Arts

Shane Todd on his new archive show: Goodness, we all need a laugh nowadays

Jenny Lee chats to comedian Shane Todd about delving back in time for his new television show, political correctness in the world of comedy and the proper way to make a cup of tea

Holywood stand-up comedian and broadcaster Shane Todd

FROM archive footage of holidays in Portrush to vintage clips of supposed UFO sightings, Shane Todd's new television series is sure to bring a nostalgic smile to our faces.

Casting his wry eye on people and stories from Northern Ireland's past in his satirical archive show Previously with Shane Todd, the Holywood comedian seeks out 'characters', crimes of fashion and unusual pastimes.

Shane, who also performs original new sketches throughout the BBC series, believes the programme is the perfect antidote for the year we have just had.

“It's a fun look back at the way things were. You look at that old footage and you look at the people who seem to not have a care in the world and it makes you very nostalgic. You can't help laugh at them and ourselves, and, goodness, we all need a laugh nowadays,” he says.

Shane was particularly amused by the five o'clock news reports, whose ‘big' news stories included interviewing children about their glass bottles and clock collections.

“The news nowadays is serious but I remember when growing up there were always a couple of light stories," he recalls. “A lot of the news reports in the 50s and 60s were basically all ‘and finally' stories. I want those days to return, as there are so much weird and wonderful things that happened here in this part of the world.”

The first of three programmes, being aired this Friday, sees Shane examining the hobbies of our past from street games to breeding tigers and chat lines, which he claims he knows nothing about.

“I wasn't allowed to use the phone, let alone go on chat lines. I was a very good child; I will probably rebel when I hit 40,” laughs the 32-year-old.

Viewers will also meet Northern Ireland's disco champion from 1978, and reporter James Boyce enjoys an eventful visit to a home brewery.

I put it to Shane that the show bears similarities to Channel 4's armchair-critic series Gogglebox.

“I've never seen Gogglebox,” he admits. “But I do enjoy retro reaction videos, which have become a big thing online. I think people enjoy seeing old stuff nowadays, especially in Ireland, where we are so sentimental.”

With the entire BBC archive now located in Belfast, Shane believes there is plenty more scope for future series.

“It's always enjoyable to see the way places used to look as well as the fashions and haircuts from different eras,” adds Shane, who if he could travel back in time would visit the 1960s, for its fashion and music.

During the past few months, in his Friday evening Radio Ulster Show, Shane has been sharing music from his own era, by playing 90s rave hits.

“At the start of lockdown everything felt very serious, so for a bit of escapism we decided to play old-school rave. The response has been phenomenal and it's grown into a little bit of a cult thing.”

And his favourite tune from that era? “It's got to be Mr Vain [by the German group Culture Beat]. I first heard that song on a holiday in Tenerife when I was about five. I got the single on tape when I got home and it wasn't out of my ears on the Walkman for the entire summer,” he laughs.

This should have been the year in which Shane took his unique brand of observational comedy to Australia, as well as complete a 21-date tour of Britain and Ireland with Somebody Told Me. Instead, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he settled for a cup of tea in his home studio, chatting to the likes of Jamie Dornan, Jimeon and Eamonn Holmes in his twice-weekly podcast series Tea with Me.

“It's just a way for me to keep being creative and connecting with people,” says Shane, who admits he has “a problem” with hot beverages.

“I drink too much. I'm now threading a fine line between tea and coffee.”

A recent episode with singer Ryan McMullan even evolved into a discussion about fermenting tea.

“The way you have your tea is one of those subjects that will always get people talking here. And if you put the milk in first you have a serious problem,” jokes Shane, who is hoping to broaden his guest list beyond the world of entertainment.

“I'd love to have conversations with history experts and mad scientists.”

He is of course missing performing live and has filled this void by performing at some wedding receptions this autumn.

Current legislation has meant a forthcoming gig at Belfast's Limelight has been cancelled. However, he acknowledges there are others in a far worse position and has voiced his backing for the behind-the-scenes workers in the live entertainment sector and the #WeMakeEventsNI campaign for government support.

“There is an army of people that make your night out what it is. If I'm on stage at seven, sometimes I won't arrive until 6:30, do a quick sound check, do my set and go home. The sound and light people could be there from lunchtime and not leave until midnight.

“Some of these people haven't had a day's work since the pandemic started and face huge uncertainly. If we don't protect the industry now, it won't be there in the future.”

Looking ahead to his own future, while Shane would love to get on the road again, he says he will be content to get performing again in local comedy clubs next year.

“To get to travel is a bonus, but if that is not going to happen for another couple of years I won't complain.”

After his appearances as PR guru Laurence Lyle in the comedy TV series Soft Border Patrol, he is also hoping to do more acting.

“It was fun. I'm still definitely learning in terms of acting but Soft Border Control was great because it's pretty much improvised, so you're thinking on your feet and you're able to be a bit freer.”

Having worked in a call centre for four years while waiting for his big break and playing comedy clubs at night and weekends, Shane does not take his success for granted.

“I definitely imagined one day having my own TV series but I can't say I believed it would ever happen. There were ups and downs along the way, and definitely there's an element of luck there as well.”

Being a comedian is a precarious profession. Earlier this month Ofcom received over 2,000 complaints about Britain's Got Talent finalist Nabil Abdulrashid taking jokes about race and religion "too far”.

While Shane recognises that “you can't please everyone” and “there are times when you are going to get it wrong”, he advises those making complaints to “stop watching stand-up” in the first place.

“I think when you're a stand-up it's your job to make anything and everything funny. Thankfully in Northern Ireland audiences tend to give you a little bit more freedom.”

:: Previously With Shane Todd starts on Friday October 23 on BBC One Northern Ireland at 10.45pm. Also available on BBC iPlayer.

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