THE THIRD DEGREE: Stand-up comedy, enjoying retirement and hopes for the future

In this week’s edition of The Third Degree, Paul Bradley catches up with Andy McGranaghan, Ze Funnie Man, about the world of comedy, enjoying retirement and his plans for the future.

Hi Andy, many thanks for agreeing to do this interview. How are you?
All good Paul, thanks for the invite.

You retired recently from the HSE, after surviving the full 40. How has that worked out for you – new lease of life, or at a loose end? Do you keep in touch with your former colleagues?
Definitely no loose ends, Paul, although family may say there’s a few screws loose! I’m keeping busy … I’m walking, I joined the Aura and I’m enjoying being back in the gym. We (Pamela and I) have had a few holidays and our son Mark recently married his partner Emer so it’s been all go.
It’s hard to believe that 40 years have passed, most of it very quickly. I have managed to keep in touch with a number of colleagues since I left and I have had lunch /coffee with a few on a regular basis since. I still have a few to catch up with. Meeting and working with so many good people in many different departments over the last 40 years is certainly one of my main career highlights.


Was it a good time to leave, with the way pressures have been building and building in the HSE?
I think whenever you have make up your mind to leave and are happy to go “it’s a good time to leave”. There is no doubt that there has always been pressure on staff in all areas of the organisation. However Covid, the cyber attack and staff shortages have all added greatly to these pressures also. So I have no regrets in leaving.

How did you get into comedy in the first place?
Probably through involvement with Letterkenny Pantomine, Letterkenny Music and Drama and the Butt Drama Circle Pantomimes. Patrick, Pluincead, Kathleen and Monica (The Directors) would have all encouraged me to interact with the audience and do the odd ad lib. I suppose the buzz I got from doing this encouraged me to try the stand up. I did a few gigs in Dublin and fell in with a group of like-minded people around Letterkenny. A comedy club was set up and I would have done some gigs there and travelled with a few of the lads to venues up North. From this I also started doing some charity gigs, concerts and some MCing.

Do you still perform live, or have Covid and social media together changed all that? Do you miss it if you’re not performing?
Covid really put a stop to most live performances and for people in the arts it was a tough time not being able to earn a living. I have only done three or four gigs in the last six months or so , I haven’t gone back to comedy clubs as I don’t really have any good new material (some people will be thinking “it never stopped him before!”). I have done a couple of concerts and the memories night in the Station House Hotel, Letterkenny. I did do a comedy play in Ballybofey last October which was great fun and I would like to do a bit more of that. I do enjoy performing but at the moment I’m not in any rush to go out to try and get gigs in comedy clubs….But open to offers!!

Do you think, with so many people so vocal about being offended, it’s harder to do comedy now? Has that been a factor for you (you normally stay away from the ruder jokes anyway)?
Yep, it’s a big factor now in comedy and I’m sure it’s made many comedians think long and hard about what they can and can’t say. As I haven’t really been gigging recently it hasn’t been an issue for me. If I had something that was a bit dodgy I would usually run it by a comedy friend and trust my own and their instinct.

What was it like when you appeared on Ireland’s Got Talent? You got nice enough reviews, but was it more terrifying than fun?
It was a bit nerve-wracking but I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I have a good hard neck. It was interesting to see how things work from behind the scenes and a bit of a surprise how long the process takes.
We were there from about 11am until 11pm in a green room at the theatre. Overall the fun outweighed the terror!
Were the judges and crew friendly, or so busy they barely registered your presence?
The crew were pretty busy throughout the day but friendly during your interactions with them. In the lead up to filming (in total I had three visits to Dublin) a member of the production crew would have been in touch a few times with some instructions and guidelines. We only got to meet the panel of judges before the performance but they were warm and friendly and you felt they were hoping you would do well. I enjoyed a nice bit of banter with them (particularly Denise Van Outen) which might have got more laughs than my actual set.


What comedians do you most admire?
Locally, Conal Gallen is a great entertainer. Seamus O’ Rourke is a Leitrim writer and performer whom I would admire. Dara Ó Briain would be my favourite Irish big-name comedian and of course not forgetting local funnyman Tommy Sweeney who gave us lots of laughs over the years on stage and in the panto.


What would you say to someone who hoped to make a living through standup in 2023?
Best of luck with that! But seriously it would be really difficult to earn a living at, particularly starting out. Best keep some kind of part time work on while starting out…it’s nice to be able to eat!

You’re also known as a keen runner and walker. Have you tried any of the big international routes since retiring, like the Camino? If so, was that a very different experience?
With the body starting to break down unfortunately the running had to be sidelined. It took me a while to get comfortable with the walking and the extra time it took but I now really enjoy it. I did the Camino Frances route in 2013 in just under a month and have been back on several occasions since for a few 2-week slots. I have also done the Via de la Plata route which runs from Seville to Santiago De Compestela over three visits. I have booked to go to Italy in May where I hope to do a few weeks on the Via Francigena, possibly from Tuscany down to Rome.
It’s definitely a different experience, it takes you a bit out of your comfort zone staying in hostels with all the snoring going on – and that’s just mine! – toilet sharing and the joys of the top bunk! I was on the Camino Frances for two weeks last October and would encourage anyone to give it a go, young and old.

Donegal: a lovely place to live and walk, if only it would stop raining…Discuss!
We are blessed within our county with some lovely walks and trails, The Bridle and Lough Inshagh paths at Glenveagh, Rathmullan, Ards and the boardwalk at Carrigart would be personal favourites of mine that are in easy reach of Letterkenny. The rain can be a pain but you have to live with it and there is always a nice hot shower when you get home. So no excuses!

You seem like a very sociable person. Do you also seek out solitude occasionally, just to “settle yourself”?
I always enjoy meeting friends and having a chat and a bit of craic, indeed in my younger years probably a bit too much craic! I’m lucky now that my family are grown up and between walking and retirement I think I have a nice balance.

Are you optimistic about the future – your own or Donegal’s?
Yes I am optimistic about the future. I believe retirement has opened up lots of new opportunities for me and it’s up to me whether I take them or not. My main hope, however, is for good health for all my family and friends.
The defective block scandal has cast a blight on the county and I hope that the powers that be will do the right thing and put in place an equitable process this year to commence helping the families affected rectify the issues that they have with their homes.

Quick fire
The book or the film?
Used to be the book but I got lazy…the film.

The perfect night: raucous, or a small group, or the sofa at home with Netflix?
The sofa at home with Netflix, Mr Tayto and Mrs Cadbury

Favourite film
Too many, but to name a few: Lost in Translation, One flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest, Saving Private Ryan, Midnight Cowboy, Godfather 1&2. I recently saw a really good western, ‘Old Henry’.

Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, James Stewart, Olivia Coleman, Sarah Lancashire, Scarlett Johansson. Local actors I enjoy are Orla Carlin and Elaine Gillespie.

ELO, Meatloaf, John Lennon

What makes you happy?
Seeing my family healthy, happy and content.

What do you look for in a friend?
A good sense of humour

How do you relax?
Holidays, Walking, Gym, TV and going to the theatre (An Grianan and The Balor my favourites!)

Do you have a particular motto/belief that you try to live by?
Not particularly but as I’ve grown older ‘your health is your wealth’ rings very true

You have €10,000 – what’s the one thing you’d most like to spend it on right now?
A few treats for family and a nice holiday.

 If anyone else would like to take part in this interview, to raise a profile or an issue, or just for fun, please contact Paul at

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