Arts Q&A: Paddy Raff on the Bee Gees, Metallica and what scares him

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, comedian Paddy Raff

Belfast comedian Paddy Raff whose Christmas comedy special is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday December 21

1. When did you think about a career in comedy and what were your first steps into it?

When I decided to give stand-up a try for the first time in March 2018 it was for a bit of craic – I didn’t see it as a possible career at all. It was only when I found myself doing two sold-out nights in the Ulster Hall in summer 2019 that I thought it was time to give up my day job in a wedding band to go full-time. I miss playing in a live band with my mates, as well as getting a plate from the buffet, but I’m having a blast making people laugh for a living.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

I saw Elton John in Ceasar’s Palace when I was in Las Vegas a few years ago and he was amazing. Seeing Queen in the SSE was unreal and Slane last summer for Metallica was awesome, with Ghost on support. Only problem was this was my first festival in my 30s and the security confiscated my indigestion tablets on the way in because they though they were drugs. The pints are still repeating on me.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Band Aid. Exploiting a bit of a loophole there.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

I got into the Bee Gees over lockdown and I can’t stop playing Nights On Broadway, so I’ll go with that.

5. And the book you’d take?

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I’d have plenty of time to get my head round it.

6. Top three films?

Midnight Run – Robert De Niro’s first comedy. The writing is superb.

This Is Spinal Tap – being a comedy and rock fan, this is the perfect movie for me. The actors were such great musicians that the fictional band could easily have been a legit 80s metal band.

High Noon – I’m not a huge western fan but I remember this being the first movie I ever saw that takes place in ‘real time’.

7. Worst film you’ve seen and why?

Any modern horror movie. I just don’t like the genre. Horror movies are the equivalent of extremely spicy foods – it’s not flavour if it’s created just to burn the bake off you. With modern horror movies I think it doesn’t make it good just because it scares the bejaysus out of you.

8. Favourite authors?

I’m not a huge reader, if I’m honest. I had a few teachers in school who’d make each pupil read a section from a textbook aloud to the class for most lessons and I used to get so tongue tied. It kind of put me off reading and now that I want to start reading I don’t really have time but it’s something I want to put right. I’ll have plenty of time if I get stuck on that desert island though.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

I’ve always played football and supported Man United. Fun fact – my confirmation name is Malachy because Mal Donaghy played for United and came from west Belfast.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Me and my wife went to Hawaii on our honeymoon. We went to Waikiki and Big Island but Maui is the proper lush island and we always said we’d go back there some day.

11. Pet hates?

At the minute it’s places that have a big hand sanitising station with loads of arrows and signs telling you to stop and sanitise your hands and then there’s none left.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Pad Thai.

Dessert? I’m not a big dessert fan. They always bring two spoons, one for me and one for my wife. No thanks. Besides, we’ve choc ices at home.

Drink? Loving gin this past while, but I fear I’ve gotten too used to house measures during lockdown. I’ll be switching back to beer when bars open again. I don’t fancy asking for a quintuple gin at the bar.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

It would be my friend Mark who I met in 2003 when we started in the same training group in the call centre. He’s kind of the inspiration for my Nigel character and it was quite poignant to share the SSE stage with him as he plays piano as Jarlath, Nigel’s best friend.

14. Is there a God?

I’ll let you know if I finish A Brief History of Time on that desert island.

The Paddy Raff Show returns to to BBC One Northern Ireland for a Christmas comedy special on Monday December 21 at 10.45. It features the festive mayhem and family traditions unique to Northern Ireland, as Paddy shares his comic selection-box of relatable observations about the build-up to ‘the big day’. A new four-part series of The Paddy Raff Show will follow early next year, also available on BBC iPlayer.

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