IF you’ve ever really wanted to categorise the different stages of rain in this country, then you would be wise to pick up a copy of Colm Tobin’s new book Surviving Ireland. In this satirical romp, the West Cork-born comedy writer and TV producer brilliantly describes the different stages of rain as well as addressing a wide range of other subjects pertaining to modern Irish life.
Colm, who is now based in Dublin, is probably best known for his humorous Twitter activity and it’s easy to understand why as he has over 50,000 followers. Colm just has that sharp wit that goes down a storm on social media. This book however, is the first time that he has ventured into the world of publishing.
‘It’s been great so far and it’s selling fairly well. It’s not my main job but it was a really nice thing to do. It was good craic and the publishers were good fun to work with,’ Colm said.
‘Eoin McHugh of Transworld Ireland Publishers got in touch with me at the end of last year about the possibility of doing something based on what I do on Twitter. We sort of developed the idea together of a survival guide for modern Ireland and then it was more a case of going back and forth to them rather than completing a finished script. I used to meet them about every six weeks or thereabouts so I had a bit of a deadline for material. They’d go through stuff that they liked and what they felt would work within the context of the book. It was more like a collection of sketches than one long narrative.
‘It was familiar to me in one way as I’m used to writing scripts for the television show (Brain Freeze – a children’s science programme which airs on RTÉ Junior and CBBC – for which Colm is a writer and producer) where you get approval and get notes back. But this was more collaborative as the editors were great with me.’
Colm is well used to being mistaken for the Booker Prize-nominated author Colm Tóibín and with the recent cinema release of Brooklyn, he has suddenly started getting new Twitter followers from all over the world.
‘Every few days I get a tweet from someone in a country like India saying how much they love Brooklyn. I don’t correct people anymore and I just respond to them saying thanks. It’s actually funny,’ said Colm.
He doesn’t get as much time these days to delight his many Twitter followers but his presence on the social media site certainly made people sit up and notice him.
‘It’s probably because of Twitter that I got the book deal, and I also write for RTÉ’s Irish Pictorial Weekly, which came through Twitter too. When I do get the time it’s great to get stuff off my chest and just throw out some jokes on current affairs.’
No topic is spared in Surviving Ireland and even Irish media mogul Denis O’Brien gets a mention in the chapter about ‘The Meeja’, but Colm was of course careful in what he said.
‘We were very cagey about what we wrote there and we figured that if we’re doing a section on the media it would have been a glaring omission to leave him out,’ added Colm.
As a former player with St James GAA Club in Ardfield, Colm takes this as inspiration for his humorous piece on GAA winter training. ‘I remember particularly well the gruelling training sessions on Long Strand when I did play with the club and this piece is a funny look at that.’
Colm even gives the Kama Sutra a makeover, Irish-style.
‘I came up with the ideas for “Connemara Sutra” and Ian Kenny came up with the illustrations. It’s basically an Irish version of the famous guide but we came up with lots of silly positions.’
The people of Ireland generally get good mention in the book. ‘There are so many clichés about people in Ireland and I wanted to include a section about them. I also wanted to look at what other people there might be and I thought the motorway services area would be an interesting place to set it – there’s a democracy to the place, everyone has to use it and so you get a real good mix of people.’
The previously mentioned Brain Freeze programme, is Colm’s main gig. ‘We’ve just finished our 29th episode recently. Each one is only four minutes long but they take ages to make. I write and produce it and we just do the scripts and pitch the idea to the television producers. It’s all about science and trying to get children interested in the subject and we receive some funding from Science Foundation Ireland too. It’s kind of a comedy but with a message about science.’
Colm will be Clonakilty-bound this Christmas and is eagerly looking forward to the break. There’s no doubt that his book will find its way into many a Christmas stocking and should have readers laughing well into the New Year.
• Surviving Ireland by Colm Tobin is on sale now.