I APPROACHED interviewing Emmett O’Shaughnessy with unusual confidence. Why? Because I knew, with absolute certainty, that he couldn’t refuse.
This has little to do with my considerable charm. You see, Emmett’s whole approach to life is saying ‘Yes to New’ — that’s the title of a vlog he’s been sharing on YouTube since 2016.
These vlogs are exactly as they sound. They feature ‘Pemmett’, his vlog name, trying something new, for the sake of, exactly that, trying something new!
He tries baking cookies, facials, the bottletop challenge, and even bails some hay. Thinking of a day trip? Or trying out Cork’s lesser-known shops and restaurants? ‘Pemmett’ can probably provide a sneak preview.
In this world of Boris, bluster and Brexit, we all need positivity — and Emmett O’Shaughnessy provides it.
Born in Boston, USA, to a West Cork mum, Emmett came to Ireland full-time in 2010, to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Drama in Education in Trinity College, Dublin.
He spent the next few years working with children with special needs, and whilst employed as a night porter in a Dublin hotel, he began writing scripts and comedy sketches.
This passion for comedy is clear when you see the hilarious absurdity of his vlogs. One such video involves Emmett in full scuba gear, pretending to swim through a deli counter in MacCurtain Street.
“Those guys were such good sports,” he recalls of that particular occasion. “I genuinely love to see people laughing. People have their routines, we all have to have them, but if you add a little absurdity, you can break it in a most wonderful way.”
“The more people are involved, the more positive energy you are going to create. It’s easy to be me, making a fool of myself, but it’s the reactions of other people that’s wonderful; that really makes it.”
This positivity sums up Emmett’s approach. He is genuinely upbeat and joyful, but there is a deep intelligence there too.
“I often imagine this person in a lab, trying to crack the cure for cancer for years and years and then one day they laugh so hard that it comes to them, as clear as anything.”
For O’Shaughnessy, laughter is a social releaser; it connects us, brings us to life.
In fact, the only limit he places on his work is to never upset people. He recalls a vlog in which he decided to order a coffee at a counter, then pretended to fall asleep, standing fast upright, head down.
“I could feel the waitress getting worried; she was genuinely concerned. I never want to upset anyone, so I had to cut it short. It’s important that I am the butt of the joke, that nobody else is.”
Emmett always finishes his vlog with the words “I am so glad I said yes to that” and he is being genuine.
He is keen to point out that he aims to “go out of my comfort zone, to put myself out there” and adds: “It’s not about being good at it or coming out with the result I imagined.”
His theory is not without support in what has been coined the fourth wave of psychology, Positive Psychology. This approach focuses on our strengths rather than our weaknesses and it chimes perfectly with Emmet’s vlog.
“I think about how I feel before, during and after the experience. I monitor my feelings, why I might have felt nervous, excited, unsure. I never regret doing anything because I know I have put myself out there.”
Emmett assures me that some vlogs go horribly wrong, but adds cheerfully: “You could look at it as a failure, but you don’t fail — you’ve tried something new.’
Following our chat, I want to run home to my kids and share the vlogs, free them from the passivity of their iPad screens, and get them out there too.
Interestingly, this is a specific motivator for Emmet.
“My family used to sit around and bond over funny programs when I was a kid. I create ‘silly Sundays’, a particular collection of vlogs, in the hope that other families might do the same.
“Technology is great but we need social interaction; my hope is that these vlogs will spur people’s curiosity, that it will help them to say ‘Yes to New’”.
His wife Eilish, a primary teacher from Cork, is his trusted camerawoman and editor — this is certainly a family affair.
Asked to recall his best experience to date, O’Shaughnessy answers that it was going behind the scenes with the special services in Cork Airport. His perspective on this adds another insight into his approach to life and living.
‘So many of us get on flights and go through airports, but we don’t think of the particulars of the lives going on around us.
“On our trip, we got to wear the gear and go into the look-out. It gave me a real appreciation for everyday wonders.”
It seems O’Shaughnessy doesn’t want to just break our daily routine; he wants to break the routine way we perceive the world.
I feel rejuvenated after our chat. Recalling how he compares comedy to a ‘good shower’, I am ready to say ‘Yes to New’.
Emmett is the epitome of what positive psychologists refer to as ‘flourishing’. We should have him on tap.