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17 May 2022

Tadhg Hickey: "I felt that if I didn't stop, I was going to disintegrate or fade away"

Cork comedy writer discusses his new play, “In One Eye And Out The Other”, which he is set to perform in Derry on May 6, based on his own experiences with alcoholism and how he is using humour to help make a connection with those who've have fought the same battle against addiction

Tadhg Hickey: "I felt that if I didn't stop, I was going to disintegrate or fade away"

Tadhg Hickey: "I've largely had superb recovery and generally been in very good form. I've done a lot of work on myself. I took responsibility for my actions."

Known for his biting satirical videos on social media, comedy writer and performer, Tadhg Hickey, will be bringing a darker form of humour to Derry next May.

The Cork man is to embark on a tour of Ireland and Britain of his play, “In One Eye And Out The Other” – the story of a man named Fearghal who grew up with the ambition to be an alcoholic.

Hickey's production will be performed at the Playhouse in Derry on May 6, and it is a show that has a very personal touch to it.

Tadhg himself is a recovering alcoholic since 2015 and he has drawn upon his own experience to write and perform this play.

While he freely admits to using a bit of creative license to elevate certain situations into the realms of surreal humour, he hopes that by doing so, he can make a connection to those going through or have gone through similar issues to break down barriers.

He said: “A lot of people will know me from political sketches but this play is about alcoholism.

“I'm definitely attracted to taking a dark or a more difficult area of comedy because they kind of relate to each other in a way.

“The play is loosely based on my own experience – I've been in recovery from alcoholism for six years now. I say 'loosely based' because there are things that kind of happened but I've ramped them up to a level of surrealism that I feel that the audience would – hopefully – feel comfortably at laughing at than they might feel had I told my story directly.

“(Regarding the lowest point), there wasn't a dramatic incident where I crashed a car or I let family down or anything like that. I had been worrying family and friends for years but my own experience was when my own mental – or I should say spiritual – health suffered.

“The addiction is just trying to cover over whatever traumas were there to begin with – I was drinking to cover that trauma.

“My mental and spiritual health was so poor that I felt that if I didn't stop, I was going to disintegrate or fade away.

“That was in 2015 and thankfully, I've largely had superb recovery and generally been in very good form. I've done a lot of work on myself. I took responsibility for my actions.

“Playing the role of Fearghal has been cathartic. The play is to do with addiction itself and around the family. At one point I thought that alcoholism was going to take me out, without being melodramatic, and now I'm doing a play about it.

“People who have had similar issues with alcoholism themselves or have friends or family members dealing with them, get something out of it themselves.

“What I should say is that I just started off to make a weird, funny stand-up and then it morphed into this other thing.”

Hickey has certainly been busy this past year in getting ready to tour his play along with producing the “Wish EU Were Here” podcasts where he interviews a number of prominent figures across Ireland and Britain – such as Gerry Adams, Neale Richmond and James O'Brien – about the state of where both countries are following Britain's exit from the European Union.

He added: “I've really enjoyed doing them. It's great when you can get into the same room with whoever you're interviewing because I find it difficult doing interviews by Zoom and the like because I like to build up a rapport with somebody.

“In the case of the podcast with (Fine Gael TD) Neale Richmond, we would both be politically opposed to each other in many ways, I was able to build up a rapport where I could be playful and maybe just throw a couple of things at him that would provoke a reaction in a certain way.

“I found the podcasts really interesting and it's an exciting process. But I don't have a particular draw for interviewing famous people. I would love to do a follow-up podcast interviewing regular people who aren't famous at all – particularly older people who have got more stories to tell you.

“During Covid, I found that every older person in my life would just chat. I know that sounds a little bit cheesy but I love drawing stories out of people.”

But of course there's no getting away from the social media video sketches he has put out during the Covid lockdown period.

As ever with satire, nerves are touched – be they ones of laughter or anger. Given Britain's colonial past has been the victim of Hickey's sharp wit, what has the feedback been like from across the Irish Sea?

Tadhg said: “Covid, and in a way I'm not wanting to offend people who have had terrible times during Covid, was kind of good to me.

“I just kind of knuckled down to the new reality as it was. I was at home and I couldn't gig live so my kind of attitude at that point was 'OK lets just brush up on the editing and cinematography skills' – which would have been very poor – and see what I can do on my own.

“I ended up doing a type of comedy that I always wanted to do. But maybe pre-Covid I was trying to do something that other people would like.

“And then came Covid, and everything felt kind of 'end-of-the-world-ish', I just thought I would like to do the comedy that I want to do myself. Bizarrely, that was the kind of comedy that took off.

“I've found the reaction from the UK to be great to be honest. There's a lot of Scots and Welsh – particularly the Scottish and Welsh nationalists – who lap it up and they share the tweeted videos.

“But looking at England....What is England anyway? There are so many different parts and political views. So anybody on the left has kind of loved a lot of the stuff because people on the left in England are much more open (minded).

“The beauty of the English, I've found, is that they are well-up for taking the p*** out of themselves – at least the people of the left are anyway.

“England has a world-famous sense of humour and I'm just tapping into that really.

“At one point on Twitter, I had as many followers in Britain as I do in Ireland and the North. It just goes to show that people are well-up for the p*** being taken out of them.

“I also have a Patreon account and a lot of my patrons are English. Of course, you get people on the right in England who are offended by it. I would say – without being patronisng – that a lot of it is just down to not really being taught their own history in school.

“You get the same thing in Ireland too – we're not taught a lot of aspects of our history too. If you're not educated on it, then if somebody presents to you a view that is opposed to the one that you were taught, it all makes sense if someone takes offence.

“I can't wait to gig in England – I love England. Just because of critical of colonialism doesn't mean I don't enjoy English literature, football and comedy.”

The constantly-evolving constitutional situation in the North of Ireland hasn't escaped Hickey's comedic radar and while some have laughed out loud at his sketches – especially at those surrounding the post-Brexit Protocol deal – others within the Loyalist community have reacted as if someone has replaced the sugar on their cornflakes with salt.

Hickey however can emphasise as to why his sketches have drawn an angry reaction from some Loyalist quarters.

He continued: “I know that there are people who say that those from the Loyalist tradition should 'lighten up' but I think Loyalism and Unionism is in a very tense place right now – and it has been for a long time.

“The biggest thing that's going on is the fact they realise – and I don't wish to be patronising – that the penny is really starting to drop, amongst some Loyalists and Unionists, that Westminster doesn't give a s*** about them.

“The delusion that they are protected and there's a kind of special relationship there... as (LBC radio host) James O'Brien said on one of my podcast episodes, there is a sense of bafflement with the English about Loyalism. They just don't understand it and it makes no sense to them and they find it all a bit embarrassing.

“I have a lot of empathy and I look at myself as well and think I probably could have done less sketches that took the p*** out of that group as I might have 'hammered the Loyalist horse' a little bit.

“Over the next while, I'm going to try and dig a little deeper and take the p*** out of the left or out of Republicans because true satire needs to take the p*** out of both sides.

“Having said all that, I do think some Loyalists are particularly bad at taking jokes.”


If you or anyone you know has been affected by problems with alcohol, as discussed by Tadhg Hickey, a number of support groups and phone numbers within Derry and the North West are available on the Drugs & Alcohol NI website at: https://drugsandalcoholni.info/the-ni-dacts/western-dact/

“In One Eye And Out The Other”, starring Tadhg Hickey, will be at The Playhouse in Derry on May 6 with an 8pm start. Tickets cost £12 and are available at: https://www.derryplayhouse.co.uk/event/tadhg-hickey-in-one-eye-out-the-other

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