‘Tis the season for traditions, and there is one happening this Friday that is very Irish indeed. People all around the world have different markers for the ‘real’ start of the festive season, but it’s pretty fair to say that in Ireland there is a certain night that really gets the holiday cheer going. The Late Late Toy Show is somewhat of a cultural institution in Ireland and if you are studying in Ireland (or are planning on it) it is one that can’t be missed.
Most people let their inner child out during the holidays and in Ireland this is the most popular night for everyone to revert to being 7 years old. Rather than kicking off the party season with a glitzy night out, the Toy Show ensures that most families spend the night in. Kids, adults and everyone in between tune into our national television station, RTÉ to watch the show.
The Late Late Show is an Irish chat show hosted by presenter Ryan Tubridy every Friday night after the 9 o’clock news. It’s popular in itself but for one night of the year it becomes The Late Late TOY Show and it is the crème de la crème of Irish TV. People all over Ireland (and around the world) snuggle into PJ’s and blankets to watch it. It is so popular, that it has had the highest TV viewership in Ireland for the last number of years. It outshines our national sports championships, soccer and rugby games and no other entertainment program comes even close to its numbers. To have an advertisement on during the Toy Show is the most expensive slot of the year, coming it at around €35,000 (unfortunately, we don’t get special Late Late ads like the Super Bowl- we haven’t got quite that far yet!) To get a ticket for the Toy Show is even more difficult. The 204 seats get raffled off every year, and there were a mere 85,000 applicants in 2017. The most bizarre thing- no children are in the live audience. All you will see is adults dawned in Christmas jumpers and Santa hats.
So, I still haven’t mentioned what the hype is all about. On the night of the Toy Show, the regular Late Late is transformed into a winter wonderland. Not only does it get Christmassy, but it also becomes like a child’s dream playroom. There are toys EVERYWHERE, and Tubridy is assisted in his presenting duties by a number of different children. The kids each get to bring a toy home, play with it, and then they review it live on air. As you can imagine, the outcomes are usually HILARIOUS. Honestly these kids have the biggest personalities you can imagine. Check out JohnJoe Brennan here to get a good laugh and an idea of what you’re in for. He is one of the most watched kids from the show.
As I am writing this I realise how odd it sounds. Lots of adults in the live audience, a viewership of all ages, the start of the season, and… it’s all about toys. That’s what makes the Toy Show so magical though. It is so unique (and bizarre) and all round Irish! There are dancers, singers, poets and getting to be one of these performers is the highlight of many children’s childhoods. You may have noticed that the cover photo on this blog is a bit blurry. Well that’s because it was taken in 1998, and that person on the bottom right with the red tights, is a very excited 8 year old me! I never actually made it onto the show (awwww), but I will never forget auditioning and the excitement of the lead up.
Another thing I’ve realised through the writing of this blog is that you genuinely can’t explain the magic of The Late Late Toy Show through text. The cheesiness, Irishness and the utter ridiculousness is something that needs to be seen to be believed. So folks, buy some fluffy socks, throw on the hot chocolate, and buckle down for a massive laugh and a very Irish start to your Christmas. Students in country can watch it at 9.35pm on RTÉ 1, and if you aren’t in Ireland yet follow this link for all the action.