There’s no place like home for Patrick Kielty, but is he thinking of coming back for good?
Patrick Kielty needs no introduction — but these days it’s taking longer to introduce him.
A renowned comedian, TV presenter, writer, commentator, film-maker and, most recently, actor, his talents have taken him across the globe.
But there’s still no place like home for the Dundrum native.
Indeed, it was a desire to be closer to family that drove the decision, made by him and wife Cat Deeley, to leave America after 14 years.
“It was purely for family reasons,” said ‘PK’, adding: “We wanted our kids to know their cousins.”
The 51-year-old former Fame Academy and Love Island presenter was back in Northern Ireland again this week to appear at an event in Newcastle’s Slieve Donard Hotel that was hosted by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Addressing over 100 delegates as part of the ‘Empowering NMD’ conference — which highlighted the council’s vision for the next 20 years — the father-of-two spoke about growing up in Co Down.
It’s an area which, with the twin benefits of a transformative City Deal and its strategic location on the Belfast-Dublin corridor, now has the potential for decades of economic growth.
The Belfast Region City Deal alone will deliver a £200mn package of funding for key infrastructure projects in Newry, Mourne and Down including the new Southern Relief Road, a Newry city centre regeneration project.
That includes a new theatre and conference centre as well as public realm and a signature tourism project, the Mourne Gateway, a new gondola ride in the Mourne mountains which is forecast to attract over 500,00 visitors per year.
The award-winning stand-up told the audience: “Despite some of the little problems that we have here, we’ve got a big opportunity to build something really special for ourselves and for the rest of the world to come to us and to see that our home is as good if not better than anywhere else.”
And while Kielty is currently London based, having previously lived in Los Angeles, nowhere can replace his affection for the small village he grew up in.
“Home is home,” he said during a sit-down interview after his talk.
“We still have a house in Dundrum and we try to get back as often as we can.
“We had Christmas here last year. We get the boys over during the school holidays.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t occasionally pine for the Californian life.
“The sunshine is always something you miss,” he said.
“Our eldest fella [Milo] was over here last summer during the heatwave.
“We’d no rain for the two full weeks we were back, and the highest temperatures ever recorded here…
“When it was raining in London just before Christmas, he asked me if we could go back to the sunshine in Los Angeles... or Dundrum.”
Kielty, who set up the Empire laughs Back Comedy Club in 1992 during his student days at Queen’s University Belfast, is now almost as well-known as a political commentator as a comedian.
He has made two documentaries — My Da, The Peace Deal and Me in 2018 and the award-winning One Hundred Years of Union in 2021 — about Northern Ireland, a place he remains fiercely proud of.
Having said that, he’s unlikely to move here permanently.
“It’s pretty good that we’ve got the best of both worlds at the minute,” he said.
“What’s funny is that the older you get, the more you want to spend time at home.”
As a comedian and commentator, talking about identity often comes with the territory.
“When you travel, you realise that our story is maybe more universal than you think,” he said.
“We now have a confidence to tell our stories and that confidence comes from people wanting to hear them and for a long time we didn’t think they did.”
Volodymyr Zelensky was a comedian before he became Ukraine president — so has Kielty any thoughts as to how that line of work could lend itself to politics?
“All I know is that for comedy to work there has to be truth in it… so I’ve no idea how comedy lends itself to politics!” he replied.
Kielty, who’ll be married to Cat (45) for 10 years this September, has “no plans as yet” to mark the milestone anniversary, although the English TV presenter and actress can no doubt expect something special from her romantic other half.
“If you look at the story of how we got together, that’s not a bad story,” he laughed.
[Kielty decided — at two o’clock in the morning — to meet Cat for brunch in LA later that day, her birthday. The only problem was that he was still in Ireland when he made the decision — but he made the date!]
The rest is ‘PatCat’ history, but Kielty lives a less frantic life these days.
Indeed, being a dad to their sons Milo (6 ) and James Patrick (4) has made him “more relaxed”.
“Whenever you’ve got young kids, the idea that you can control all things… suddenly you realise that this is not the case,” he said.
“The mistake you can make is trying to control stuff you can’t control.
“I think it has made me go with the flow a bit more and also, when you’re a wee bit older as well, you get a wee bit more sense, so I think kids came at the right time.”
He’s currently touring with his stand-up show Borderline — in which he talks about his childhood in Northern Ireland [including the loss of his dad who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1988] — and it’s going “really good”.
“We’re nearly two thirds of the way through now and it’s been selling out everywhere we’ve gone,” he said.
“To have a show which is about growing up here and to be able to play that to audiences in Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland and England and Scotland and to get such a nice reaction…
“Sometimes I think we’re a wee bit shy about telling our own stories but I think that if you’re looking at the politics of where we are and the political world and these islands at the minute, you can’t really comment on it the way that the show does without sharing a wee bit of your personal story.
“It means that audiences, especially over the water, know you’ve got skin in the game.”