Speaking at the launch of RTÉ Radio's autumn season Gay Byrne spoke to RTÉ.ie about the return of his Lyric FM series and about Ryan Tubridy presenting 'The Late Late Show'.
Taragh Loughrey-Grant: Your Lyric FM show is returning for another year. After years of presenting on RTÉ Radio One, how did you first become a presenter with Lyric FM?
Gay Byrne: We started the Lyric series I think three years ago. Aodán Ó' Dubhghaill [Head of RTÉ's Lyric FM] and I met one night in the National Concert Hall and it started that casually.
He knew that I had an agreement with RTÉ to do some radio and TV every year for them, at their instigation, not at mine. He asked me would I do something for Lyric FM and I said 'Yes'. He said Jazz and Big Band and I said 'yes' but not confined to that and he said 'That's fine'.
I said 'When would you like me to start' and he said 'Sunday afternoons' and I said 'That suits me fine for the winter months but not for the summer'. So we started it and it proved to be very successful and so I'm looking forward to it [the new series].
It's mostly Big Band and Jazz rolling back the years, I think it’s a little time warp of a radio programme but there are lots of people out there who apparently like the idea of a time warp.
The deal is there is no script of any kind, I don't have to interview anybody, I don't have to phone anybody, I don't have to involve anybody else. I just talk about whatever occurs to me at any given moment.
TLG: What is your view of Ryan Tubridy presenting 'The Late Late Show'?
GB: He's going to be fantastic at doing it. I've a great, great fondness for Ryan and a great admiration for him. I think he has all the qualities required, the light deft touch together with a serious mind.
I think it’s a great adventure that he's setting off on. I think the show is now 47 years old or thereabouts and we won't feel it until its 50th birthday. Ryan will be there doing it at that time and it deserves a great celebration.
The simple truth about The Late Late Show - and everybody has an opinion about it and always had - but the amazing thing about it is that it is a phenomenon in the world of Television, in the entire world of Television and it will continue to be. In the minds of Irish people and we're setting off now on a new adventure for Ryan, a new adventure for the show, I think it will be wonderful and it will be an exciting time.
TLG: Have you any idea about the new format or style of the show?
GB: I haven't the faintest idea of what he might have in mind or what his team might have in mind but I've always said about The Late Late Show, it is live every week.
You start off on Monday morning with a blank page and you decide what you want to do, that was always my approach and it depended on what was happening in the country, what was happening in the world, what we were thinking about, gaining people's attention and so on.
There was various times when we had shows in ahead of time [pre-booked guests, The Toy Show, Tribute shows etc.] but for the most part the idea is that you sit down every week and you decide what you're going to do and it can be whatever you dream up. So you don't have to restrict it to light entertainment or serious discussion or panel or single guests, you can have a mixture of it all.
TLG: What was your receipe for The Late Late Show success and do you think audiences have changed?
GB: I think that the basic entertainment value will always be there…What we discovered over and over again in my time, I'm sure Ryan will discover it as well, that of course we have the personalities and the celebrity film stars when they come our way and no matter how you look at it or what you think about it people are interested in those people.
But we found again and again that the most successful Late Late Shows very often involved what we would describe as ordinary people, anonymous, private people to whom something extraordinary had happened whether it was falling out of an aeroplane or escaping from a burning building or a sinking ship and who had the capacity to tell the story and that was always a sure-fire recipe for arresting people's attention.
But as well as all the things that you're ascribing to the Late Late now educating us and informing us, I hope to God we entertained people as well and that we had a lot of laughs. That's the secret.