Arts

The 2 Johnnies are on their way to Belfast and it's all going to be a bit mental

As The 2 Johnnies ride a massive wave of public affection with their winning podcast formula, Gail Bell spoke to one half of the irreverent Tipperary duo, Johnny B, who is 'mad' to get to Belfast as part of a new live international tour, complete with big screens, audience participation and mystery guest

Tipperary comedy duo, Johnny B and Johnny Smacks of The 2 Johnnies
Gail Bell

IT TOOK two songs, but they eventually did it. The 2 Johnnies from Co Tipperary knocked George Ezra and his Shotgun off the top spot in the Irish iTunes chart with unlikely hit, The Silage Song.

"He did us out of a Number One when we released Summer Tune in 2018, so we weren’t talking to George for a while," jokes one half of the comedy-musical duo, Johnny O’Brien, aka Johnny B. "But, in fairness, George has done all right for himself; we’re happy for the guy…"

The other 'Johnny' in this particularly – to borrow their own parlance – "mental" twosome, is Johnny (Smacks) McMahon and the pair from Cahir are now ready to take on the world in an extensive new tour which comes to Belfast this Friday.

As part of the all-new 'podcast live' tour, The 2 Johnnies will be stopping off at the Elmwood Hall en route to the US, Dubai, Australia and Canada, where madness and mayhem will likely be served up with typically irreverent, nothing-off-limits, 2 Johnnies-style humour.

"We did a stand-up comedy show at the start of the year, but we didn’t get up to the north," says Johnny B, "and we had a lot of people on to us on social media, saying, 'Come on boys, get up here'…so that’s what we’re doing now. I’ve been up [in Belfast] myself a couple of times and really loved the city and was mad to get back."

For those unfamiliar with the format, the live show will be similar to the duo’s hugely successful podcasts, but will be a "more elaborate" big production number, part-scripted, part-unscripted and coming with the warning that anything can happen – and probably will.

Expect some stand-up, musical interludes, "mental one-liners", discussion and 'mystery guest' – all nicely nudged along with the help of big screens and audience participation.

"The live show is inspired by the podcast but is an amped up version of it," explains Johnny B, who, in a former life, made hurleys for the family business and sang in a cover band before meeting up with his side-kick – the other Johnny – a butcher from Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

The two became flatmates and went on to act as MCs at a 'Strictly' fundraiser at the local GAA club where they surprised the audience with deadpan Tipperary wit and an Irish brand of Ant and Dec-style chemistry which immediately connected with the audience.

"Johnny (Smacks) moved to Cahir and started playing football with our club," recalls Johnny B in a rare moment of seriousness. “I had an empty room and needed a lodger, so he moved in. Then, when we did Strictly Come Dancing, something happened. Call it chemistry, love at first sight…I don't know, but we got on really well and people said to us afterwards, 'There’s something there, lads….'

Six months later both gave up their day jobs and went on to become an online sensation through The 2 Johnnies Podcast which hogged the number one position in Ireland’s podcast charts for over 80 weeks and helped spawn five number one singles.

That was three years ago and today, the boys have thousands of followers across YouTube and social media, particularly among the Irish community living far from home and pining for a bit of "the craic" – whether it’s a natter about bacon and cabbage or hearing how Una Healey (fellow Tipperary native and "girl of our dreams") used to drive around Ireland with a PA system packed into her trusty Honda Civic.

The Saturdays singer was actually the special guest for The 2 Johnnies London Live tour in September and proved a good sport.

"That was a nice connection for us, because Una’s from Tipperary and lives in London,” says Johnny B. "We used to find it difficult to get a guest and now we can get Una Healey. Everything has just taken off – we did Electric Picnic on the big stage this year and that was an incredible buzz; the energy was must mental.""

Honesty, is part of the appeal, he believes, and "just telling the truth", no matter how "cringey, mental or hilarious".

"It’s observational humour, random subjects linking to abstract stuff which can throw up surprises," he says. "And people write to us with everyday stories – we have gathered up so many that we put them in a book, Dear Johnnies, which is coming out in November. We like to find the answers to most people’s problems – the ones we don’t know what to do with, we just delete."

They'll be back home for Christmas in between all the tour dates and also have various filming projects for television lined up during breaks in the schedule.

"But, don't you be worrying," Johnny B adds, "we'll still find time to enjoy ourselves. Johnny Smacks will be beside the pool like a rotisserie chicken in Australia and I’m going to try to do some sight-seeing."

Ah, yes, they must need a break from each other every now and then? No, apparently not: "We never tire of each other's company. When we're not working, we even go on holiday together. We're a disgrace."

:: The 2 Johnnies will be appearing at Belfast's Elmwood Hall, this Friday, October 11 (ticketmaster.ie)

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