The Late Late show is Ireland
's longest running chat show
, with Gay Byrne
only recently handing over the reins to Pat Kenny
after 37 years.
The show was huge in Ireland, with it's magical mix of music, interviews, controversy and cheap studio furniture. It raised Gay Byrne to iconic status in the country. His interview style and presentation technique were popular with both young and old, as were his guests, U2, Van Morrison and Sinead O'Connor to name but a few.
Gay's status as a media persona was bought about by his sheer presence. Many people found his interview style to be quite forward, in that he was not afraid to ask questions, yet if he did come to close to the bone he could easily masquerade it with one of his weasel-like gestures. He tackled many high profile issues at the time such as contraception, abortion, divorce and religion. Many people were afraid to address such taboo subjects, yet for all his meddling, he was still adored by the public at large, and still is today.
Every year around Christmas time was a very special night for kids across Ireland, as for one night only, the show would become The Late Late Toy Show. An entire friday dedicate to one thing only...TOYS!
This was an very exciting night for kids, as all the latest gear was rolled out and played with by Gay and his "helpers". I remember seeing a synthesizer that could sample your voice and play it back. Every kid in the country knew what he/she wanted from Santa Claus after watching the show. They had all the latest fad toys aswell, such as Lo Lo Balls and those skateboards with the "wings" on each side. Another cool thing on that show was that there was a section dedicated to childrens books, and they always reviewed them really well. They used to also have a section for toys that were made in Ireland. I always felt sorry for the person who was lucky enough to get this slot. In the background were all these cool gadgets and dolls, LED's flashing left right and centre, then Padraig the toymaker from Co.Clare would have to do his exhibition on his hand crafted Noah's Ark. Poor Gay would go through his dull toys with him as nicely as possible, all the time keeping one eye on the infantile chaos going on behind him.
Another feature of the show was the annual onslaught of the Billy Barry kids, a troupe of enthusiastic pint sized dancers with smiles carved into their faces, loved by old women, hated by kids.
Samantha Mumba, we hardly knew ye.
The Late Late Show is now hosted by Pat Kenny, the dullest man in Ireland, and has taken a nose-dive since Gay's retirement.
Gay dragged himself out of retirement and now hosts the Irish Version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?.