The Irish Echo spoke with Late Late Show presenter Ryan Tubridy about the annual toy show, which can be watched through the RTE website or app on Friday November 27 (Saturday morning, Australian time).
What are your memories of watching The Late Late Toy Show when you were a kid?
I am a bit of an early to bed guy, I am not a night owl despite the job on a Friday night. My Late Late Toy Show memories are actually from Sunday afternoons – I tended to wait until then to watch it, with the sun outside and goodies gathered. Those are my memories of the Toy Show.
How much preparation goes into the Toy Show in comparison to a regular episode of The Late Late Show?
Enormous, it is a military operation that is run from a barracks which we call the Toy Cabin backstage by a small but diligent army. To use a sporting analogy, they set up the goal and they run around the pitch and I just sit on the goal line and nod the ball in. There is a big team working behind the scenes to make it all work.
Do you have nightmares of tripping over a toy car or a doll?
No. In fact, to the contrary, I want that stuff to happen. I love when doll houses crumble, I love when nappies dribble, when doll’s eyes are gammy. I love all that stuff – the bolder, the messier, the slimier, the better. I love the frisson of not knowing what is going to happen next or what is going to come out of the mouth of the child. You are so used to hearing answers that you are half expecting but with kids when you say, for instance, “Any craic?” and yer man says: “Níl”, it’s not the words there but the silence and that is gold. It is just fun.
On the night, are you conscious of the rich legacy of the Toy Show and the fact it has to be bigger and better every year?
I try not to think about that too much because then you are too conscious, then you become self-conscious and you start tripping over yourself thinking about things. I take every Toy Show on a year by year basis and, as soon as that light goes on to say that you are in the homes of people in Ireland and across the world, I just get stuck in and to hell with the consequences. It is very gratifying to know that a lot of people watch it but that is not the reason I present it, that is just an off-shoot of it.
Who picks the toys used in the show?
The Toy Show elves get cracking on that in January every year when one of them heads to London for the Toy Fair to get an idea of the big trends. They see thousands of brand new toys and games and they start working from there. We always include the top toys of the year on the show but when we choose our toy testers, we figure out what ones are best suited to them and from there we pick what goes on the show. We send the toys out two weeks before the show and that’s the most exciting part. We’re always dying to know how the kids are getting on with them.
Do you have a favourite memory of presenting the Toy Show?
I think sometimes it is the moment when Robbie Keane comes out and sees Domhnall and Domhnall cannot talk. That is special. And so is Ed Sheeran talking to Aimee and the warmth that people talk about afterwards, that was extraordinary. Anything that involves that gorgeous warmth. Even a small memory, I think it was my first Toy Show and one of the kids was doing a toy demonstration and their nose was running. I had a tissue and I wiped the nose clean because her dignity was under attack. It was a tiny gesture that I would do as a father to my kids and that was the moment I thought: “This is what I should be doing.” It felt like I took ownership of it then. If you can wipe a kid’s nose because it is snotty on a live TV show with toys, you are okay.
Has anything happened on the Toy Show you would rather forget about?
I have no regrets for the Toy Show. Nothing. Not even throwing the nappy at the audience and it landing on a woman’s face. That was one of my favourite things! I wish I could do that every week.
There are a lot of Irish people living abroad who watch the Toy Show every year on the RTÉ Player. Why do you think that is?
There is a whole generation of people who are in their early 20s who are in Brisbane, Boston or Brighton and they can sit back on the night of the Toy Show and wistfully glance across the shores at a show that was so much a part, I hope, of their childhood. They can explain to their friends from Australia, America, Canada and Britain, what the hell is going on and, hopefully, they will get a taste of the magic and a taste of home.
Watch The Late Late Toy Show on Friday, November 27 from anywhere in the world, live or on-demand with the RTÉ Player International App (iPhone/iPad) or with the RTÉ Player (Desktop/Android).