Late Late host Ryan Turbidly has revealed that he already knows what costume he will wear and what song he will be singing on this year’s top secret Toy Show, adding that it will lead to "some goofy looking scenarios".
The annual toy extravaganza is one of the most watched and anticipated shows on Irish television and Tubridy has made it his own since he took over as Late Late host - but this year’s Toy Show comes with the added pressure of coping with Covid-19 and keeping the studio and children safe.
"The children of Ireland have had a tough time of late and they deserve a big night out so we are working our damnest to make that happen."
47-year-old Tubridy, who will begin his twelfth year as host of the Late Late when the show returns to RTÉ One on September 4, said, "I had a costume check last Monday for the Toy Show so I know what character I’m going to be, I know exactly song we’re going to be singing - or `singing’ in my case, I know exactly what the theme of the programme is."
However, he is keeping everything under wraps, saying, "Nobody will be able to predict anything because we’re going somewhere completely different for us."
Speaking during a Zoom interview to launch RTÉ’s new autumn schedule, an upbeat Tubridy added, "This year’s Toy Show is going to be a very hard task and it’s going to be a big ask.
"I would rather do one Toy Show in the middle of Covid than no other Late Lates in a season this time around because this will be the most important Toy Show we’ve ever done.
"The children of Ireland have had a tough time of late and they deserve a big night out so we are working our damnest to make that happen.
"It’s going to be bigger, brighter and better than ever and it will be at all time Covid-safe, that doesn’t make it Toy Show-friendly but we will make it happen by hook or by crook.
"It will lead to some goofy looking scenarios I’ve no doubt but we’re up for the challenge and we’re ready for it. I wish Covid wasn’t there but it is and we are ready for it."
He added that the Toy Show would manage social distancing in a "clever and rather peculiar way".
"I’m not going to give you one ounce of information about that because I don’t want to give anything away but also because I don’t know what the answer is yet. It’s more than 99% confirmed that there won’t be an audience for the Toy Show. I will be shocked if there was.
"We ended up being something of a guide through the fog on a Friday night, this weird signpost through the mist."
"It’s a work in progress. The Covid story is so fluid that I could have another answer for you tomorrow but I don’t see people gathering in numbers in a meaningful way before Christmas. I think we’re in for a very tough autumn and winter and we need to be patient, we need to be kind and we need to be vigilant."
Tubridy also revealed that there had been discussions about taking The Late Late Show off air altogether last March when lockdown came into force.
"We had an existential moment but we all knocked heads together and asked are we all in this, do we want to keep going? And we said yeah, let’s do it," he said.
"And it just caught fire in some ways because we had the music acts and then the charities and the audience bought it and they supported us and it worked.
"Last time we were hijacked by Covid but this time we’re living with it so it’s time to march into it, it’s time to get busy and it’s good to go."
He added, "That’s exciting. In terms of the Covid situation, I don’t think there’s any show that is as Covid-aware as us because we ended up being something of a guide through the fog on a Friday night, this weird signpost through the mist."
"My closest to a pal on that score was Gerry and Gay, obviously, and sadly now I'm on my own on that front. I do miss having that sense of a mentor about the place."
Asked if he ever feels lonely presenting the show to an empty studio every week during the ongoing pandemic, Tubridy, who took a wage reduction this year in the course of his contract review, said, "Initially it was just too weird for words.
"For ten years I’ve been walking out to 215 people in the audience roaring with excitement and that’s rocket fuel and now when you go out to the empty studio, except for a few camera people who are sick of the sight of you anyway, it’s a very strange place to be.
"It took me two or three shows to realise what it is - it’s a radio show with cameras. Suddenly it became a more intimate experience. Some of the guests have performed better without an audience, some of them were more introverted than I knew and it suited them to have a radio style interview on the Late Late."
"It wasn't easy going for drinks with Russell Crowe because he’s Maximus and I’m Tubs,"
Tubridy also spoke about family life with his daughters, saying that they all feel closer now than ever. His youngest daughter is due back in secondary school shortly, while his eldest is heading back to college.
He admitted that he still misses the late Gerry Ryan and Gay Byrne, who passed away last year. "I don’t know any other chat show hosts," he said. "We’re all strange people, ask anyone who’s related to me or lives with me, it takes a special kind of oddity.
"My closest to a pal on that score was Gerry and Gay obviously and sadly now I’m on my own on that front. I do miss having that sense of a mentor about the place.
"Unless you’ve fronted a Late Late Show or a chat show, you just don’t understand it. It was always very useful to have a fellow oddball around the place and sadly I don’t have that now but luckily I’m surrounded by extremely bright people and that’s what gets me through now."
Russell Crowe sent a supportive tweet to Toy Show recently, following his collaboration with Late Late band member Jim Sheridan and Tubridy revealed that he has developed a friendship with the Australian actor.
"Russell Crowe is one of those amazing guests in that after the last time he was on, we went for some drinks and it wasn’t easy going for drinks with Russell Crowe because he’s Maximus and I’m Tubs," he said. "The disparity is extraordinary in a pub, I can ya! But we got on very well for whatever reason.
Doesn't matter where you’re from, if you have a kind soul and an open heart you’ll appreciate how wonderful this tradition from Ireland is.— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) August 10, 2020
The #latelatetoyshow looking for toy testers !! https://t.co/np81ibqhxb
"I studied Australian history in college for a year and he’s really into politics so we got into a big discussion about that so we kept in touch and he’s send me the odd text and I’d send him the odd text and I’m a fan of his anyway and my friend in the Late Late Show band, Jim Sheridan, also kept in touch and they did a great collaboration with Les Misérables.
"Russell Crowe is just one of those really pleasant and interesting people and he very kindly retweeted a thing about the Toy Show. It was a nice endorsement and it’s unusual when a guest continues to stay in touch after the programme rather than disappearing off to his ranch in the bush and never coming out to say hello again. Very decent."
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2
The Late Late Show returns to RTÉ One at on Friday, September 4