways of using it effectively. I mean it does put a little barrier between myself and the guest, but on the other hand it can be very useful for a formal interview where you don't want to be too intimate with your guest if it's a little bit antagonistic, whereas in the past I was always reclining and even if I had to be a bit aggressive with a guest the body language was a little bit confusing in that regard. So we'll see." In an apparent effort to resolve such problems, the new desk had more of a table design with a transparent underside, was angled to be narrower at the guest end, and was composed of thin elegant profiles of timber and glass.
A new entrance flight of steps was also introduced, somewhat redolent of former Kenny Live sets. Treacy again: "I wanted a grand entrance, but I also wanted an entrance that was part of the background of the set, so they arrive down and join Pat – and it's a feature walk-on for guests". Kenny approved of the steps: "As you come down the steps, be it myself or a guest, you're slowly revealed: more and more of your body is revealed to the audience until finally you're standing in the 'doorway' as it were. I think it'll be interesting; a more dramatic entrance than we've had for the past three or four years." Irish company Design Classics Direct provided new chairs, made to an original 1929 design by Eileen Gray.
On 27 March 2009, Kenny announced live on air without warning his intention to stand down.
On 29 May 2009, an average share of 55 per cent of the total TV audience tuned in to watch Kenny present his last edition of The Late Late Show as regular host (he returned for one night in 2013 when his successor was unavailable). An outdoor event was set up for the occasion on the RTÉ campus. At the end of the show, Joe Duffy presented Kenny with a cake in the shape of a "10", to mark his ten years of presenting. The Edge of U2 also gave Kenny glasses and a guitar.
After two months of speculation, Ryan Tubridy emerged as Kenny's successor. Original host Gay Byrne gave Tubridy his blessing: "He has all the qualities required, the light deft touch together with a serious mind. I think it's a great adventure that he's setting off on". Other personalities tipped for the role had included Gerry Ryan and Miriam O'Callaghan. O'Callaghan, whom some media commentators considered favourite for the job, claimed she had turned down an offer, so as to keep her Prime Time slot and spend time with her eight children.
Tubridy presented his first programme on 4 September 2009 with a custom picked staff, a new set and house band. He emerged from behind a red curtain and walked to a wooden desk, at which he sat in the same €3,000-plus Irish designed chair as the actress Meryl Streep in the film The Devil Wears Prada. Guests on this first show included Brian Cowen, Saoirse Ronan, Brian McFadden, Joan Collins, Cherie Blair, and Niall Quinn. With an overall audience share of 62 per cent, it was the most watched—outside the annual toy extravaganza—since Gay Byrne's retirement in May 1999. This promising start would not last, however; audience ratings had declined by Tubridy's sixth season. Another notable occurrence in Tubridy's first season was when the show aired on Good Friday for the first time in 15 years in 2010. Later the same month (April), the show's former hosts, Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny, alongside fellow RTÉ broadcasters Joe Duffy, Dave Fanning and Brenda Donohue, joined Tubridy to discuss the sudden death of one-time host and colleague Gerry Ryan on 30 April 2010.
Tubridy's second season as host began with a notable interview with former British prime minister Tony Blair. The live interview occurred the night before a book signing at Eason's which attracted international attention when Blair was pelted with shoes and eggs and successfully evaded an attempted citizen's arrest on charges of war crimes.
On 1 February 2013, Pat Kenny returned to host that night's edition when Tubridy's father died.
In 2015, Tubridy's tone and choice of questions when interviewing Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy in relation to the campaign against the implementation of a water tax was much criticised. Opponents of the water tax praised Murphy on social media for what was said to have been his restraint during the interview. Julien Mercille, the academic and writer of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland, observed that "Tubridy was pretty good from the standpoint of protecting government interests. [...] He asked all the right questions to try to discredit the water charges protests and Paul Murphy".
Tubridy hopes his time as host to be closer to Kenny's ten years than Byrne's thirty-seven stating that Kenny made the right tenure as host.
|Gay Byrne||6 July 1962||27||30 May 1964||29||Also simultaneously hosted Telefís Éireann's first gameshow called Jackpot|
|Frank Hall||19 September 1964||43||19 December 1964||43||Replacement host|
|Gay Byrne||2 January 1965||30||21 May 1999||64|
|Pat Kenny||10 September 1999||51||29 May 2009||61||Previously hosted Kenny Live|
|Ryan Tubridy||4 September 2009||36||Present||—||Previously hosted Tubridy Tonight|
There have been at least four occasions on which another presenter has hosted the show. The first was when Byrne became unexpectedly and seriously ill. Frequent panelist Ted Bonner presented instead. The second time was towards the end of a show about feminism, when Byrne ushered a young Marian Finucane into his seat to present the remainder of the show. On another occasion, radio broadcaster and former news reader Andy O'Mahony replaced Byrne for an interview with journalist Deirdre Purcell, who had ghostwritten Byrne's autobiography.
After Kenny's mother suddenly died in October 2008, Gerry Ryan was announced as guest presenter for that week's show with less than 48 hours' notice. Kenny announced his decision to quit live on air in March 2009. On 11 May that year, RTÉ announced Ryan Tubridy as Kenny successor. Kenny in turn replaced Tubridy on 1 February 2013 for one night only, due to the death of Tubridy's father.
Since the early 1970s, an annual Christmas edition entitled "The Late Late Toy Show" has been held in late November or early December, where various children's toys are showcased to the audience before the Christmas season.
Although not the original theme, the theme music most associated with the show is the instrumental introduction from Chris Andrews' 1965 single To Whom It Concerns, which was in use as early as 1971 and used until Byrne's final show. The version used on the show was proceeded with a distinctive drum roll, followed by a whistle which would then segue into To Whom It Concerns. This was always accompanied by the spoken introduction: "Ladies and gentlemen, to whom it concerns, it's "The Late Late Show", and here is your host, Gay Byrne". During the same era, a clip from The Late Late Show by Nat King Cole was used as the closing music. The Late Late Show was unusual during Byrne's era in that the show's production credits ran over the opening title sequence, and only a brief still of the show's logo was shown at the end.
During the Kenny era, To Whom It Concerns was replaced, although the new theme incorporated elements of the distinctive drum roll from the old theme. Three different arrangements were used during this era. The show's production credits were moved to the end at this point, and the closing theme has been the same as the opening since 1999.
A new set and title sequence was introduced for Ryan Tubridy's first show, with Chris Andrews's To Whom It Concerns returning as the theme music after a ten-year absence, albeit in a new arrangement performed by The Late Late Show Band and RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
Below is a list of artists whose first televised performance happened on The Late Late Show.
|Westlife||"Flying Without Wings"||13 November 1998|
|The Boomtown Rats||"Mary of the Fourth Form"||1977|
|Boyzonee||26 November 1993|
|Crystal Swing||"He Drinks Tequila"||12 March 2010|
|Sinéad O'Connor||"Mandinka"||26 February 1988|
|U2||"Stories for Boys"||January 1980|
|The Strypes||"I Saw Her Standing There"||2010 (Toy Show)|
|HomeTown||"Roar"||30 May 2014|
|Wonderland||"When the Stars Go Blue"||26 December 2008|
Therapy?, invited to perform in 1994, were anticipated to perform their cover version of the Joy Division composition "Isolation"; disheartened with their treatment however, they decided to perform their own composition "Knives" instead, without prior notice. The performance featured two instances of the expletive "fuck", a word normally expected to be omitted. The nation was affronted. Therapy? returned the following year to perform another of their compositions, this one titled "Stories".
In 1995, the English independent rock band Pop Will Eat Itself defaced the studio whilst in the midst of a performance. The group were invited back to Ireland by Byrne having performed in the country again.
Tammy Wynette and Ray Lynam duet on 22 March 1991 of "Til A Tear Becomes A Rose."
Prior to 2016, the Irish representative for the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen annually through a national song competition called Eurosong. From 2009-2015, the Eurosong final was held as a special edition of The Late Late Show. The five finalists perform their songs live on the show, with voting done as a 50-50 split between regional juries and a public televote. The show also includes celebrity interviews, guest performances, and a panel of Eurovision experts who discuss the performances with Tubridy.
In total, about 1.6 million tuned in at some stage of the programme, making it the most watched Late Late Show, outside the toy show, since Gay Byrne's retirement in May 1999.
As a way of circumventing the awkwardness of the regular host talking about himself, Andy was inveigled into interviewing Deirdre Purcell, who had helped Gay Byrne write his autobiography, The Time of My Life. Andy's opening question must have sent thousands scurrying for the back of the couch: 'Did you want to sleep with him?' Deirdre nearly followed her jaw as it hit the floor!
"I started singing in 1985," Mary says. [...] Coughlan leaped ahead of her contemporaries when she was invited to appear on The Late Late Show. After a memorable television debut she was ready to take on the world. "Shay Healy and Siobhan McHugh had done a show called Sounds Promising and I recorded three songs for that," she says. "When they were mixing it in the studio Gay Byrne heard my voice and a few days later booked me to appear on The Late Late Show. Back then it meant so much more than it does now because we only really had one channel in Ireland. [...] On the back of her slot on the show Mary's debut release, Tired and Emotional, shot to the top of Irish album charts. Within a few short years she was also enjoying success in Britain and across Europe.
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