Emer Maguire: I approach mortality with a bit of dark humour - having a funeral director for a father tends to do that to you

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Strabane's Emer Maguire, science commentator and musical comedian

Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

Pre-lockdown, my morning routine definitely was of the 'up and at it' vibe. Now, it's snoozing my alarm for about two hours, eating breakfast bleary-eyed, hugging my dog for an extended period and listening to a podcast as I stumble around the house throwing on whatever happens to be my comfy clothes 'du jour'. Afterwards, I heading to my office for a day of meetings, coffee and events.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Some kind of chocolate cereal made for children - Coco Pops are a favourite.


A sandwich or a wrap of some sort - so long as it's chicken.

Evening meal?

Chicken again. At present I have it with a mini naan and peppers and onions. I tend to eat the same things, over and over.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

At the beginning of lockdown, I worked from home, then I moved into a new office and now work from it. It's pretty much the same as working from home, though, as I'm the only one there. The best thing is the fact that my dog is the best colleague anyone could wish for.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

I learned how to make home-made pizza during lockdown - courtesy of Joe Wicks.


Weekend treat?

Take-out brunch on a Sunday. If I'm feeling particularly mad, I'll check out a new coffee place for a take-out coffee as well.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

I've continued doing weights at home and walking like everyone else. I play football and this was cancelled with lockdown and the gyms were closed - I struggled with both those things. Mentally, I think we have all struggled. For me, it's quite specific to being an entertainer. I feel I have a heightened sense of anxiety and stage fright around performing - I think this is because it's been such a long time to not be on stage that once it happens, it will take some time to feel confident and comfortable up there again.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

I'm obligated to go for at least one walk each day, in order to take my dog out.


How do you relax?

I'm not much of a relaxer but I enjoy going to football, walking my dog, listening to podcasts, writing songs or reading anything related to my interests.


Teetotal or tipple?

Probably somewhere in between. I do drink, but very infrequently.


What book are you currently reading?

Unfit for Purpose: When Human Evolution Collides with the Modern World, by Adam Hart.


Best Netflix?

The Last Dance, the documentary series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. My partner and I find it hard to agree on shows, mainly because I have good taste and she does not (surprisingly, she states the opposite). We do, however, agree on one show - Queer Eye. In it, five gay guys makeover the home, wardrobes and lives of strangers. It's very feel-good and easy-watching.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

During lockdown, I went full time freelance. I know, genius idea to leave a good job as a speech and language therapist in the NHS to be a full-time comedian during a global pandemic, but as they say in comedy, it's all about timing... I thought I would find the business side of things difficult, but during lockdown I completed a post grad in it, so I guess I've learned there are things I'm interested in that I never would have considered before.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I'll give it a two. In the two months that preceded lockdown, I had a bad ankle injury at football and couldn't walk, work, or drive. That gave me major cabin fever and I hated it. Then there was an entire month where I had to quarantine and I definitely found that difficult. The day before freedom, my partner came home from work sick and tested positive for Covid, so it was straight back to quarantine. After that month, cabin fever left and never really returned.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

Football, live gigs, and the gym.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I'll be booking myself on a holiday ASAP. I love travelling and want to explore the world.


Biggest gripe?

Rude people. I try to take a deep breath and remember everyone has their own story and their own issues that I know nothing about, but I still find it difficult. Also, my mask steaming up my glasses. How inconsequential, but also how maddening.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I think I've a new-found appreciation for my family and friends. And for how much difference a good dog-walk can make to your mental health.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I transformed into a DIY queen for approximately one month and when I got bored of that, I got really into all things tech-related. I learned to make websites, edit videos... all fun things and also things related to my career that can only help in the future.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

People continuing to appreciate and support small businesses and understanding the importance of music, arts, comedy and culture in our lives.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I was definitely a bit freaked out when my super-healthy, young, fit partner became quite unwell with Covid, so now I think I've more of an appreciation of the fact that anything can happen to anyone. I'm very matter-of-fact with regards to mortality and tend to approach it with a bit of dark humour - I guess being a comedian with a dad who is a funeral director tends to do that to you.

Emer Maguire is performing her new show, In Her Element, at the Ulster Hall on October 16. Details at

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access