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oK, here he is.
Hello, I'm Louis through. And welcome to The Last in the current series of Grounded with Louis Through.
Over the past couple of months, while we've all been in lockdown, I've been talking to people have always been keen to meet there you are using video conferencing software with both of us, my guest and myself, having to record our own halves of the conversation.
Yeah, it is, isn't it? Is voice memos, isn't it? Oh, look, Paul's getting stressed today, though.
It's different because my guest is someone I've known for years. You could even say we're friends. And just as importantly, he's a beloved actor on both sides of the Atlantic, a comedian and a writer who actually Chris Cuvier films by any chance.
No, I can go and grab some. Sorry, I had all of this yesterday when we were supposed to do this thing. Oh, there it is.
He is Chris O'Dowd. We've not seen for several months since long before lockdown started because you look so tired, Louis, do it. Yeah, it's been quite tiring, hasn't it? It's absolutely exhausting.
The amount of focus that you lose and also need has been something to behold.
And then at the same time, on some days I feel it's a strange and dark kind of privilege to live through something so historically extraordinary. You have to go back to things like the end of the Soviet bloc, the Berlin Wall coming down, maybe 9/11. These are grand historical events, right?
The Italian navy, Italian 90 blurr versus Oasis.
No old house party. Mr Blobby. When blobby mania.
Yes, sweat. Do you remember these huge cultural tsunamis that just sweep people up? I feel like this is bigger than blobby because it's global. It's an extraordinary thing when you think at any one point everybody is at home like in the world.
Do you think anyone thought seriously was saying that blobby mania was comparable?
The irony was, I take it I worry sometimes you would say something. Go on. I wouldn't have thought so.
Where do we first? Listen, first of all, cheers. Thank you for joining me. Such a pleasure. It's about seven forty two PM where I am. You're in L.A. where it's just coming up to midday. That's right. I really apologize for what happened yesterday for listeners. I should make it clear that having arranged to speak to you and actually having gone through a bit of trepidation about it, because we're friends and I really hated the idea that I was using our friendship for money, for money, for steam, for cash, whatever it was.
And on top of that, to then arrange to speak to you yesterday, you quite clearly in your text said this is when we're going to speak. And then I didn't show up. Nancy came in as I was putting our five year old down and said, Chris is wondering where you are. So I owe you an apology.
I have been walking into rooms for the last three weeks and instantly forgetting while I was there, all purpose is gone by the wayside.
So you forgetting our appointment is not a problem anyway.
So it sounds like you're in as I am Caronna land in a sort of full fat version. Inasmuch as you're not a front line worker, you're not saving lives. But you have a young family. Yeah. Five year old and a two year old.
You know, we should explain our five year olds are very good friends. They're better friends than we are in some ways. In all ways. But you're right in that having young kids completely flavour's the nature of your quarantine again, to use an incorrect terminology. But if you were think about it like war. It's like there's the flag bearers who are the kind of the front line. We're just like doing the comms back home.
It's the home schooling. Full disclosure has been for our five year old Wally Walter. Put his name out there. He's not big on the home schooling. If I can get fifteen minutes. Yeah, there's two of us who are working, my wife and myself.
And then we've got two older boys who are more or less get on with it, plus a lot of video games. And then Walt is going between iPhone and iPad for most of the day.
Well, he's still got his tele sales job.
Well, he's bringing home the bacon, but he does on occasion in the middle of when I'm having a work call, he'll pitch a fit because there's a video he wants to watch on YouTube and he can't remember what it's called, but it's got a man with a blue shirt in it.
Right. Or he wants you seen a game that he wants to download. He said this yesterday. And I said, well, what game is it? He said, you're the ball and you have to stay out of the black stuff.
That's my whole childhood. Of course, our kids are very different.
We're more traditional, but we just can't get art to stop playing with his abacus.
I thought you were going with a comedy line that was, oh, he's more advanced and he likes playing chess against himself. That's right.
But he's getting sick of the Kasparov opening anyway. There we go.
But they're doing OK. But it is tough. Do they do any stuff out of your school?
They were given some little booklets to fill in. Yeah. So this morning he was doing some doodling and some numbers and he seems to have forgotten most of the letters.
We're trying not to be too hard on ourselves as parents in terms of allowing things to slide and they'd already slidin we never we're not the most disciplinarian of parents.
It wasn't as though we were running an especially tight ship to begin with.
You know that.
Yeah, it's not gone full feral, but I'm not worried about the kids at all, especially because our kids are young.
It doesn't really matter. They're having the time of their lives. They're getting so much attention, so they're fine. So what are your pinch points? What is it that you are struggling most with our time?
Like I've got a writing job. John's got a writing job, and suddenly we're doing. Parenting like the home schooling, this is what everybody can relate to around the country is just God, I wouldn't mind just a bit of headspace. Yeah.
Are you keeping fit to keep a body like mine in tip top shape? Which is why, of course, I'm always aiming for his heart.
You let it slide even an inch and it just it's almost a car. It's more than a blessing because it's like being gifted with an ornamental garden and yes, beautiful. But it requires so much upkeep. It's very nice.
I have a kind of wild what do they call that? Rewilding I rewilding my garden. Sometime ago I sort of thought nature knows best. I let the shrubberies just go and I let the wildlife back in.
What a treat for us. And the good thing about that is it requires very little upkeep. Actually, I've been doing a lot of keep fit every morning.
My one particular of keep fit. Yes, I have. There's nothing funny about it. It's just turn of phrase for a little.
Evidently some of this is still new to me and I haven't learned the vocabulary. How would you put that exercise?
No, it's good. You've been doing a bit of keep fit. It's great.
But a workout guru who's on YouTube and every morning with almost a sort of religious level of observance, I'm there thrusting, squatting, and I feel like a million bucks.
Everything else in the day kind of feels more or less dealable with what I've established that I've discharged that one duty.
Does that sort of make sense?
I feel like I'm talking to you and you're look at me like I used to be an actual athlete because you were a goalkeeper back in Ireland and so forth of Man Mountain with some serious sporting accomplishments. And you're thinking like, why is this pencil necked, Oxford educated?
Or you sneak out in everywhere, wouldn't you? It's unbelievable.
We could not have been further away from your Oxford education and somehow you managed just because he's got a first from Oxford, you're thinking and as a first class intellect and everything that that implies he thinks he can tell me about keep fit.
It's so lovely to hear where I was going with this was it helps me get through the day.
I draw a line under that. What's been your lowest Korona moment or lockdown moment?
There was a moment, if I'm being honest, it was kind of just before lockdown started where Dawn was in England at our friend Caroline's funeral.
And I was back here in L.A. with the boys and had decided not to say that it was Caroline Flack, beloved TV presenter, our gorgeous friend, who we miss terribly.
And there was a moment where we thought she was going to get stuck there. And that was quite a scary moment of like, we've no idea what lies ahead. And suddenly I'm just going to be doing this with the lads, which would be interesting, but not ideal.
So that was definitely a get on a plane as soon as you can kind of moment, which was weird.
Other than that, I mean, we've been lucky and that hasn't affected us terribly in terms of health or anything like that.
And it's more like it's life, but just a little less fun. It's like what I imagine sex in the 1950s wearing a nineteen fifties manufactured condom was like it's very little wiggle room, but it's life there.
Parts of it that I, if I'm completely honest, prefer even though you're circumscribed.
Right. And there are times when you feel oppressed and you've got no brain space. There's a part of the simplicity of it, a bit like being on a desert island. The responsibility is just to make meals and get through the day. You don't have to really worry about Idaho.
I guess that whole thing of going out socializing and all of that. I think you perhaps you were better equipped for that.
You're more of a gregarious person. You're not as neurotic.
I do know what you mean about given the opportunity to have a very easy stand down. It reminds me of when we had kids first, and it's like, I can't come. The kids need to get out of shape, wasn't it?
There's a little bit of that. But now I do actually want to see people. It's also obvious. But you do feel somewhat tethered. Have you discovered anything about your relationship with your beautiful and wonderful wife, Dawn, that you didn't know? Nothing I can discuss here. Nicely handled. No, I wasn't I was being flip. Let me help you. Have learned that you love her.
Now, you knew that you've had it confirmed. I think so. That you love her. In other words, no unwelcome surprises. I bet you because some couples are struggling in lockdown.
If anything, I've learned that we're very similar, I think in lots of ways, Don and I. And so when I'm being annoying or if she's being annoying, we definitely become a little bit more patient to it as lockdown has gone on and just kind of gone. I'm just not going to get into this because it doesn't mean anything.
Whatever this little tricky moment that we're having is because of the situation rather than the relationship. So let's just let it fly and a half an hour.
We don't even remember what we were about to have a big argument about. So there's been a little bit of that of realizing, yeah, she can be as moody as I got. And that's OK, because these are not normal circumstances. How about you, Ananth?
For the most part, positive, and for the family in general, I'm reminded of those families that sort of takes a year off to travel around the world.
Right. Which seems paradoxical because this is the furthest thing from traveling. But in that sense of being in a contained unit with very little exposure to a routine or even regular set of friends and family.
Yeah, my sister actually has three kids and lives in Melbourne.
And last year they took a three month road trip and I'm sure they wish they had kept it kept in their pocket until now because this is a lot.
Yeah, but at least they were ready for this more so than we were.
I do genuinely believe that nothing in life is absolute. Right. Nothing is completely either one thing or another completely bad or good. And that in amidst the awfulness of what we're going through, there are these unexpected compensations that are really quite special and that we will treasure for life. I genuinely believe that on that.
I agree with that. I said I think thank you for joining me. Are we finished? No, no. That was the opening blows.
I feel privileged to have you on the podcast and for the audience who hasn't figured it out yet. We are friends and I'm an admirer of yours. I hope you know that, Chris. I regard you as one of the funniest people that I know. You're an actor, but you're so much more than that. You're a writer and a comedian who sense of humor does not. You know, some comedy seems to spring from certain misanthropy, like certain jadedness or even neurotic character traits, none of which, from what I've observed, you have.
That's a big wet kiss.
Thank you, buddy. I love you, too. And let's see if I can make this work. The Segway. You've done so many great pieces of work. One of your more recent ones proved very popular on the Internet, involved you singing with some friends, a rendition of a beloved song called Imagine.
It was a sort of veralyn type thing. It was a way of raising people's spirits. I think it was Galgut DOT's idea.
Josh, how do you pronounce her name? I think it's goodo. I don't think it is.
She's not French. You're thinking of Brigitte Bardot, though. You could be right.
Actually, I don't know if I've heard her say so. I enjoyed it first. Let me say you don't. But then surprisingly, I discovered quite quickly after I first watched it was proving divisive on the Internet. There were people who didn't like it. Some people seem to regard it as a kind of celebrity.
What was it sort of I don't know how you describe it. I can't believe it was viewed as sort of, I don't know, patronising or something. Certainly tone deaf.
Someone said it was worse than the coronavirus itself. That was you. Did you have a good voice, by the way?
I think it wasn't the singing, though.
I think what bothered people was the idea that stars in big homes in Hollywood would cheer people up by singing a song rather badly, as it turned out, although I don't think that was the issue.
Your thoughts, first of all, thanks so much for bringing it up.
Second of all, in terms of my interpretation of this, I think the backlash was justified. I have to say, the next morning I was like, God, what's this imagined thing?
It happened so quickly the day before where I was running from one kid to the other. And I was walking through the garden and said, oh, we have to do a video for Goodall.
And I was like, wow, how did the request come in through Kristen Wiig, who is a good friend of ours.
And then they had just done Wonderwoman together, Christians and Wonder Woman and I'll do anything Chris had asked me to do. So of course, we just did it. It took five minutes, didn't think about it.
I presumed it was for kids or I know that God works for UNICEF. So I presumed it was a charity which would have been even more cruel, by the way, to make children listen to it. I think there are laws against that.
But sorry. Go on. But yeah, people were it was definitely we were in that first wave of creative diarrhea back to encase the entire world, particularly momentarily. It was just a bunch of people running around thinking that they had to do something. We really didn't. We just needed to just chill out, just take everything in. So I think that any backlash was there was a case of Twitter.
I mean, it's just a Twitter backlash. Is that not what Twitter's kind of.
Yeah, it was it was very typically Twitter in that it was a thing that we didn't need, that everybody hated.
It was kind of bizarre to be part of that, even momentarily, part of that maelstrom.
But I'm glad it's over and can move out, really.
I think when the Segway off that now. I mean, the thing is, what we found, I think, is that what's the best way of putting it?
I don't know. Might be one of those things you can't talk about without it contributing to the phenomenon itself.
Like, I think I read a quote from you somewhere that sort of said, really, when you're a successful film actor or TV actor or Hollywood celebrity, it's almost as though you are not really entitled to have any problems.
You know, if you bring your car, then people are like, well, you can afford another one. Yeah, there's definitely an element of that. And there's also an element of truth in that. Yeah, problems that are easy to overcome then are really problems.
But I think in a situation like that where it's like how you are interpreted by the rest of the world has an importance to how your career works out, then it is of slight more importance, oddly, than pranging your car seems to me in that circumstance.
But we're definitely going through a phase of how the media or people within it are interpreted by people who watch it. I don't know how that plays out, whether we are just doing a bad job as people in the media. Essentially, all we're supposed to do, as you do in a lot of your work, is try and be a mirror to society.
And sometimes it's polished up a little bit. That's fine. But if it feels like, what are you doing, then we're failing at our job. And so then when something like that is thrown on the Internet with very little talk on into it, then it further exacerbates this idea that who are these people who are supposed to be representing us?
I know just our mutual friend, Sacha Baron Cohen didn't appear in the video, and he's quite a good friend of.
They cut him out. They cut him out. No, he just he didn't. Yeah, they cut him out.
His voice wasn't good enough. That's just that's good.
It is a one hundred percent alive just to be decent. I think now he would never do that. He's quite savvy about not doing very much, which I think has its own issues. But evidently in this case, I guess pay dividends. Do you think, like it seems to me like Hollywood celebrities, the public at large has a love hate relationship with them. And this may seem a little bit of a stretch, but to some extent, Trump, among others, has weaponized that.
You know, that whole notion of a Hollywood liberal or the way in which star or people in Hollywood might line up behind a given cause or a given candidate is now a kind of a double edged thing. I think that's totally the case.
I think, first of all, that we're all allowed to have an opinion and putting it on Twitter, we're allowed to do that. Otherwise we're pandering.
But I do think that there is a case to be made that our voice is far too loud in these things at the monumental kind of followers and all of that stuff.
We have probably been treating that with the responsibility that it deserves.
But he's been doing this thing, of course, which is because he is such a huge part of the elites financially. If you make the elite something else, the elite is no longer who can. The money, but who's on television when you look at what pop stars or movie guys or whatever make it so minuscule compared to every one of his banking friends. But in terms of public outreach, if Hollywood is the enemy, then he can't be the enemy because he's tried to bring it all down.
So it's just creating a new enemy in the same way that The Daily Mail tell you with foreigners, he'll say it's whatever the Emmys.
You've been quite an outspoken supporter of Trump. OK, we'll cut that bit up, so to go back to I think I said at the beginning how much I admire your different work. When I came to know you, I'd seen you in Bridesmaids, the IT crowd, etc. I hadn't realized that you were also a writer at that time. I hadn't seen the series you created Moone Boy, and I didn't realize you had these other scripts in some ways.
And maybe that says something about prejudice I carry. But when you're a writer and you're capable of being a writer, a performer, or you could have been a standup, I imagine it surprises me in a way that you would have gone into acting because you're sort of more at the mercy of other people in acting. You know, you're turning up for auditions. You're having to read other people's lines, certainly when you start. Forgive me if it's a wrongheaded question, but with your talents, did you not think of being a writer?
I didn't learn how to write until much later.
I enjoyed performing in college in plays and didn't really foresee what the future was other than wanting to be on stage and did just a whole lot of plays.
And then that kind of went into making TV.
And then once I started working with writers like Graham Linehan and Judd Apatow and good writers that I was so impressed by, I think I picked up a few things and then just started writing a bit and then just really enjoyed it.
And so now I'd say my time is kind of split half and half, but I would miss the live performance. Particularly being on stage is such a rush taps into an entirely different part of your brain than people enjoying the script. So hopefully all going well. I'll continue to do both because there is something very rewarding about finishing a manuscript or finishing a script that is different than just relentless, nonstop standing ovations that I'm used to and auditions where the callback doesn't come.
Yeah, that's all.
Have you ever done an audition? I've only done one audition as a singer on a Norwegian cruise liner for an episode of Weird Weekends. Oh yes. Where Craig Reville Horwood was one of the auditioners. He was not famous then. This was in '99, I think, or 2000 I bombed.
What did you have to do? Did you say you were dancing or just singing? Just singing. Wow, you've got an OK voice. I could do falsetto to a fairly high standard.
Oh, I can get by at a very high range and actually certain range is audible only to dogs. How lucky for them.
That was me singing at that register. That was a visual gag. Yeah, they love that other part. Got my mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. But actually, I think I had a bad choice of song. I sang with a little help from my friends, which is obviously written for Ringo, who didn't have the strongest voice. But for whatever reason, I couldn't find the note. And it was one of those situations where it was so embarrassing.
You probably get this quite a lot that it wasn't just embarrassing for me. It was embarrassing for everyone in the room, like everyone was looking at their hands.
Oh, it's awful. I mean, it was fine because it was I didn't have to be good for the show to work. It was a documentary about me failing, I guess. But I would have preferred to have done well.
But I said facetiously, you're used to this. But actually, I imagine your dab hand at auditions, aren't you?
I don't do so many of them anymore, but oh, God, I've had so many terrible auditions. Have you just as you were talking about your Norwegian cruise story?
I had this flashback must have been six or seven years ago, but I was going into an audition for a drama series over here on something. But somebody handed me a suite which now seems so passé. Could you imagine? But I took a suite because I was trying to be casual, like, oh yeah, no problem.
I just go in here in the suite and I started choking on it and it just got worse and I had to leave.
Oh, no, it wasn't pleasant. What was the role? Do you remember?
Oh, I do know some big dumb guy, probably my English major who I've had for whatever 20 years now. We always had a joke because my first three roles in the title description, they called them a big slow guy and then a big dumb guy for something else and a slow kind of guy for the other one. I'm like, wow, this is sexy.
So when you got Lennie in of Mice and Men, right. You'd been preparing your whole life for that, like a documentary made for people who read or seen of Mice and Men.
That's who Lenny is. He's a big, dumb guy.
Before we talked, I was like, how do you describe him? Because he's actually mentally disabled. Would you say? Yeah, he has a cognitive disorder that isn't really spelled out in the book. It's alluded to that he was hit by a horse in childhood. But in research that I've done about it, they used to say that about a lot of mental conditions.
So it's more likely that he was undiagnosed. But yeah, he had his issues for sure.
I read that you used to say when you went to auditions, you would have been bitten by a dog on the way there.
Sadly, what happens essentially in London, particularly in a New York, I'm sure, is that at the same time of the year when the colleges finish, the city is swamped with these hundreds of wannabe actors, thousands probably.
And so it's hard to make a name for yourself or to even make an impression. And so for two months, I pretended that I had just been bitten by a dog as I walked in.
And I would go in and say, did anybody see that cocker spaniel on the road there was oh God. And then I'd be clutching my. It didn't and I pulled out my stocking about it didn't it didn't tear the skin.
It's fine. It's fine. We're good. We're good. And then just through boredom, I suppose the story started getting a little more obtuse. And I would be there was a kid, there was a rattle and this dog. And then I went to get the rattle off and then I went for my knee.
Can you see the can you see this?
Like, I don't know what I was hoping other than, like, somebody will go, hey, you know, who'd be good for that?
The guy that was bitten by a dog.
But it all came crashing down when I took another one of these general meetings and I'd taken dozens of them at this stage. And I went into this meeting and they were like, hey, how are you?
I'm like, could could I just oh, my God.
The bottom of your stairs was I don't know if it's like a terrier mix, like he would have done it right from nowhere. And they were like, oh, my God, that's so weird. I was like, I know.
And they said because the last time you were here, you were bitten by a dog, forgotten. So I had to try and Stylianos and I was like, yeah, I don't have a lot of trouble across the pond, but yeah, anything you can do.
Can we talk a bit about now, you grew up in Northwest Ireland in Boyle, which I hadn't really realized. It's really pretty small. It's about two thousand five hundred souls, according to Wikipedia. That's right. Yeah, around 2000, I think.
So could we call you a country boy? What's odd is I always grew up thinking I was quite suburban.
I grew up with cows across the street, so it would have been outskirts of rural.
And you're not the only star to come from Boyle.
Are you talking about Maureen O'Sullivan? I am, yeah. Maureen O'Sullivan is from Boyle. Who who is the figure of my childhood. I'm a little older than you. I'm forty nine.
I'll be turning 50 in about eight days. Thank you. That was the space I left for you to say happy birthday. I know that it's your birthday.
I found it amazing that you decided to tell me it was eight days away just in case. Yes. Turning the big five. Oh, I'm not trying to make you feel about it pretty good.
Yeah, you look good for 50. Thank you. I feel good. I mentioned that I do keep fit. It's good. It's like an episode of The Golden Girls. Yes, I'm a little older than you. And when I was growing up, Tarzan and Jane was on TV and I remember being right, Johnny Weissmuller, who played Tarzan and my dad, who's American, always used to say, oh, you know, he was a swimmer, he was an Olympic swimmer.
But I didn't realize. But in fact, Jane was Maureen O'Sullivan. So that's how I know her work. But she was actually an esteemed and highly productive in terms of the films. I don't know. And in terms of children, I think she had quite a few actor.
Yeah, one of her kids is Mia Farrow. Right.
That's my point. Well, it is my point. My point is, according to legend, this was part of how you got into acting where it did.
OK, so one of my earliest memories was a parade, which wasn't uncommon, but there was a parade that was at a different time of the year.
And it was because this actress had been returning home from Hollywood. She would have been in her 80s, I think clearly at this stage. So they had her on the back of a cattle truck and they were parading her through the town. And everybody I was on my father's shoulders.
I believe it was the plaque. I've seen a lot of the photos. I mean, it's so adorable. It's an odd thing for such a small town in Ireland to have this, you know, Jane, with such a big like the whole Tarzan thing was a big deal. Yeah. So it's one of my earliest memories. And I suppose in some way part of me thought, wow, well, she must be important.
What does she do? Even if it wasn't conscious?
I'm sure that large somewhere in my in my head. As what as well. That's a job worth doing.
And then later on you told me this one night either you got in touch with Mia Farrow or she got in touch with you.
She had posted about her mother on Twitter.
I just got in touch and said, oh, hey, you know that your mother was from my hometown and just kind of whatever.
And we stayed in touch.
So, yeah, well, I'll send her a message every now and again.
And but it's funny. I think she finds it reassuring that people from her mom's home place remember her as you would.
I'm just grabbing something to rest my phone up again. Sorry, go on so much later, you came to, I guess, memorialise aspects of your childhood in Moone Boy. How close would you say that is?
I would say that the family makeup was very similar in that I had three older sisters. I decided to not have my older brother in it because my memory of him growing up was that he wasn't there. He was 10 years older. So we had gone to college by the time I was 10. And then and then he was gone. So I put in an uncle character into it that was kind of supposed to be him, that kind of came home and was quite dramatic.
And I left again.
I wondered if that's what it was. Yeah, he's kind of cool that he's a buska and he pretends he's been going around Europe at that time.
He did travel around Europe and he would send me these postcards from his backpacking days. I'm one of them was a tent where they had gone, I think, outside Budapest. And they had camped in the middle of the night and woken up.
I think I that you made me laugh.
Yeah. Other than that, my mother at that time was a Weight Watchers instructor that kind of later became it went back to college. But at that time she was doing that. And my dad was sign writing and it was set in Boyle and we shot her in Boyle.
So there was a lot of similarities. My sisters in reality were much more pleasant, but we kind of messed it up just to make it a bit more dramatic and fun.
I suppose I sort of, in a way, envy you. Having had three older sisters, I could see that it was not without its challenges. If Moone Boy is anything to go on this many scenes of them putting their feet on your face or putting makeup on you when you're asleep, and then you go off to school wearing makeup. But at the same time, in my family, it was just the two boys. Right. And I think what I said is that it instilled in you a certain level of understanding of, I guess, relations between men and women or girls and boys, maybe even a maturity that it took me years to acquire and which I may not have acquired.
Oh, well, I feel the same. I don't know if I have acquired them either. I think you've got something.
Maybe I'm projecting a sort of fantasy version of what you want, but it seems to me you are someone who's you seem to have your masculine and feminine principles in alignment, in a healthy balance. I do feel OK about that. I don't feel like I'm a macho guy, but I don't feel ashamed of being a man. Know, maybe you're right. In terms of within myself, I probably feel comfortable enough where what the fuck am I talking about?
I mean, I'm just blathering.
I thought that was part of it. When you said that, I was like, that's a healthy outlook to have.
No, I mean it I think you have a OK, this is going to sound pathetic. I think in my world, which is mainly the world of documentary makers, journalists, many of us are slightly maladapted. I don't know why that should be the case. And it may even be an unfair generalization. And we slightly live vicariously. I really am only talking about myself. We live vicariously through other people.
That's how I. You have an older brother. I have an older brother.
Yes, I'm the youngest of five. Yes. So I feel like as parents you get better by doing it. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're more attentive. Probably by the time the fifth kid comes along, you just kind of let them get on with it because you don't have the headspace for it.
So I think coming from a large family and being the youngest, you end up fairly independent at least. Did you get into fights? You strike me as someone who might have got the occasional scrape growing up.
I had a couple of fisticuffs here. There, I suppose you call it.
We used to do this thing, which was unusual, where we didn't have a nightclub open in our town for a long time.
So we would travel to the next town over, the next town over. And when we were on sixteen or seventeen outside the club, in the car park, like the towns would fight each other.
So there was definitely a lot of fights in car parks, none of which I was great at or enjoyed, because really you want to be shift and some girl somewhere, you don't really have that expression, do you? Shifting.
I saw it in Moone Boy. I wasn't quite sure what it meant. It just means like French kissing, right?
Snogging. Snogging. Right.
But you got into fights just because that was sort of what happened.
Yes. I remember they paired you up against people from the other towns kind of. And I remember ending up with some guy from, I don't know, Rusedski or somewhere.
And we both were kind of squaring up. The others were all fighting somewhere else. And he was like, I hit all this shit.
Oh, yeah, me too. We can't let them see that we're not fighting. So we'll just hide behind this car.
And but also, you know, I've had a couple of little scrapes here and there.
When was the last time you would see you had a fight? I got into a little tete a tete with a drunk guy three or four years ago on or on Grafton Street, Grafton Street in London, in Dublin.
Oh yeah, I bumped into a guy. I was coming home and he was paying homeless people to fight each other.
So I kind of he was paying homeless people to fight each other. Yes. Why? Because he was a finance prick.
We're going to have to open this up a little bit. You said what's going on here, guv? Yeah.
And it was like throwing coins at them. Anyway, we had words and turned into a bit of a thing.
You said, stop it. And he said, no, I won't.
And then I said, I can't remember how it transitioned into being slightly more physical.
It felt like such handbags because there was something like a little bit of pushing. And I'm like, this guy doesn't know what he's doing. And he's even if he's an arsehole, he doesn't he doesn't deserve to have me in prison for it.
I think I went easy.
How did it end? I think we went our separate ways. That's good.
Like it's almost like a gentleman never kisses and tells like and maybe they don't punch and tell. Is that how it is? Like in my version, you laid him out on the floor?
No, it was nothing as heroic as that. There might have been an old Cakir there, I can't remember.
But there was certainly a little bit of argy bargy, but not necessarily representative of my adult life.
I remember it because it was so unusual to have that rush because I don't really play any what you call a combat, a combat sport.
What am I mean to say sports where you bang against each other, full contact, contact sport. You miss that adrenaline. It's an unusual thing of like just about to receive a shoulder, just about to hit a guy's lap or whatever it is. It's a very unusual. Right, getting a slap receiving being hit. It's such an unusual, unusual thing.
I did some boxing training when I was doing this. Get your job.
And you kind of realize that when you're hit from close up, it doesn't hurt that much.
I get a bit of a sting, but it's like when you see those boxers and they're like, I'm going to work the inside because if this guy has a swing at me, it's going to break my chin.
What do they mean when they say work the inside will not let him fully extend his arm.
So work in the body or a lot of jobs? No big. Hock's and I was literally talking like, I'm George Foreman.
In my world you are like I think I've never been I don't think in a fight. And I sort of feel that probably, for the most part, a good thing. And then some part of me thinks I'm turning fifty. I don't know if I mentioned that. And these are life experiences I'm starting to think I may never have. And what you say makes perfect sense. The adrenaline dump on those few occasions where I felt I was either being assaulted on or on the verge of it once when I was trying to buy some hash in West London of a man, he said, give me the money.
And I said, Hang on, mate, I wasn't born yesterday.
I'd like to see the produce, whatever the term was, the product. I'd like to see the product.
You said produce. I probably did.
And then he punched me without any warning, as if to say like, no, no, no, you don't really get how this is going. And then I thought, OK, oh, I get it. Sorry, my misunderstanding.
I gave him the money and he went on his merry way was actually I missed one point of this go.
Did he give you the cash in the end?
I think you know that he didn't he wouldn't really have needed to punch me. I thought he was just putting manners on you.
He wasn't putting manners on me. He was saying, no, no, this isn't a business transaction. This is a mugging. He didn't have any drugs. He just saw a hapless public schoolboy who would later go to Oxford. Oh, my God.
But that wasn't actually that was so fast. I didn't really get the there were other times when I was younger where kids would come up to me, happened a couple of times. I think once a kid went past me at a bus stop and I was showing off to friends and I mouthed at him, what are you looking at? And then he walked off and then my friends got on the bus. They were getting a different bus. Then I was there on my own and he came back with his mates and he said, What did you say earlier?
And I said, nothing. And then I just felt this, as I say, adrenaline dump or this feeling of emptiness. It's a very hard feeling to describe. Yeah, it's not emptiness. It was a sudden weight, this heaviness of, I don't know, like sweat and chemicals descending on me. And I said, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I should gibbet. I probably actually gibbet. And I think he didn't even punch me at that point.
I think if I've got this guy's pathetic.
My first week of secondary school, I got my nose broken.
You can still see it. Yes. Yeah. From a kid in like like an level kid was pulling something off one of my little buddies.
I was a big kid. I think I told you I was like six foot when I was 11 or 12. He was beating up a friend of yours. It was more like he was taking his crisps or something. Like it was older kid welcoming the new recruits. And I decided to take a stand. He hit me and I remember decided. To go, I'm just going to pretend that I didn't feel anything, so I said something along the lines of, oh, that's best, you've got to hit me again.
And I was the one that broke my nose and then just blood being all over me.
But my sisters found out they know this kid because they're all the same kind of age. And they went off and they told their boyfriends and then that became his problem.
Oh, afternoon by my sisters have always got a bad rap, whereas they are the most incredible women.
And that was one of the times I remember it starting. I had a similar thing.
Having said, I hardly ever got into fights once I was grappling with a kid and it wasn't like nasty was more just it wasn't exactly friendly, but it was a wrestling incident where he kind of threw me to the ground and I smashed my face on the ground.
But it wasn't until years later that I realized he'd actually broken my nose.
And that's why I have a crooked house. And that means that I have a good side and a bad side because from one side with the bed goes in, my nose looks slightly smaller, which is the good side. It's my right side if you're interested. And then on the left, if you shoot me from the left, my nose looks twice as big.
Oh, interesting. So not interesting. Your insincerity was noticed.
I even think you might have been looking at your watch, as you said that. Here's the point, though. There is a point here.
Oh, I suppose I'm slightly preoccupied with the whole question of masculinity. And I've spoken to, you know, as part of this, I don't know if I mentioned this is the 10th of 10 episodes. It's the last one of this podcast Grounded with Louie through. And I'm talking to Chris O'Dowd.
Where did you come up with the hold on so tightly grounded, which would, of course, make total sense if your day job was you were an airline pilot? It's an expression, as you may know in America, when you're grounded means you're confined to the house.
It cleverly has a secondary meaning in this context, which is you are emotionally stable. You are getting back in touch with something foundational or you are well established in some way. Do you feel emotionally stable? Oh, no, I don't mean that to be so open ended, but I think about it all the time. Sometimes I feel like, oh yeah, I'm good. I can kind of deal whatever harsh it's going to be thrown at me and then sometimes feel like, God, I hope nobody leans on me for anything because I'm fit to crumble.
Well, here's the thing.
I feel normal most of the time, but I think that's a lot to do with not having much to compare my own consciousness with. Yeah, none of us has the luxury of ever being in anyone else's head. And so I grew up thinking my family is normal and boring. I'm pretty normal and boring. And then later on in your twenties, it seems to be your 20s is about figuring out how your family was not that normal, which is no bad thing, by the way, because what is normal.
But there's certainly there were a lot of undercurrents. And for my own self, I think I'm up and down. I think the label I'd put on myself and maybe I'm being overly harsh, but I'm a sort of passive aggressive control freak.
Nancy will be better to speak to this, but you don't strike me as passive aggressive. Do you find it hard to be aggressive? Like do you ever have screaming matches with anybody?
Occasionally we talked earlier about lowest moments in lockdown and you very romantically said it was when you thought you might be prevented from seeing Dawn, whereas I think you've missed the point of that. The point of that was like, oh, my God, do I have to take care of the kids on my own for like three months? I just gave you a golden ticket for getting cut out. What I just said just cut out what I just said.
Everybody thought we had this thing like brose that we would look out for each other and I was fulfilling my part of the deal. So I thought that was romantic.
When you said that you were worried about not being with Dawn. Yeah, that's right. Whereas I'd been thinking about where was I going with this and my passive. I don't think I find it that easy to get angry. And I think I sometimes try and experience my emotions through other people. And I think that's part of what makes me in so far as I'm good at my job. I think this is part of it.
I kind of like and this may be awful to even confess slightly winding people up so that if they get angry, I feel a release like I like for other people to have the emotions. And then it's like it's so much easier than having them yourself.
Oh, you're like a little puppeteer of cognitive orders or a big puppeteer or you're a gigantic puppeteer.
Then we go a very four fifty, nearly lithe and toned puppeteer, six feet two went to Oxford, probably cut that one out.
Yeah, you're phrasing it a little unkindly. I can take it. I think there's something in that I find that fascinating.
I mean, in a way, that's why a lot of people become actors. It us in some way seeing a pathway into somebody else's lives and emotions and being able to channel them. And some fruitful way without being in any way judged for who we are, but I think that you have well, maybe you should say, but and I'm also thinking that you have as an actor, you need ready access to your emotions, whether they're counterfeit or not.
You need to be able to create some facsimile of anger or sadness or whatever it is.
You know, when you're asked to do naughties or what they call reaction shots, it's the closest in the documentary world.
You sort of get to acting. They turn the camera around. They say, like, can you do that again? Can you smile? Can you nod? Can you look this way? Can you look down, pick up a book, come into the room, and then actually they say, can you laugh? I don't do it anymore because I can't pretend to laugh. It's very reassuring for me that I can't. Well, that you can't fake it.
But you can, I think. Oh yeah.
I'm not one to toot my own horn, but fake laughing I do really well.
There it was. That was good. And you even did it.
So my point though is that you are reproducing these emotions without feeling them. When you cry in a role, are you accessing a sad memory or not?
The nature of filming is sometimes it'll take six or seven takes to do a particular scene for whatever it is, different angles and whatnot.
So towards the end I'll often have like er pads on and I'm getting to the end of those scenes listening to sad music, wrenching out the last bit of the true emotion that I was feeling. I never suggested that you don't access your own emotions. It just gives you the opportunity to do so without yourself being judged.
But I don't know what I'm feeling a lot of the time. I think I'm getting better at it.
Sometimes I'm really upset and I get ambushed by a sudden axis of emotionality without really expecting it. And I think, wow, I had no idea I was feeling so torn up about that. You know, you get surprised by tears. It's sometimes quite nice what happens because you sort of get reminded. Oh, I do actually have the full complement of feelings. I'm not robot man, but have you found that that's been even more so lately?
Maybe a little bit, yes. I'm not going around weeping, but on occasion I suddenly think, wow, this whole thing that's going on, it's really awful. Like it's horrendous. The enormity of the tragedy of blindsides you. Yeah.
And then you go back to normal. It sounds trivial, but the little routines that I've had have been so important, like exercising, also doing these podcasts and being a little bit productive. And so when the days stretch ahead and you don't quite know what the landscape of the day is or what the order of services, I find that really tough.
I work from home most of the time when I'm not on an acting job, like we've got a converted garage at the back of the house that I write in.
And so me being at home is something I'm very used to. Me being at home with another three people is unusual as a 24/7 thing. So there's definitely a feeling of everybody will understand claustrophobia, I suppose.
And then there is the financial element of it. I don't know what is going to happen to my industry.
Our savings are going pretty quick and there's definitely an element of, OK, well, I'm now a grown up man who is going to take care of everything, and that's not anything I'm used to.
I think we live in an unusual time where masculinity is being second guessed so frequently and rightfully that it does put us in this hinterland of, OK, well, I'm being a man the best I can.
But also, I don't know our role in the world is going through such a transition that we're definitely in that period kind of equality where we're still very much expected to be providers and all of that kind of stuff. But also we have to do what's expected of us as parents and as partners and as members of society that our fathers wouldn't have had to deal with. So that's an unusual thing. But I think that we're dealing with generally quite well. We give ourselves an awful hard time over a society, but I think we're transitioning to a fairer place.
With relative speed considering for thousands of years, very little changed. One of the things I enjoyed in Moone Boy was the relationship between the parents and it's almost like it takes place in ever so slightly a different key. They're on a kind of equal footing. In some respects. The dad is deferential. In other respects, the dad pulls rank. There's a moment where the mom says it's my work, not as important as yours because, yes, I think my work is more important, at which point she erects a kind of pillow barrier down the middle of the bed.
But there's other scenes in which the dad sort of outgunned by his daughters and he wants to watch water coloring programs and they want to watch Dynasty. Right. And he has this sort of slightly sad but touching meet up of the mascot, not a massacre of men who feel a little bit either trodden upon or on listened to or something like it's a support group for dads, for dads.
Could be dad. Not sad, right?
That's right. That's right. And the guy who plays the leader of the support group sort of found a member. He plays it with a very faint, effeminate touch. You look like you could use a cup of tea, you know, and he just invites him in. Anyway, I don't want to go off on too much for you about all of that. Felt like it. As much as things may be different now, I saw a guy who was trying to grapple with changing mores even then, like she's campaigning for Mary Robinson and wants to work and he's trying to figure out where he fits in.
But I just wondered whether that was reflective of how you grew up and if that were the case, that would sort of be a pretty good grounding for a fair minded understanding of how gender roles should take place. You know, that's not a bad starting point.
It definitely isn't such a good jumping off point to the rest of the world. It was a very matriarchal family because even people outside our immediate family that were important to us largely were aunts and grannies. So you are told quite early on the women run the place, even if not right now, financially, they essentially make the rules by which you live by on a day to day level.
You sort of anticipated my question, which was to do with, you know, have you spoken? I've spoken to three actors or female for this podcast.
You're the first male other than Lenny Henry, who's more known as a comedian, I guess. But but the role of men now is a little bit up for grabs. I don't want to mystify it. Like in some respects, it's like, oh, don't grab women if they don't want you to. There's places where it's not appropriate to make advances. And listen, pay attention. Don't be a pig. Right? Sure. But there's other centers in which is not completely clear how it's all supposed to work.
And I think it's OK for us not to have all the answers. All of these things are complicated and we don't know if this whole place that we're in now is the transition. Like that this century is that time where everything changes into something entirely different, whether it's plurality or whether it's isolation at the end of the century is going to look entirely different. It started this one, so it's hard to know if we are at the endpoint of a certain time or the star point of another.
So in terms of sex relations, we're trying to work it out. I don't know what the mark is, where it's like everybody is going to be happy when we get to this point, whether that is equal pay, whether that's equal parenting, whether that's the very basics of not being mistreated in your workplace or whatnot.
But it does feel like we're on our way there.
The small dissenting note sounded sometimes I worry that the sort of places like, you know, I guess liberal parts of London and other cities and Hollywood. Where else where people worry about this stuff. Right. And men think about women rewriting the rules. And then it's almost like double bookkeeping is swathes of the country and powerful perches like the president himself, who's operating under a whole different set of rules. Right. And in my suppose, cynical moments, I worry that maybe this is just a very localized set of concerns that aren't really being felt in the wider world.
The impression I get feels like we're going, even if it's in fits and starts in the right direction.
And the whole Trump thing feels more like the last throes of something. Do you think I do? Yeah, it feels like it's such a response to the first black president, to a sensitive man as president. I can't explain Jonathan and brings in all of that.
And a lot more black people voted for Trump than Romney.
Sorry. Say that again. It's not a very amazing fact. If I'd been able to say that Obama, that would be like what?
But no more black people voted for Trump than voted for Mitt Romney, the previous Republican presidential nominee.
I know who he is. I'm just wondering, like, that's eight people versus six people. It was like three percent versus four percent or something. I mean, what is unusual in that is that Romney was against Obama, but more voted for Trump.
So maybe that explains it. The incredible statistic that you just came up with is that a lot of black people voted for Obama. Yes. That to me, this isn't a political podcast.
I know we've tell you I've taken up a lot of your time. Want to just see if there's any low hanging fruit we haven't picked. How do we wrap this into a really sweet little package? One of the surprising things the neighbor said to me, I think we're going to be looking at a big baby boom in nine months.
And I thought, yeah, I don't think that's the picture I'm getting from my research because nothing says romantic, like 16 hours wrestling iPads from a five year old or telling kids that three hours on a PlayStation is enough and then cooking and cleaning and doing all the normal domestic duties, you know what I mean?
The truth is the risk of giving over too much information. I don't find that I'm running to the bedroom with hearts, four eyes.
Sure. Regularly in the way that I might do in the normal course of affairs when the globe is not being ravaged by a pandemic. I don't know maybe that some I think that what's going to be interesting that put me off my Kiip.
I'm a little bit off your one of my quibbles. That's not a phrase. I just made it up. Kimballs of what you feed cats. It wasn't even a metaphor.
Well, I just said it because I needed to end the sentence. Go on. I I made the decision in my head just not to interrupt any of that.
And I'm so glad I did, but I do think that we will all be undergoing some sort of low level PTSD and probably are right now. And, of course, it would be a lot of people who will roll their eyes that even the thought of that, because we have, of course, been through anything unless we've been affected that has been physically affected. No, but the trauma, if you consider yourself a part of society, you just lost a limb.
And I think that we don't necessarily appreciate how much that's going to affect us moving forward.
But the weird thing is, I don't know if I do feel that, but maybe I do and I don't realize it.
I don't think we do feel it necessarily hugely now. I think there's an exhaustion that's affecting your libido more than anything. But I think as soon as we come out of lockdown, I don't think that we realize what we're in for. We're all in the midst of something that nobody just as you said at the beginning, nobody has experienced this before. It's such an outrageous thing. And it's odd for our kids to be going through it and think this is somehow normal.
I hope we just give each other a break coming out of this. You know that there's going to be a lot of people coming out of this, doing stupid things and behaving badly because we are dealing with an odd trauma society that we're not familiar with. So I just hope that everybody's cool for a minute and be nice to each other.
Well, sure that but also just let's be just a bit understanding of each other's when we're not nice.
You should call Gal Gadot when we when we're done, you know, when it's loosened up a bit.
I think we're good, man. I really appreciate it. I don't normally do them this late in the day. I think it's a little more unfocused, but I think it was perfect.
It's always a pleasure talking to you, Chris. Iraqi Bear, Delaware. Thank you. The big five. Oh, gee, can I tell you the thing? I was out with Wally in the garden a couple of days ago. And he said, Mommy's making a funny video for you, but it's a secret and I was like, Oh, I better not say anything to Nancy, but now I heard about it. Very good. You're an actor.
That was either good acting. It might even have been bad acting so many.
She's going to get in touch. She just hasn't yet. So it must be something that's not that important.
So now do I pretend? I want to say because it was a funny thing that Wally said, but then I thought, I better not mention it. That's the right move. Right.
Don't say anything to Nancy that Wally said that she's making a funny video. Assume that it's a bit of nonsense that Wally came out with.
I think that that's the kindest thing. But I'm worried that if she doesn't give me a funny video, I'll feel disappointed. Well, then you can just sit in that. Exactly. Deal with it. Just deal with it. You've been listening to ground it with me, Louie through.
Hey, you know what I've just decided? Well, if there is no funny video, I'm going to call girl. We'll get something together for you.
My guest in this the last episode of the series has been writer, comedian, actor and friend Chris O'Dowd.
But I'd like it if Sacha was in it. Sacha Baron Cohen, that would be a coup.
We could probably swing that. And Ricky Ricky, I know less well, but you probably do it. I do.
You have in many other guests over the weeks, among them, Miriam Margolyes, Lenny Henry, Rose McGowan, Kesi Kroy Deeney and Helena Bonham Carter. You can get them all by searching for grounded with Louis through wherever you get your podcasts and subscribing.
This has been a mindless production for BBC Sounds and radio for the series was put together remotely by Catherine Mannan and Paul Kobrick, and the music throughout was composed and performed by Begal D'Oliveira. Oh, and by the way, there was a birthday video so extra thanks to Chris for not spoiling the surprise. Christopher, darling, would you like to know is you're alive.
I knew you'd be alive. Your legend. Happy birthday. I hope the next 60 years are just as great, Ma.
Hello, I'm Tim Harford, the presenter of More or Less. And I believe that if you want to understand the world, which is a very big, very complicated place, then numbers are an absolutely essential tool that I could telescope for an astronomer or an X-ray machine for radiographer numbers answer questions we can't answer in any other way, such as how safe is a home birth? And yes, we check the facts. What are those lying politicians lying to us about this week?
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