Patrick Kielty Helps Himself
After years of hard work and lonely nights, life has paid off big time for the County Down comedian. He discusses relationships, LA living and preparing for the 2015 Irish Open
He's trim, he's healthy and he's as youthful-looking as he ever was, but at age 44, comedian Patrick Kielty admits to having finally hit 'classic midlife crisis age'. With that in mind, he had two choices: 'Either buy a motorbike and a pair of flares, or get a therapist.'
Despite having a house, a wife and half a life set up in Los Angeles – he spends the other six months of the year in his swish pad outside of Dundrum in South Down – Kielty couldn't quite bring himself to bare his soul in Beverly Hills.
It wasn't the money that turned him off the idea of therapy. It wasn't the prospect of breaking down in the benign clutches of a Jungian scholar, either. It was, rather, something in his blood, in his bones, in his DNA that put him off. Something to do with being from Northern Ireland.
'In LA, people pay $300 every week to have a total stranger listen to their problems,' Kielty exclaims down the line from the fairway of a London golf course. 'But the only people I know who tell you the real truth are the people from home. So why tell a stranger your problems for an arm and a leg when you can book a theatre and have 1,000 Northern Irish people join in?'
It's an interesting angle to pitch a new show around, and sell out premiere performances of Help in Belfast's Grand House and Derry's Millennium Forum in May 2015 proved that Kielty's most loyal fanbase was keen to go with him on that particular journey. An upcoming tour of Northern Ireland venues is also selling well.
Coming from a man who seemingly has it all, however – a stunning, successful wife in fellow television presenter Cat Deeley, an enduring career that now also involves presenting stints on BBC Radio 2, a brilliant white showbiz smile that doesn't come cheap – the conceit comes across as just a tad disingenuous.
While Kielty acknowledges that 'life's not so difficult' – 'I very much realise that the worst day I have, people would buy it off me,' he admits – there did arise in him a need for reflection, brought on, in part, from an innate fear that things in his professional and personal life had become too good to be true.
'You spend all your life trying to be happy and then one day you realise, “God, I am happy”. And then you do that Dundrum thing of thinking, “Jesus, I wonder what's around the corner.”'
Therapy, as it turned out, was not the answer, despite the fact that Kielty has a degree in psychology. ('I basically bluffed my way to a degree. Some people would say I've been bluffing ever since.') There was no expensive holistic detox in the Nevada desert, no self-help books or mid-morning mantras. Rather, he worked any niggling concerns out for himself.
'They say that people in LA have issues, whereas people back home have problems,' Kielty muses. 'Problems can be solved. In Northern Ireland, we've been having therapy for years – it's called family.
'Now, this show is about all of that stuff, about relationships, about getting together and about trying to stay together, but people shouldn't be worried, it's not highbrow. There are still plenty of knob gags in there. I only did psychology at university, remember, because there were 99 girls in the class and I was the only fella...'
He may be living a charmed life, but Kielty comes across (down a telephone line, at least) as a humble man, relentlessly self-deprecating and polite. (He apologies profusely when forced to take another call mid-way through our conversation, and again when he calls back promptly a minute or so later – telephone interviews like this, incidentally, are usually facilitated at the interviewer's expense.)
Spending a lot of time close to home presumably helps with keeping his feet close to the ground. When he's not passing the time of day near his mother, who remains in the family home on Dundrum's Main Street, Kielty never lets too many days tick by without calling her. He and his wife are 'back and forward' between Dundrum and LA throughout the year, and when journalists or agents call him and ask how life is on the Sunset Strip, he is invariably 'standing there looking up at the Mournes'.
For Kielty, there are pros and cons to living in both places. 'There are lots of comparisons between Dundrum and Los Angeles,' he quips. 'There are some brilliant things about Dundrum, as there are brilliant things about LA, but there is definitely the odd balloon there, as we would say at home.
'A bad day in LA entails rain. People in LA have no idea how to deal with rain, and I'm not talking about Irish rain. Where people here would turn round and say, "Jesus, that's a fairly good summer's day", there they don't know how to drive in it! This is what I mean, people there think they have problems, but they're really just mad.
'On the other hand, growing up in Dundrum has helped with the radio work. I love working for Radio 2. It's a real community – I see Wogan through the glass when I'm doing a pre-record, and Paul O'Grady makes the tea. And when I first went to Radio 2 and they asked me if I knew anything about country music, I went, "Jaysus, I'm from Dundrum. I was rared on it". So they sent me to America to do a show in Nashville.'
Having made his name as a stand-up in Belfast while attending university, and subsequently as a prime-time network television presenter with his own talk show, radio was a new medium to Kielty. What he enjoys most about it is the lack of conceit: 'When you're doing stand up there's a bit of a performance, and the same when you're doing TV. The thing with radio is, you just have to be yourself. If I'd known that the radio stuff was such good craic, I would've started it years ago.'
With a radio documentary in the works about the Belfast man after whom the famous Mulholland Drive in LA is named, as well as various other television projects, 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year for Kielty. That said, he would much rather talk about his wife's plans. 'She's coming up to season ten [of American entertainment show So You Think You Can Dance],' he beams, no doubt flashing a mouthful of perfect pearly whites.
'There's very, very few people from England who become big stars on American television, apart from my wife. Lot's of English people have tried and failed, but she's part of a very select group. There's really only her, Gordon Ramsey and Simon Cowell. I couldn't be prouder of her.'
It's finally Kielty's turn to tee off, our time almost up. Having been born and raised only a couple of miles from the world famous Royal County Down golf course in the nearby town of Newcastle, it is no surprise that golf is a favoured pasttime.
From his house outside of Dundrum, Kielty can just about see the dunes that make up part of the course to the East, with the undulating peaks of Shanlieve, Ben Crom and the mighty Slieve Donard providing an awesome backdrop to the South, either wreathed with cloud, blanketed by purple heather or indistinct behind the haze of the summer sun.
Come May 27, he will share that view with the world, as hundreds of media companies train their cameras on Royal County Down's challenging fairways for the 2015 Irish Open golf championship.
As it happens, Kielty will be there, competing with the likes of James Nesbitt and former footballer Jamie Redknapp in the Pro Am competition on May 26, the day before Rory McIlroy and his colleagues in the elite battle it out for Open glory.
'it's fantastic,' Kielty says. 'We should welcome the world to our part of the country. Apparently there's a great buzz about the place. I even hear they've been painting the kerbs in Dundrum. I'll land back and I won't recognise the place.'
In a classy move, Kielty will perform in Newcastle's diminutive St Mary's Hall on May 29, with the Open in full swing, as part of the LOL Newcastle Comedy Festival – a gig that has, of course, already sold out. Thereafter he will continue his tour of Northern Ireland before, presumably, getting around to thinking about his next show.
By then he will be older and wiser, with other things to talk about. Regardless of the subject matter, he will always have the Northern Irish audience to rely on for some help.
Patrick Kielty performs Help in the Ardhowan Theatre, Enniskillen on June 4; Riverside Theatre, Coleraine on June 5; Burnavon, Cookstown on June 6; Island Arts Centre, Lisburn on June 11; Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey on June 12; Strule Arts Centre, Omagh on June 13; Market Place, Armagh on June 18 and the Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena on June 20.