They say “you’ll never beat the Irish” and you know what? When it comes to TV entertainment they do most certainly have a point.
For decades the Irish have been gracing UK TV screens with their charming presence, bringing wit, wisdom and laughter in those dulcet tones (and, no, I’m not just saying that because I’m Irish).
The land of saints and scholars sure knows how to churn out telly stars on both sides of the camera and on St Patrick’s Day we’re taking a moment to pay homage to the Irish folk British TV just wouldn’t be the same without…
What more can we say about Wogan? The legendary broadcaster, who passed away in January 2016, was a stalwart of the BBC. From his chat show to his radio programmes, Children In Need to his wry Eurovision commentary, the late great Limerick-born presenter made his unique presence felt in the UK – even if David Attenborough did reject his initial application for a job.
To many Mr Norton will always be an Irish dancing priest in a caravan on Craggy Island, but ’tis more than a furlong from his Father Ted character Noel this fella has come over the years. Irish magazine Hot Press referred to him as the 21st century’s answer to Terry Wogan, and indeed he took over the Eurovision reins from the great man when he called it a night in 2008.
Born in Dublin and raised in Cork, Norton worked his way up the ranks of UK broadcasting. From BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends to Channel 5, then Channel 4 (where So Graham Norton was born) and eventually back to the BBC, where he’s become something of a Friday night institution with a unique style of chat show that mixes Hollywood stars with the best of British (and Irish).
Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews
They’re probably best known for teaming up to create Father Ted and The Fast Show’s Ted and Ralph, but between them Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews have brought a lot of laughter to UK TV.
Black Books, The IT Crowd, Count Arthur Strong and The Walshes were Linehan’s babies, while he and Matthews also worked on Brass Eye, Jam, and more recently Toast of London between them. From Hippies to Harry Enfield and Chums, The All New Alexei Sayle Show and Big Train, the list of shows the pair have worked on is endless. UK comedy quite simply wouldn’t be the same without them.
Speaking of the UK comedy scene, there’s no Irishman more versatile than Dara O’Briain. If he’s not making people laugh or rowing a boat with Griff Rhys Jones and Rory McGrath, he’s teaching us a thing or two about science and the world around us, often with the assistance of his pal Ed Byrne. He’ll next be presenting the Robot Wars reboot.
From Mock The Week to The Apprentice: You’re Fired!, Science Club to School of Hard Sums, QI to Have I Got News For You, Night At The Apollo and of course Stargazing Live, there’s little or nothing the Wicklow-born Irishman hasn’t done since his UK star began its ascendance back in 2002.
Making people laugh seems to come naturally to the Irish so it’s no surprise that one of the funniest women in British TV comedy has Irish roots herself. Born in Hackney to an Irish mother and Kiwi father, Sharon Horgan moved to Ireland at the age of seven and came back to the UK to study English at university.
She’s the brains behind the brilliant BBC3 comedy Pulling and Channel 4’s recent Catastrophe, which she wrote with co-star Rob Delaney.
She’s set to team up with Pulling co-writer Dennis Kelly for a new comedy pilot, and is also producing a new series for American broadcaster HBO starring Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker.
In short, Horgan, who admits she’s ‘mined her life’ for comedy throughout her career, is just getting started.