My Comedy Influences 1: Get An Earful Of This

Get An Earful Of This was a satirical RTE Radio comedy series which ran from about 1970 until 1979 and, unknown to me at the time, had a profound influence on me.
Written by Fergus Linehan and Frank Sheeran, it starred Rosaleen Linehan, John Keogh, Bosco Hogan (later Des Cave) and Aidan Grennell and was broadcast mostly on Sunday nights after the Sport Results at 11a.m. with a repeat on Tuesday nights at around 10a.m.
It poked fun at everything and everyone – politicians, celebrities and television and radio programmes as well as popular advertisements. The show always ended with a rousing song which lampooned something or other, usually to the air of a well-known tune.
Some series had a weekly serial. One was ‘The McGombeen Saga’ which told the story of property developers Charles McGombeen and his gauche wife Gladys and their fight against the Irish Georgian Society. Another was ‘Up From The Country’, which told the story of innocent country lad, Mairtin McGormless, who comes to Dublin to work in his Uncle Packie’s supermarket business and meets his first love, Chrissie and a boot boy called Jem. This was followed in the next series by another serial ‘Further Up From The Country’.
There were also a very funny series of sketches featuring a married couple, Ray and Kay McVeigh (portrayed by John Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan) where the christian and surnames of every character mentioned rhymed e.g. Shane and Jane O’Kane were the neighbours. Dara O’Hara was Kay’s long lost love. Kay was pseudo posh and uppity and Ray was really mousey and eager to please, but always managing to get it wrong.
My interest in character names and developing unusual and funny names probably comes from the writers’ love of changing names of well-known people and making them sound funny eg Monica Carr, the well-known journalist became Chronica Maher; Frankie Byrne, the friend of the lovelorn became Frankly Burnt.
The members of the Get An Earful team were brilliant separately, but they gelled wonderfully as a unit. Rosaleen Linehan was and is one of Ireland’s finest comediennes and has gone on to prove herself one of our finest actresses. On Get An Earful Of This she showed her great mastery of voices as did John Keogh, who had been a singer in the 60s with the group, ‘The Greenbeats. One song of theirs I remember particularly is ‘The Thing’. He went on to work as a producer with RTE and I had the pleasure of working with him when I wrote for ‘Davis At Large’ in the 1980s. Bosco Hogan was the third member of the team. His innocent Mairtin McGormless was a wonderful creation. He has gone on to be a highly respected stage and television actor. He was later replaced by Des Cave in the programme. The final member of the team was Aidan Grennell, whose voice added an air of gravitas to the proceedings. Although a serious actor, he showed a great comic timing and a lot of the comedy came from him trying to maintain control as things fell apart around him.
It’s a pity that, as far as I know, most of it has been wiped from the RTE archives. I have some recordings of the show, but they are not in great shape.
Little did I know when I was listening to it back in the 1970s that it would have such an effect on my own writing in later years..

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16 Responses to My Comedy Influences 1: Get An Earful Of This

  1. Ronan FitzGerald says:

    I have a recolection of this show, I would have been 0 when it started broadcasting, but my brother would have indoctrinated me into it at around 6/7 with a transistor radio and the white hearing aid ear piece! I only remember the name of the show and the Pick up a Penguin (nun) sketch, but have fond memories of the event, as at that age it would have been and “under cover” operation…god bless big brothers!

  2. Jimmy Keary says:

    Thanks for getting in touch, Ronan. Glad to know there’s another Get An Earful fan out there.
    Of course, I’m sure there are many more, but unfortunately, it’s never mentioned nowadays. ‘Scrap Saturday’ is the show that seems to get talked about and has even been released on cd.
    To my knowledge, RTE has wiped most of the Get An Earful shows, which is a shame. I’d be the first to buy a compilation cd.
    Thanks again for posting on my website.
    Jimmy

    • Kay Tombe says:

      Hi Jimmy et al

      I actually worked on Get an Earful of This in RTE Radio. It was great fun and the music was provided by some of the foremost session musicians of the day. The show was produced by my dear friend and colleague the late Willie Styles. The ‘series’ within the programme was called ‘The McGombeens of Ballytaca Towers’.
      I think Eanna Brophy who worked in the RTE Guide also contributed to the script. Even though I worked on the programme I still listened in on Sunday evenings to hear the whole thing and absolutely loved it and laughed ….

      • admin says:

        Kay,
        Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a message on my webpage. It’s great to hear from someone who worked on the series.
        It’s a pity so few of the episodes exist in the RTE archives. I’m sure private off-air recordings exist somewhere. They’d make a wonderful cd release if found.
        If you have any more recollections of your time working on the series, I’d love to hear them.
        Yours sincerely,
        Jimmy Keary

  3. Andy Bell says:

    “Get an earful of this, it’s a show you can’t miss…” I listened fromSwansea as a student and loved it. The perfect balance to the endlessness of the GAA Results with Sean Og O Ceallachain … good music too. Didn’t understand many of the references but I just knew it was quality

    • Jimmy Keary says:

      Thanks for posting on my website, Andy. I’m glad to know there are still fans of the show out there.
      I listened to a cassette tape of the show recently – now in very poor audio condition – but it still made me laugh.
      I had forgotten their Irish version of ‘Roots’, which was called ‘Spuds’. Hilarious stuff.
      Jimmy

  4. Rodney Breen says:

    Funny thing, the signature tune popped into my head this morning and I Googled it. “Get an earful of this, it’s a show you can’t miss, instead of lying around with an ear to the ground, get an earful of this”. Something like that. I used to listen to this on Sunday evening, then Nocturne (which had some excellent classical pieces), then Sean Og and the GAA sports results. Which had a similarly hypnotic, relaxing effect to the Shipping forecast. I had forgotten about Jem the boot boy and Up From the Country – hilarious, as I recall; I wonder if they would still stand up today? Thanks for the reminder!

    • admin says:

      Thanks for getting in touch, Rodney. I’m glad to know my post sparked a few memories.
      I have some cassette tapes – edits of bits from various shows that I found funny – and I listened to one of them again recently. The sound wasn’t great, but I still found it very funny.
      Obviously some of the skits were of items that were in the news back in the 70s so they wouldn’t have the same impact now. But segments like the Irish historical serial ‘Spuds’ (a take-off of ‘Roots’) particularly the segment about Parnell and Kitty O’Shea; another segment called ‘Buntus Sex’ (Diarmuid and Grainne are at a ceili); the state funeral of Charles McGombeen with solemn commentary by Kevin O’Kelly; ‘My Own Place’ with Bednet O’Ryan (Edna O’Brien) and voiced by a very sultry Rosaleen Linehan; golf club snobs Harry and Maureen who are experts on world affairs; and a great ‘Up From The Country’ segment where Mairtin runs in a local by-election are all still hilariously funny. Well, I found them funny anyway.
      There’s a very funny send-up of an ad for butter, which Dana (our presidential candidate used to do back in 1977). Rosaleen Linehan could mimic her so well. The punchline in the skit was: “I’m not really doing this for the butter, I’m doing it for the bread!”
      With ‘Get An Earful Of This’, there were quality scripts to match the mimics, nowadays, I think, the mimics are good, but the scripts aren’t great.

  5. Gerard Sugrue says:

    I thought of this programme the other day for the first time in years. Reception was rubbish in London – I think I first found it while waiting for Sean Og and the GAA results for my Kerry-born dad. Then started listening on a regular basis – reception issues notwithstanding.

    Can’t really remember the content now, except a skit on the then Finance minister Richie Ryan to the tune of Abba’s “Mama Mia”.

    regards

    Gerard

    • admin says:

      Gerard,

      Thanks for the comment.

      If you read my piece, I hope it brought back some memories of the programme for you. Unfortunately, most of the shows have been wiped as far as I know, which is a shame as they were far better than what passes for entertainment today.
      I still have some cassette tapes of the programme, recorded bewteen 1973 and 1977. The sound quality varies from poor to awful. But I put up with the bad sound just to listen to it again. Amazingly, it still sounds funny even after all these years.

      Jimmy

  6. Ron Hill says:

    I listened regularly to Get an Earful on Sunday nights in my early years as a lecturer in TCD: it helped acculturate me to Ireland after growing up across the water. I remember a particular song: to the tune of the hit song Mississippi, it was called ‘River Liffey’ and featured a couple of lines ‘as you roll along’ then something about ‘pong’ – which just about described the Liffey at low tide. Sandymount, where I lived at the time, also had its distinctive ‘Sandmount smell’. We’re better off without that, but it’s good to see Rosaleen Linehan still going strong years after Get an Earful.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the post, Ron, and for sharing your memories about Get An Earful. ‘Mississippi’ was a hit in late 1976, so that song you remember must be from around that time. I don’t remember it myself, but it sounds very funny. Sad to say, most of the Get An Earful shows have been wiped, like a lot of good radio and television shows from that period.
      Jimmy

  7. Hi Jimmy. I was just a kid back then but I remember listening every Sunday. It was great radio and like an earlier poster, I also listened under the bed covers with my transistor and an earplug! Around that time, I used to come home from my Scout meeting each Tuesday and listen to the charts on radio Luxembourg. I would keep a diary and write down the top ten in it! I also remember taping some recordings of “EARFUL” and then playing them on stop/start so I could write down the words of some of their brilliant songs. I am sure that notebook travelled with me when I got married and left home and I am going to root in the attic to see if I can find it. If I do I will posr some of the songs here. I remember Jem the bootboy used to repeat curses his father said – “yeah bloody” and that deep voice – GRENELL. Des and Rosilin were just a class act. What a pity the originals were destroyed. There must be copies somewhere. Thanks for the memories!

  8. stephen ryan says:

    Another from the indefatigable ryans of Doon! My brother and iused write into the show and got a number of our jokes read – so many that we were referred to as above, love to hear some of the show again

  9. Patrick Monks says:

    Lovely to hear that people recall this show … was about 12 when I started listening to it .. a little secret treat before rotten school the next day … it was bright, tuneful and funny .. somewhat similar in spirit and tone to Halls Pictorial Weekly
    Thanks for the post and the memory jog!

  10. John Warmington says:

    Get an earful of this. It’s a show you can’t miss.
    If you want to be found with an ear to the ground
    Get an earful of cheek, get a look at the week,
    get news, get views,
    get facts, get attacks
    So clear out the wax —
    Get an earful of this!

    Or something like that.

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