The story of culchie comedy duo The 2 Johnnies is emblematic of new-media success in Ireland outside the Pale today: similar to the home video-driven success of fellow Tipp men D’Unbelievables in the nineties, the pair specialise in sending up aspects of mainstream culture in Ireland, via live stand-up, musical comedy, and a blockbuster podcast that goes out to millions of subscribers around the world every Monday. Modern ‘banter’ culture is gently subverted, heroes of Irish pop-culture are interviewed at length, and fan correspondence forms a central part of the experience, including an ongoing campaign to ‘standardise chicken roll prices’ around the country. It’s a style that has deep roots in the history of the genre in Ireland, but has resonated with a new generation, as well as diaspora audiences worldwide.
As the two lads take a few minutes’ breather in the Imperial Hotel before heading over to RTÉ to appear on its Cork-based Today show, they’re celebrating the success of new single 'She Only Rings Me When She's Locked', a paean to the humble Choc Ice, arriving right in time for Valentine’s Day, and RAG Weeks around the country. They’re happy with the release of a live crowd favourite, according to Johnny B. “We had been playing it at the live podcasts. People kept messaging us, ‘when are ye going to release that song?’. It’s great that there’s a hunger for it, people are saying they’re laughing their asses off. Some of our songs are straight-up pisstakes, some are a bit more serious, like real songs. This one is just - funny.”
This past January saw The 2 Johnnies podcast cross the 100-episode threshold, a big milestone in a medium where staying regular and becoming sustainable in the first place can be a challenge, as advertisers continue to take their time about cottoning on to the medium’s potential. The lads have scarcely had time to think about the milestone, but maintain that desire to create something new, says Johnny Smacks. “Podcasting changed the game, I’d say. We’d been doing sketches, doing songs. We decided to do a podcast, and just went for it. Got all the gear, figured out how to do it, and did it. We wanted to do a weekly one, let them get their weekly dose o’ya. That’s been the hardest part: keeping it going weekly, keeping the standard up. It’s changed the way we look at everything, and changed the way people look at us.”
The duo took an Australian excursion in January, following a US tour late last year, at a time when Irish podcasts like their own and that of Rubberbandit Blindboy Boatclub have massive diaspora audiences in those markets. Heading out to see further-flung fans, the 2 Johnnies always blur the lines between work and play, according to Johnny B. “Australia was mental. We were on a mad schedule anyway, three cities in four nights. The Irish over there were mad for the craic. A lot of comedy, a lot of chat, singing some songs, and the people just went ballistic.” Adds Johnny Smacks: “The people out there are really passionate about the podcast. It’s their weekly fix of home, what everyone is thinking about and talking about at home. When they all get together, eight or nine-hundred Irish people in a room, it’s bound to explode.”
What the podcast has really accomplished is taking that strand of Irish humour and pop culture into the present, and with that has come interviews with some of the mainstays of Irish pop-culture. How do some of the more old-school guests typically take to the podcast format while recording, and have the Johnnies had a favourite guest? “Marty (Morrissey, GAA broadcaster) was a live guest. We also have studio guests. But the live guests are always livelier, because they’re concerned with humour and a live audience, whereas in studio you might drift into serious topics. Marty came on as a live guest in Galway, and he was very nervous about what we might do, and say. But as soon as we calmed him down backstage, and the music came on, he danced out. A proper showman.”