Mike Murphy recalls candid camera skit that never aired

There were plenty of laughs on Saturday night’s Tommy Tiernan Show when the comedian came face-to-face with former RTÉ broadcaster Mike Murphy.

Murphy, who is best known for his legendary candid camera sketches on The Live Mike, recalled some moments from the show that stood out – including a sketch they felt had to be cut.

“One of the ones I remember we had to wrap up. We have a coffin and a hearse. They showed a few, but they couldn’t show the one we had to wrap up,” he said.

“I was in the coffin, Dermot Morgan and Fran Dempsey were dressed as undertakers. They half held the coffin in and out of the hearse. [They asked] a passer-by, ‘Do you mind keeping this while we go get the flowers?’ There was a man we couldn’t show. The coffin is halfway in and he’s holding it.

Murphy said he started moaning and moaning in the coffin before he pressed the lid of the coffin and opened it. “He leaned on it and said ‘He’s trying to get out!’ The next minute he turned around and ran down the road, I didn’t see him because I was still in the coffin but he stopped against the railing below clutching his heart as he said “I have terrible pain in my chest”.

He said Late Late Show presenter Gay Byrne was shocked when Murphy announced on air that he would not be returning to The Live Mike, surprising even the show’s producers.

“Gay Byrne and I were very close friends. He came into my office and said, ‘What have you done? You destroyed your whole career. Don’t you realize what you’ve done? But I didn’t like it. He added that he misses Byrne, who he describes as a career-focused man.

“We were talking towards the end and he said ‘why did you never really want to do broadcasting?’ he said.” He said, ‘I guess in a way the difference between the two of us was that I was living a career when you were living a life.’ And in a way, it was just because I used broadcasting as a method to do the things that I wanted to do.

Joanne McNally and Vogue Williams at The Tommy Tiernan Show

Also on the show were friends Vogue Williams and Joanne McNally, whose lockdown podcast has seen new hits for each of them.

“Before the lockdown I was just gaming, not doing podcasts,” McNally said. “Then the lockdown started, I had to pivot to something else. We did the podcast, and you just do your thing, you work and get the pod out and it wasn’t until we started selling tickets that we realized ‘oh shit, this has gone up a level’.

She said she and Williams planned to tour with the podcast.

“We’re supposed to go on tour with the podcast, next year I would say. I almost feel guilty because I feel like I get more feedback on the pod than Vogue because I’m obviously on the road to selling live shows.

Williams, who is expecting her third child, said she found the pregnancy difficult. “I don’t like being pregnant. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I find pregnancy very difficult,” she said.

Finally, Tiernan was joined by historian Professor Kevin Whelan, who spoke about the long-term effect the famine had on Ireland, from religion to language.

Professor Kevin Whelan at The Tommy Tiernan Show
Professor Kevin Whelan at The Tommy Tiernan Show

“The church became a sort of surrogate language of identity because we had lost the Irish language,” he explained.

“How can we stop being seen as British? One of the main Irish responses to this question was: “you are Protestant and we are Catholic”. Catholicism wasn’t so much a spiritual thing after the Famine. It was much more like a cultural identity and a way of saying we’re not really British.

Professor Whelan said Ireland’s strong literary tradition is a direct result of the famine.

“You are left behind when you change languages, you leave a lot behind when you change languages. In some ways, we still haven’t fully recovered from that either. No other country in Europe, not a single one, has lost its language as much as Ireland. Really, if you’re looking for the Irish answer to famine, it’s Irish Revival itself.

He said writers like WB Yeats and James Joyce needed to rewrite our culture.

“They are the ones who had to reinvent Ireland, but in English. In a sense, you had to put on makeup, you had to reinvent yourself. We had to find a way to be Irish in the English language and we had to take and break the English language and reshape it with Irish goals. The Irish Revival at the end of the 19th century was the real cultural response to the Famine.

James C. Tibbs