HPN Interview | Talking Talking Ted, with Joe Rooney and Patrick McDonnell

Talking Ted is a brand new series on the HeadStuff Podcast Network featuring co-hosts Joe Rooney (who also hosts HPN show, Podarooney) and Patrick McDonnell. In the podcast, Joe and Patrick place the beloved 90s TV show Father Ted in cultural context, and discuss their appearances on the series as Fr. Damo and Eoin McLove, respectively. Guests include Ardal O’Hanlon, Michael Redmond, and both of the D’Unbelievables, Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny. I had a chance to talk with Joe and Patrick about the origins of the podcast, some of their favourite guest anecdotes, and the roles they would have least liked to play on Father Ted.

So, how did you two meet each other?

Patrick McDonnell: We met each other probably at the International Bar doing stand up, probably at the Comedy Cellar on a Wednesday night.

Joe Rooney: Yeah, I would have been doing stand up for maybe a couple of years before Patrick started. He was the fresh faced, young, new comedian.

PM: That’s right, around 1995, I’d say? And so we kind of hit it off straight away, I’d say. Because even before, we were kind of collaborating on stuff, probably even before you were in Father Ted


JR: Yeah. 

PM: And we’d shot stuff before I was in Father Ted

JR: So we had already collaborated. And then the fact that we were both in Father Ted made it obvious that we were going to do gigs together.

I think you can tell from the podcast that you guys are good friends, you have great rapport and really bounce off each other…

PM: We’ve gone all around the world, actually, and all around Ireland certainly quite a lot. And yeah, just good chemistry.

JR: Yeah. We’ve been on long car journeys, and it’s very important to be with someone that you get on with.

Absolutely. So no disputes over what music’s playing in the car? 

PM: Nope. No, I can’t drive. So Joe drives and he picks all the music.

When did you both decide to start the podcast? And where did the idea come from?

JR: Gosh, we’ve done a lot of Father Ted themed shows and Father Ted quizzes. And because of that, I guess both us and the guys in the studio thought this would be a good idea. Also, because of the Sopranos podcast. We thought we could do something like that for Father Ted. And that was when? About…

PM: Just over two years ago.

Several of your guests have admitted that they weren’t sure Father Ted would work. Why do you think it did work when it first came out? And why is it still so relevant?

PM: Yeah, I remember I was sceptical when it came out because it was a sitcom about priests. There had been sitcoms about priests before on Irish television and British television. There was a show called Leave It to Mrs O’Brien, which was just a very broad sitcom. And it was really not good. And, so I thought it could have gone either way. But again, once I saw Ardal O’Hanlon was in it…he’d been doing stand up for a while, and I’d seen him live and seen him on television. And I thought he was very good. Dermot Morgan had done a lot here on certainly a lot of satirical stuff. So I kind of thought it might work. But it was just instantly funny. The script was just incredibly funny. From the first episode. 

JR: Yeah. 

PM: It was really good.

JR: But why I might have thought it wasn’t going to be funny? Well, Arthur and Graham had written stuff already for Alexei Sayle. So they were connected to the kind of what was called the “alternative comedy scene.” Which was kind of cool at the time. So when we heard they were writing about priests, we’re going like, “that’s a step backwards.” 

PM: Yeah. And I think they’d done a series called Paris just before, which hadn’t really worked, with Alexei Sayle. And they were probably constrained by having to write for him but think, you know, they just found this…”Father Ted” was a character that Arthur Matthews had been working on for years. So it was a whole world that they knew inside out, and that they’d just completely nailed with that first series.

What’s something new you’ve learned about Father Ted from your guests?

PM: Well, I didn’t really know much about its origins and how Arthur had worked on that character so much the few years before and how he worked with Graham Linehan and Paul Woodfull as well. I wasn’t aware of Paul’s involvement so much in those early days with the character and those sketches. Ardal had some revelations as well about it, I think. Ardal had been on television. I wasn’t aware that he’d ever appeared on RTÉ in any acting capacity. And Arthur Matthews had seen him and that’s why he cast him.

Why should someone listen to the podcast?

JR: Well, I think it’s a funny podcast. There’s a good rapport between myself and Patrick, apart from the show, but if you’re a fan of the show, you will find out little nuggets of behind the scenes details. Ardal has got so many stories. I think what’s quite amazing is that every single actor that has been on the show doubts their performance, they always go, “I wasn’t sure it was right, or whatever.” 

PM: It’s great to, you know, at this moment in time to capture all that. There had been a documentary made just over 10 years ago about Father Ted, but it was kind of restricted to an hour, hour and a half where we get to hear their stories in longer form and in much more detail. And we go into, you know, the greater background on how it came to be made.

JR: And we also just give it a setting in the time that it was made. We talked about what it was like?a different world pre-internet.

Last question. If you could have played any other character on it on the show, who would you pick?

JR: I’d play Pat Mustard the character. I mean, I love that character.

PM: I don’t know, maybe Cyril MacDuff…the horrible opposite character. I wasn’t doing stand up at the time, so I wouldn’t have been auditioned or anything like that, but that would have been amazing. Don was brilliant, but I would have loved to do that.

JR: Yeah. And I mean, I always go for Father Jack…I was only young at the time, now I could play it. I’m probably old enough now.

A man of very few words, but…

JR: Yeah, but I love physical characters. 

PM: Yeah. Definitely would not have liked to have played the naked guy on the car. No way I would have done that. That was the worst part. 

You can catch all the episodes of Talking Ted at headstuffpodcasts.com, or wherever you normally get your podcasts. Don’t forget to check out Joe’s other podcast on the HeadStuff Podcast Network, Podarooney.