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How comedian Shane Todd is livening up life in lockdown ... by taking tea with Jamie Dornan and Eamonn Holmes

The Co Down comedian tells Linda Stewart about his light-hearted podcast, living with Crohn's disease and how he and his wife are coping with isolation


Shane Todd

Shane Todd

Shane Todd's Tea With Me podcast

Shane Todd's Tea With Me podcast

Shane Todd

Shane Todd had resolved to take the opportunity of coronavirus lockdown to learn a language - but hasn't made much progress so far. Instead, the Holywood-born comedian (31) has joined the army of banana bread bakers out there.

"The first thing was going to be that I was going to learn a language, maybe learn Spanish a little bit better, but I've really just been making banana bread, like the whole world seems to have," he says.

"I genuinely think I could win the Bake Off with my banana bread. I mean, I'm eating a lot of banana bread too, so I'm putting on weight in lockdown, but that's all right - I'll run it off."

It was the promoter for his now-postponed Australian tour who first alerted him about what was on the way - and that gave him time to plan for lockdown with his wife Stacey.

"My tour is booked to start in September and October, so I was getting a bit of correspondence from my promoter. They'd obviously looked at the big picture of these things and he was passing on what he'd heard," Shane says.

"So I really began to plan for it. The first thing was making sure that me and my wife are okay and we have everything we need and getting on with things as normally as possible.

"I've got a studio in the house, I've got a camera, I made a bit of a gym in the garden. And there's a lot of people that have it worse - it's very frustrating, the lockdown situation, but, we're okay, we can get out for a walk once a week and get to the shop for essentials and I've got plenty of things to keep me busy."


Holywood comedian Shane Todd before the lockdown with wife Stacey

Holywood comedian Shane Todd before the lockdown with wife Stacey

Holywood comedian Shane Todd before the lockdown with wife Stacey

One of those things is the hugely popular Rave Lockdown every Friday which has propelled listeners across Northern Ireland to their feet to throw a few old school dance moves around their living rooms.

The other is his recently launched podcast Tea With Me which has been going from strength to strength during the lockdown and has now gone twice weekly. It features interviews with celebrities such as Jimeoin, Eamonn Holmes and Jamie Dornan.

"I drink maybe eight cups of tea a day, like a lot of people in this country, and I just find that's the way I like talking to people," Shane says.

"I like to just sit down, have a cup of tea and a relaxed chat. So that was the idea for the podcast, that the listeners would be having a cup of tea and the people I speak to, if they're tea drinkers, we get a cup of tea and sort of shoot the breeze.

"It's not heavy content, it's not high brow, it's just a very relaxed chat. Sometimes I go in with a big plan of going to ask them this and that about their career and then we end up just talking about the most random of things, and that's the way I enjoy general conversation, just sort of talking about nothing."

While it hasn't been going long, the podcast has developed a good following and has already begun to break into the UK podcast charts, Shane reveals.


Shane with one of his Tea With Me podcast guests, Jamie Dornan

Shane with one of his Tea With Me podcast guests, Jamie Dornan

Shane with one of his Tea With Me podcast guests, Jamie Dornan

"Some of the guests we've been able to get have been brilliant, like in the last week we've had Eamonn Holmes and Jamie Dornan," he says. "I think a lot of that is because people like them who have hectic schedules, their diaries have been wiped out. And in a way, it's been nice to sit down and just take our minds off it by having an hour talking about anything that comes into your head."

Eamonn Holmes, for example, was generous with his advice.

"He just gave me some really, really great advice about his longevity," Shane says. "I can always remember him being on television and he seems to have never really reinvented himself, he's always just been him. So we had a really interesting chat about it."

As for actor Jamie Dornan, the conversation veered away from the questions Shane had planned: "We just kind of talked about being from Holywood.

"I pitched him a few ideas for TV shows that were maybe a little bit tongue in cheek ... we talked about Tiger King that's on Netflix and then just a lot in between."

This isn't Shane's first podcast, however - in fact, for years he's been doing a podcast called Boytown, with his uncle Dave Elliott.

"I think we're the only uncle-nephew podcast team but it's become pretty popular," he says.

"We just talk a little bit about growing up and family - he would have taken me and my cousins on holiday quite a bit so we look back at that. And then it's just general chat, it's become like a cult following kind of podcast and it's great - I'm lucky to have a funny, funny uncle like that."

Growing up in Holywood, Shane says he always wanted to be a footballer "despite having no ability", and loved getting out and about with his mates.


Another guest, comedian Jimeoin

Another guest, comedian Jimeoin

Another guest, comedian Jimeoin

"I loved doing impressions of people, even when I was a kid, that's how I used to make people laugh - anybody, in terms of people in the family, friends in school, teachers," he says.

"I was never really making fun of people, it was more just generally trying to mimic people so I think that's where performing started, in the playground, just having a go at doing an impression of someone.

"I would love to have done acting back then, I would love to have done some sort of performance but I think I would have been a bit too worried about what my mates would have said. And looking back on it now, I actually had really supportive friends and family, so they only would have encouraged me, but it's only really with hindsight you see that."

Instead he embarked on a filmmaking course at Belfast Met, but quickly realised that stand-up was where his heart lay. Influences included Def Jam comedy - black American comedians such as Eddie Murphy - and sketch shows such as The Fast Show.

But it took a few years to make the jump from comedy hobbyist to going full time - in fact Shane ended up working in a call centre for four years while he waited for his big break.

"I was working shifts, nine until five, and then it wouldn't be unusual for me at five to drive down to Galway for a show ... and drive straight back for work the next day," he recalls.

"I was doing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but I did have a full time job, providing a bit of a safety blanket but also in a way holding me back.

"I spent years waiting for the right moment, where someone hands you a TV show or says 'this is it, you can quit your job' and then I realised that that moment doesn't really exist - you have to just go and make those opportunities for yourself.

"I just quit my job one day and thought 'right, I'll give this six months', and if I can keep my head above water that's a good sign.


Tea With Me guest Eamonn Holmes

Tea With Me guest Eamonn Holmes

Tea With Me guest Eamonn Holmes

"I was honestly getting towards the end of the time that I gave myself, thinking 'I've given this a good shot but it's not going to work'. I was struggling financially and then one thing just led to another and one job became two and suddenly it was a little bit easier and, honestly, I haven't looked back since."

At first, he says, he spread himself too thin, taking on everything that was offered, but these days the focus is on stand-up, with a tour every year that gets bigger and now takes in America.

"The stand-up I do is kind of observational. It's very self deprecating as well because that's the comedy I grew up with, having a funny family, and a lot of that was, if you give it out you have to be able to take it so I've always been able to, first and foremost, make fun of myself, which is important in stand-up," Shane says.

He's also keeping busy in lockdown with his daily online sketches, which have helped to build an internet following.

"I have a mix of characters that I'll do recurring sketches for or maybe I'll just have an idea for a one-off type thing.

"I have a couple of characters - one's called Mike McGoldrick, which is like a North Down socialite type character. I guess that's an exaggeration of some people growing up in Holywood, who you might have encountered.

"And there's a local Irish league character called Keith Cruise - I do a lot of stuff with the IFA."

A few years ago, Shane was diagnosed with Crohn's disease after suffering severe stomach cramps. Luckily it was diagnosed quite quickly and he is now able to manage it.

"It's not really a big issue for me anymore - it just means that I have to kind of be a bit strict with my lifestyle and my diet, but other than that I can kind of motor on as normal," he says.

"It's been a lot of trial and error but after a few years I'm kind of in a position now where I'm feeling good most of the time.

"It's just about taking care of yourself and making sure that I get a good sleep, drinking a lot of water and just having a clean diet - I have very little fast food and I don't really drink alcohol very often."

Shane has been presenting a BBC Radio Ulster show for a while now, on and off - but over the last few weeks it's been reinvented as the Rave Lockdown with a mix of cheesy old school dance music that is getting listeners up and on their feet in homes across Northern Ireland.

"A couple of weeks ago, we realised that we're all cooped up in the house," he says.

"Personally, I was watching a lot of news and of course naturally there's going to be a lot of doom and gloom because of what's going on with the lockdown and then I thought, whenever I'm in a bit of a rut, I love throwing on dance music.

"Old school dance music is my favourite genre, so I just asked the producer and the boss of Radio Ulster, could I change the show and play a load of old school rave music and they said yes. We thought, okay, we'll just do this for one week but it's become a bit of a novelty and it's really a thing that has resonated with people and we're having an absolute ball.

"People are raving in living rooms and kitchens all over the place.

"I got a lot of advice whenever I was starting radio and someone said that it has to feel important to you, you have to feel like the show that you're doing is getting through to people and it's affecting people.

"If you can put a smile on people's faces for an hour-and-a-half during a time like this, I think that's a real privilege to be able to do that.

"It's great for us because this is the kind of music I've always wanted to play and we're getting to do it - and people seem to be enjoying it."

Find Shane's Tea with Me podcast at https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/tea-with-me/id1289387523

Belfast Telegraph