Northern Ireland

As the world mourns Michael Parkinson, interviews with Irish guests from George Best to Dave Allen were among his best

Michael Parkinson interviewing George Best.
Michael Parkinson interviewing George Best.

As the world mourns the king of the chat show, Michael Parkinson, many have remembered their own favourite moments he shared with guests on screen.

Among an estimated 2,000 interviews over the years, Irish guests included his close friend George Best, bond star Pierce Brosnan as well as the comedians Dave Allen and later Dara O’Briain.

Having known Best since he arrived in Manchester as a 16-year-old, Parkinson remained close to him throughout his playing career and when his later life was marred by alcoholism.

Reflecting on his time with Best, he later told the Irish Times: "I think he liked the fact that I wasn’t too magisterial in my attitude towards what might be called the more colourful side of his life.

"There were responsibilities, and I would try to persuade him from that downward path but, as with any addict, it’s a problem, and George was a drunk.”

He added:"That was his flaw, and the more you knew him the more obvious it became to you – not to him – that he would suffer, in a sense, a tragic end, and that’s what happened to him and we couldn’t do anything to stop him.

"In the end, we didn’t even try because we knew he wasn’t listening, but you forgave him all that because of the memories."

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During an appearance on Parkinson in the 1980s, Dave Allen was typically unafraid to criticise the Catholic Church in Ireland and memorably compared the nuns at his old school as being like “the gestapo in drag”.

Still in the middle of his tenure as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan recalled an on-set spat while preparing for a fencing scene with Madonna.

With the hair and makeup team singing her hit ‘Like a Virgin,’ Brosnan found himself humming the tune around ‘Madge’ who became convinced he was mocking her.

After appearing on Parkinson three times, comedian Dara O’Briain said it was the most he had ever felt like being part of “proper showbiz.”

“He was a consummate pro on-screen, and generous and encouraging off-screen. He also did the coolest thing I ever saw pre-show,” he said.

“I was standing with the guests, waiting for the show to start. Michael arrived, chatted away to us, not a nerve in sight, when the band started playing the theme tune. Michael paused, smiled and said ‘They’re playing my tune’ and walked straight out and started the show. Lovely.

“The other guest was Samuel Jackson, as far as I remember, rather adding to how cool it all was.”

While off duty, Parkinson had also appeared as a guest on the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne in 1982.

Working in Australian television at the time, he told Byrne that his north country heritage meant he had “a shared hatred” with Australians of “a certain kind of colonial Englishman.”

“That’s the kind of pom that they hate and that’s a shared hatred because I don’t like them either.”

He also explained why he had never been tempted to conquer America, stating that he disliked a focus on ratings over quality.

“American television is full of people who can read a rating but are struck dumb when you ask them what the show is like.”