Arts

They still haven't gone away you know: Give My Head Peace Live

With Give My Head Peace Live back on the road next week, David Roy spoke to north Belfast man Tim McGarry AKA Da about satirising a year's worth of gaffes and howlers supplied by the north's malfunctioning political machine and a big weekend for his beloved Cliftonville FC

The Gang's all here (from l-r); Olivia Nash, Tim McGarry, Michael McDowell, Damon Quinn, Alexandra Ford, Paddy Jenkins, Marty Reid

HI TIM, are you and the rest of the Hole in The Wall Gang all ready for Give My Head Peace Live?

We will be by next week. At the moment we're still writing – we've thrown virtually everything at this one. Da of course is going to be very excited about the 1916 Easter Rising commemorations, while Uncle Andy (Marty Reid) is more excited about Northern Ireland going to the Euros.

He hasn't got tickets, so he's trying something very sneaky: he's trying to wrangle money out of a Somme commemoration fund to go over to France and try to see Northern Ireland beat Poland.

Will Da and Cal (Damon Quinn) also be trying to get over to see the Republic in action?

No – Da's got himself into a bit of trouble with Gerry for reading out some of the tweets from 'Gerry's Little Green Book' as they call it.

He's been put in charge of the 1916 commemoration in Belfast because nothing much happened up here, but it doesn't turn out according to plan.

Instead of massive fireworks which you can see from Ballymena, all he's come up with is two lads dressed as Padraig Pearse – it's a bit underwhelming.

We're also going to create a bonfire in the theatres especially for Jim Wilson, and Uncle Andy is going to serenade the new love of his life Arlene Foster – her heart will melt when she hears this song he's prepared for her, it's lovely.

How do you keep track of all the real life material that feeds into the writing of each year's show? Do you have to keep files on every stupid thing that happens in the north?

It's a wee bit like that, yeah: we'll be writing the plot and when we need a joke for a certain bit we'll go 'oh yeah, Asher's Bakery – that'll work' or 'oh yeah, Pastor McConnell, can't forget about him'.

Then you've got Gerry's Little Book of Tweets, Ruth Patterson saying that St Patrick was a Protestant and we'll get things like #boobysands handed to you right at the last minute as well.

There's never any shortage of inspiration – you just need to open a newspaper.

So it'll be the usual mix of broad slapstick comedy, a bit of satire and I'll be doing a bot of stand-up too.

Are you surprised by the continued success of the Live show nearly 10 years on from Give My Head Peace being cancelled by the BBC?

Occasionally you do think 'well, maybe we've had our time' and all that – but I have to say, we've a very loyal audience who keep coming year after year.

Not only that, the show is actually getting bigger year after year. This year we've already sold out three or four venues around the country and tickets are still flying out the door. I think we're doing 19 shows in total, with eight performances at the Grand Opera House alone.

Do you still look forward to doing the show each year?

Oh absolutely. The hardest bit is the writing of it and getting the technical side sorted, props, costumes and booking the theatres and so on.

But once it's up and running there's nothing better. We're a well-oiled machine at this stage – there's not much pretension or hanging around stroking our chins going 'what's my motivation?'

We know each other so well, we did 73 episodes on television and a stage show every year since, so it's like meeting up with old friends and having a ball.

It's great to see wee Olivia Nash (Ma) who's the matriarch who looks after us all and Marty has a proper job up at Queen's so he gets to change into Uncle Andy's persona for a month.

So the craic's very good and we have a ball in rehearsals. You're always nervous for the first show but once you get that under your belt and you know where the laughs are, you can relax into it.

Before that, you're going to have to take time out to go and watch Cliftonville in the League Cup final this afternoon at Solitude – are you looking forward to it?

Absolutely, I'm actually in rehearsal in the morning but I'm getting special dispensation to get away in the afternoon so I can go and watch us beat Ards.

I'm very disappointed that I'm going to miss Cliftonville v Linfield in the Irish Cup quarter final though, because I'm doing the show at the bloody Opera House.

Either the Opera House or the IFA are going to have to change the dates I think. Then again, Cliftonville do tend to do quite well when I'm not there sometimes, so it's possible I'm a scud.

As I always say, Cliftonville had a bit of a bad run known as the 20th century. My da (who was the club doctor) used to bring me to see them as a punishment in the early '70s.

When my uncle Kevin used to play for them and manage them we'd be brought to see them, and the crowd really was three men and a wee lad in those days.

But we've improved rightly in the last couple of years. The transformation has been amazing – it's great for the club and great for north Belfast as well. We've the two big clubs now instead of it being Linfield and Glentoran.

So, in the wake of last weekend's Super Bowl, is there any chance of you being brought out to 'do a Beyonce' as the half-time entertainment this afternoon?

Well funny enough, I am telling a few jokes in the Cliftonville Bowling Club just before the match, which is very similar if maybe on a slightly smaller scale.

I'm still hoping they're going to get Beyonce in to warm me up – I mean, warm up for me.

Give My Head Peace Live 2016 kicks off at The Island Hall, Lisburn, on Wednesday February 17. Full tour and ticket details at Davidhullpromotions.com

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