In the introduction to the first Good News Week book Paul McDermott writes- “The façade that television presents to you, the viewing public, is often one of unity and peace. Carefully orchestrated and beautifully conceived moments that mesh to describe a life obtainable, yet always out of reach…Television provides a glimpse into a parallel universe where dreams really do come true.”
He’s right. TV land is a different world. I’m still not totally convinced that it even exists in this dimension. It seems perfectly reasonable that you pass through a carefully concealed rift in time-space to get there. A bit like in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. If instead of leaving through the door you by exit via the window you enter a totally different world where everything is the same, except the space ships are green. The fact that the places and people around you are so familiar actually makes the experience more surreal.
The first time I meet Paul McDermott I had a pen between my fingers when I shook his hand. This is mainly because I wasn’t aware that I was being introduced to Paul McDermott. This greying, unshaven man with round steal framed glasses bore almost no resemblance to the person I saw on TV every week. It took my poor frazzled mind a painfully extended amount of time to get used to who “Paul” was in this particular context.
So what is Paul McDermott like in real life? I’m not sure two script reads and a fifteen minute taxi ride makes me the authority but here goes. Take everything he is on TV- angry, foul mouthed and cynical, then times that by about ten. That’s pretty much what he’s like. Mind you, I think I met him on a bad week.
The following conversation occurred during a script read-
Paul-‘I like the one about Dancing with the Stars.’
Ian-‘That’s an Alex joke.’
I tentatively raised my hand. We were actually introduced.
Paul-(fairly abruptly)‘Isn’t Alex a boy’s name?’
I did have a conversation with him outside a 7eleven which I think was fairly civil. Unfortunately I remember none of it. There was defiantly something about seals… but I’m pretty sure that was after Ian came back from buying cigarettes… All this makes it sound like he’s a horrible person. He’s not. That same funny, inexplicable charm, which is why people are so in love with TV-Paul, is still there.
I was in the audience for the filming of the 2008 finale. When filmed live the ‘ad break’ between “Coming up next! Buzzers of Death!” and the round itself lasted an excruciating two hours. By this stage the audience were already exhausted, dehydrated and delirious. Faced with this painfully long pyrotechnical delay, most mere mortals would have had an uprising on their hands. But not Mr McDermott. While the other guests retired to the Green Room, he rallied the audience using nothing but a notepad and a packet of (allegedly drugged) Minties. He took drink orders, did surveys and drew portraits. Watching him in action was mesmerising. Making an audience laugh the first time you read a scripted monologue is easy, teasing genuine laugher from them on the fourth take is much more impressive.
Speaking of impressive, I’d quite like to know what they do to his normal person hair to create the magical TV version.