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Entertainment Shane Todd opens up about his 'disastrous' start in comedy and how he's delving into NI's archives for new TV series

18:30  16 october  2020
18:30  16 october  2020 Source:   belfastlive.co.uk

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For those who haven't been tuned in to Radio Ulster on Friday nights at around half 6pm these last few months, you've undoubtedly missed a treat.

Comedian and jack-of-all-trades Shane Todd, teamed with his comedy compadre Dave Elliot, have spent the last number of months entertaining all and sundry, with the kinds of old school '90s and '00s rave tunes you'd be more likely to hear at a teenage disco from your younger years.

Coinciding with the start of lockdown, The Shane Todd Show became a beacon of light relief during a difficult time for everyone, featuring 30 minutes for no-nonsense bangers away from the drudgery of daily news bulletins.

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And, unlike his familiar alter-ego of Mike McGoldrick, Shane insists that he wasn't having to get into character to play those tunes - he's just massively into old school rave tracks.

"I've always have a passion for those old school dance tracks," he laughs as he chats down the phone to Belfast Live.

"So we asked the BBC could we play the likes of 'No Limits' for our show one night, just as a one off. They said go ahead, and we've never had so much interaction on a show. We were buzzing to get the response we got, so we thought we'd keep doing it for as long as we could get away with it."

a person holding a microphone: Shane Todd © PressEye Shane Todd

Chatting to us just ahead of recording the last episode in the series of his radio show, he admits that, while lockdown has been as turbulent a time for him as it much has for everyone else, he's found ways of adjusting and finding comedy outlets during this time.

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"I think, like everyone who's self-employed, I've had to just adapt. For the past few years, I've been lucky to have really good videographers who can shoot and edit my sketches, but since the start of lockdown, I've been having to do that for myself for the first time since I was a student. So it was about going back to basics.

"But yeah, I was being productive without knowing it. I was trying to put out a sketch a day just to keep that up. Then I've a very small studio at the house, so I think after the first few days of lockdown, when I was watching the news a lot, I wanted to get away from that. So getting really into the work that goes into comedy, that was a welcome distraction."

For those who'll miss his radio show, Shane is set to appear in his own three-part TV series in October and November, to be broadcast on BBC One.

The series, Previously...With Shane Todd, sees the comedian dive into a treasure trove of archive BBC footage and giving his own comedic takes on what he finds.

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It's a sharp concept for a time when more and more people are turning their attention away from the present and towards to the delights that nostalgia can offer. And, whether it's fervent disco dancers at City Hall in the '70s, or staycationers at Portstewart in the '80s, Shane's commentary is the right amount of humour and fondness for a bygone era.

"The process for this came about a couple of years ago," he says. "I wanted to look at archive footage from 60s onwards. I thought it'd be a really good idea, and if you could add in snippets from me that would make it feel like a comedy gig, that would work too.

"We originally did a DIY version of it for a pilot. The BBC seemed to like it, and the feedback was good. I think, initially, a lot of people didn't see that pilot episode, but they repeated it at the lockdown and it got a bit more attention, so off the back of that, the BBC commissioned this 3-part series."

Shane says that the project saw him make countless discoveries about what Northern Ireland was like in the past - and it'll have massive appeal to audiences.

"I liked diving into that archive footage. I think that appeals to lots of people, the same way as you find yourself looking always looking back on photo albums.

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"I was stumbling upon all these gems. There was a news reporter from the 1960s, James Boyce, who had this totally irreverent style of presenting; the type of person who was a completely hilarious character without even realising that. I'd never heard of him before, so it was great finding these things and being able to share them."

Shane's new show forms part of a BBC autumn schedule which has had a heavy focus on up-and-coming Northern Irish comedy, with the likes of Paddy Raff getting his own Christmas special, and a Stand Up For Live Comedy one-off episode showcasing the best in local talent. Does Shane think the scene is particularly healthy at the moment?

"I think the whole scene is on ice at the minute in the UK and Ireland, but that, pound for pound, Belfast's comedy scene here is better than most places. I think I can say that without being biased.

"And I think it's down to the fact that people here are have become really responsive to local comedians. They'll always go out and see them perform. Whereas, in the past, people might've saved themselves for a Michael McIntyre or a Peter Kay to come to town, nowadays, people are paying to go to see someone from Belfast or, in my case, Holywood. That's a really great thing."

For those who might not be aware of Shane's own entry into the comedy world, he says that he became a full-time comedian through a mix of dogged determination and trial and error.

"I think I'd always really enjoyed watching stand up and sketch shows, for years. I loved watching Harry Enfield and the Fast Show and Richard Pryor. Then whenever I went to college at Belfast Met at 16 years old, I was thinking more and more about the idea of doing stand-up.

"But I think that, in this part of the world, you never want to put yourself out there. You always wonder will you get slabbered at by mates. So it took me until about 18 or 19 before I just went ahead and did my first open mic night.

"It was disastrously wrong at the start. But it felt important that I'd done it. So I went again and did another open mic night, and it went a bit better - so I just kept going. That was 13 years ago. I've been doing it full time for six years."

Previously...with Shane Todd will air on Friday, 23 October 2020, at 22:45 on BBC One Northern Ireland.

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