Patrick Kielty has said RTÉ’s The Late Late Show will have an all-Ireland flavour as a by-product of his Northern Ireland upbringing as he prepares to make his debut as its host tonight.
The comedian and entertainer becomes the fourth permanent presenter of the world’s longest-running live chat show.
He told BBC News NI he would not try to fill the shoes of his predecessors Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny and Ryan Tubridy.
Instead he will find comfort in his own and “walk out there and try to dance”.
The show is an Irish institution, having started only months after the 1962 launch of Irish TV.
Kielty started out at a Belfast comedy club and has presented Love Island, This Morning and BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz as well as other comedy and theatre shows. He is married to presenter Cat Deeley.
He has had to wait several months for his debut, with the announcement that he was to become the new presenter having been made in May.
Speaking to BBC News NI’s Declan Harvey this week, the County Down man said that hosting the programme and being from Northern Ireland made him “the all-Ireland dynamic”.
He is returning to a show on which he performed one of his first televised comedy sets as a young stand-up.
Kielty said that he was now much a “lot more comfortable in my skin” about taking on more serious matters about life on the island and its people.
“I am much more at ease going from comedy to something more serious and talking about who I am and what I believe in,” he said.
“The documentaries I’ve made were really an eye-opener to me in terms of who we are as a people.
“That idea of Northern Ireland, the north, the south… it’s a really familiar, binary thing – I feel much more fluid about it.
“The brilliant thing about the Late Late Show is that it’s always been a place where people can come on and discuss different things – that’s really what interested me in doing the show.
“There are a lot of different identities on this island and it’s about reflecting all of those.”
Kielty will step on to the set for the first time tonight when the show is broadcast live on RTÉ One and the RTÉ Player at 21:35 BST and he admitted that fronting it would come with pressure.
“There is a responsibility that people are looking to you in terms of what you say about different things,” he explained.
“Yet at the same time I think you have to be who you are and at the heart of that is somebody who likes a laugh and tells a joke.”
Kielty’s a sure bet to succeed
By Declan Harvey, reporting from Dublin
Patrick Kielty is bringing every watt of his star power to this programme and it seems to be working.
The media event at which I interviewed him was held in a small studio at RTÉ, right next door to the much bigger Studio 4, home to The Late Late Show and where it will come live from on Friday night.
The room full of journalists was buzzing.
It’s clear that the man from Dundrum understands he has to be the main attraction of the show – his personality and skill will be what makes this work, or not.
But don’t forget, Paddy has decades of high-level broadcasting and live entertainment under his belt so by any measure the bookies must have him down as a sure bet for success.
He takes up his new role in the wake of a major crisis at Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, sparked by a scandal over the pay of The Late Late Show’s previous presenter Ryan Tubridy.
But Kielty said he did not view the relaunch of the programme as part of the recovery plan for RTÉ.
“I see it as the biggest show on Irish TV on a Friday night that I’m lucky enough to host – I think anything else is a by-product,” he said.
The 52-year-old already has experience as a TV chat show host, having presented Patrick Kielty Almost Live on BBC One Northern Ireland in the late-1990s and early-2000s.
Asked about what he had learned from that time, he said: “It taught me to not believe you’re in control of everything – and anything can happen.”
As for his pre-show preparation?
“Some stretches in the dressing room as if I’m going out to play and game of football, even though I’m going to sit on a chair!”