Christian O’Connell talks about the eventful life of a breakfast DJ

Christian O'Connell. Picture by Steve Ullathorne
Christian O'Connell. Picture by Steve Ullathorne

Multi-award winning radio host Christian O’Connell is back on the road with his critically-acclaimed new show You’ve Ruined My Morning… And Other Fan Mail, which will be touring across the UK, with a date at Brighton’s Old Market on Thursday, March 17.

Christian is one of the UK’s best-loved broadcasters with his radio shows on XFM, Radio 5Live and his current daily breakfast show on Absolute Radio. But in recent times, he’s returned to an earlier love: stand-up.

In his new show Christian recalls the ups and downs of being a breakfast DJ, from winning awards for his show (good), to receiving death threats and abusive letters from offended clowns and angry cat lovers (not so good).

Inevitably, the radio work feeds the stand-up, offering rich pickings. To the rest of us, the endless cheery chat of the radio host might seem like the hardest job in the world. Not so, insists Christian. You just need to get into the swing of it.

“It’s like anything in life that you do. It’s like an airline pilot first flying a plane and thinking ‘Oh my god! I am flying a plane!’ but then you get into a rhythm, and it just comes naturally because that’s the thing you do.”

Except of course, with radio it’s a case of constant reinvention: “If I make a show that I am happy with, I have still got to burn it down to the ground the next day and start again. But the good thing is that always enough happens in people’s lives and in my personal life. There is always something to talk about.”

Christian just has to accept that inevitably, though, he’s talking to people at their worst time of day: “You have got to remember that no one jumps out of bed and says ‘Great! I have had enough sleep!’ We are all tired. We are all at our worst. It’s the time of day when we can all be scratchy and irritable. But I have got to do my job of entertaining people.

“You can really feel it on a Monday morning, and I feel like that as well. You are never going to feel ‘Great! Let’s sound the klaxon! It’s 6am!’ But at the same time it is a great time to be on the radio. You are privileged to be with people at that time. You are something of a special friend to them, and that’s a wonderful thing. Radio is live. It is improvised. There is no script. You are telling stories, and you are getting listeners’ stories.”

But the stand-up comes with a specific advantage: “You know what the response is. You are getting the immediacy of the feedback. People either laugh or they don’t. It’s as simple as that. In life, it is rare to get that undiluted immediate response. On radio, you might get the emails or someone might say something to you later, and then get the response.

“I have been doing breakfast for 17 years, but the great thing about doing stand-up is that it is hard work. As you get older, it is really important that you push yourself into new areas. You can only get better at stand-up if you do it.

“I did stand-up before I did radio. I did my first stand-up gig when I was 17 in the early ’90s when the comedy boom had not really happened. My dad had to drive me for an hour to do a gig in a pub. There weren’t a lot of comedy clubs back then. I was starting to get the odd gigs, but I dropped stand-up for radio. I didn’t really have an act back then. I didn’t really have my voice, but then barely a week went by when I didn’t think about stand-up. I was eight months from turning 40 when I thought if I didn’t do it now, then I never would. You have got to start getting those air miles!”

Call 01273 201801.

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