If you haven’t by now heard of The 2 Johnnies, you must have spent the last few years on a desert island. From Ireland’s number 1 podcasters, selling out shows in The 3Arena and hosting a daily show, ‘Drive It’ on 2FM you would think their plate was full? Well, I recently sat with Johnny ‘Smacks’ McMahon to find out more about their new show starting October 3th on RTÉ, ‘The 2 Johnnies do America’
Johnny, it’s a pleasure to have you with us here in Connect, can you tell our readers about what they can expect on this coming season of “The 2 Johnnies Do America”?
Well, this season is slightly different to our first season where we went and checked out what Irish people were doing in America. This time we are getting under the bonnet of America, we’re checking its oil, looking at its wipers, we are giving it the full service! We hear all these stories about America and how crazy it is, how wild it is, so we wanted to experience that for ourselves. We started down in Mexico, to be honest I think the flights were cheaper and that’s why the producer started us there down in Juarez! So we really got to see all the craziness and the wild side of America which is what we set out to do.
Were there times within the filming of it that you felt intimidated in some of the places you visited or did you feel generally welcomed?
I think the American’s are great at welcoming people and I think that’s really part of their culture, sometimes they go above and beyond and I’m thinking ‘wait, are you really that nice or is that put on?’ So we have always felt welcome in America every time we’ve been there which is great. Now, Juarez in Mexico, that’s a different story! Did I feel like we were going to get killed? I probably did at times! Was there a spotter following us around and constantly talking on the phone planning a heist on our gear, the camera’s, the whole lot? There probably was! But we got out of Juarez and it wasn’t too bad. In America, I guess there was times when I felt a bit intimidated for example, we went to Kentucky and we met a police officer there who, obviously you know they openly carry their gun’s, he brought us out to his ranch and said “I’m going to show you my gun’s”. Being from Tipperary strangely enough we’re not around guns much! So when he brought us into his kitchen and there he had laid out twenty odd guns’ on his kitchen table, everything from machine guns to the smallest hand guns, police issued guns, that was almost intimidating. You hear a lot about gun violence in America and gun laws, well, we were a fish out of water in that scene I’ll tell you, definitely intimidated and slightly bewildered by the fella who was showing us. As I mentioned he was a cop, he kept saying “I do it for the adrenaline!” which I kind of think is a bad reason to be a cop!
When you go from the most expensive homes to those of depravity, how did it affect you seeing the different standards of living between societies, was it reflective of the current situation here in Ireland with so many on the poverty line including the working class more so than ever?
Well yes, it’s strange, in America. I mean in terms of one minute we were in a €10 million apartment in New York overlooking the harbour where it’s beautiful and lovely, a place where the rich people are doing well and more power to those people who can do that, who can get to the top of their game. But then the flip side of it, we have been to New Orleans which was badly affected by Hurricane Katrina and to see the devastation down there was just unbelievable. Everyone just seemed so down, so broken, it’s really very sad. But it really is reflective of society in Ireland as well where you have the rich who are doing very well but then we have people who are on the bread line and struggling. This energy crisis and cost of living crisis is not going to help anyone, I think people need more of a dig out from the people in the government, they just need more help, we need it in Ireland, we’re struggling.
How was your experience this time post covid in a Biden led America as opposed to when you started with season one?
To be fair, I think a lot of the states that we travelled through, particularly the likes of Texas, Alabama, some southern states like that are still very much pro Trump. We didn’t get too heavily involved in the politics of it so there wasn’t a huge difference, the main difference is when you travel through the airport the picture over immigration is Biden and not Donald Trump and that was really it for us. But on the other hand some people out there would tell us they were making more money under Trump, now we can’t judge that ourselves but that’s what they say!
When we think of presenting duo’s its often the likes of Ant & Dec where it’s easy to see the close bond they share after all of these years. How do you balance your friendship with a full-on work schedule that see’s you both spend a lot of time together?
Well, what you see is what you get with me and Johnny B, we’re friends, we’re best friends and we have been for over 12 years and it’s easy to maintain a friendship because we see our work as almost us just being friends spending time together but getting to do cooler things. Like, we’re still best friends, we still play together, we still hurl together and we still hang out together on weekends. If we have a weekend off the first thing we think is, will we go to a football match and go out for a few pints after? We always get asked do we ever fight? We don’t fight because we are honest with each other and I think that is very important in any relationship between two people, that you’re honest with each other. If Johnny B is wrecking my head or I’m wrecking his, we’ll just say “Don’t be doing that now you’re wrecking my head” and we just get over it. With the work schedule and friendship, it’s very easy. We love working together, we love travelling together and that is why it works. Trust me, we would be found out by now if we didn’t like each other!
Congratulations on your latest sold out show in the 3 Arena, how has that journey been for you to take it from day 1 of the podcast to sold out gigs in one of Irelands biggest venues?
It’s gas, I can remember putting the original 3 Arena gig on sale, the first gig and that was before last Christmas, it was a huge gamble. We worried if tickets were going to sell, but that sold out thankfully! Unfortunately it got put back because of covid but it finally went ahead in April. Then when it came to putting this one on sale it was nerves all over again, could we make lightning strike twice and thank god we did! All the tickets were gone within 3 or 4 minutes. It was such a relief! It’s amazing too because we have taken that show to smaller venues all around the country and the support we get is just so humbling, such a buzz for us because all we want to do is bring people out. It’s a night out, it’s an event. We go all out, there’s pyrotechnics, there’s stuff you’re never going to see again which is what makes it special and it’s great to sell out the 3Arena, I’ve been there watching Westlife when I was 11, I’ve been there all over the year’s seeing all of my favourite bands and to be sharing the stage that they did is just unbelievable.
Do you have plans to take it on tour further afield?
Yes, we are looking at date’s around the world but having real job’s now as radio hosts it can be a bit difficult! We are looking to take it to London hopefully, New York too so who knows, we took the podcast to Australia so maybe we will take it back? We definitely have plans to take it further afield, we have lots of listeners out there, loads of Irish people out there who want to have a good night out and that’s what we want to give them!
If people were not previously aware of The 2 Johnnies, the GAA Catfish saga certainly solved that! Although people across the world got heavily invested in it, it is important to remember at the centre of all of this was a human with feelings and emotions who had been deceived in a nasty way. What affect did it have on Johnny B mentally and what prompted you both to go public with it?
I can only speak on Johnny B’s behalf but I guess, the reason we wanted to go public on it was because this is the kind of stuff that when you watch television and you see that show in America, Catfish, you think surely that only happens in America? But here it is happening on our own doorstep. We wanted to go public with it to tell people that this was actually happening and it can happen! Showing people how you can get caught in it, how you can become lured into it by a Catfish and also for the Catfish themselves. It was nasty what they were doing, it was wrong what they were doing but also they themselves were probably having some issues. We got on a psychologist, Louise Carroll and she explained why it was happening. I think we just wanted to make people aware that it was happening and the tell-tale signs on what to look out for. We wanted to educate people, I mean it happened to Johnny who was lucky really that he wasn’t too badly affected by it at all. But we have spoken to people who have been affected by it big time. So really just be aware and be safe when you are online.
How was it received by the public in terms of people messaging you, was there a general feeling of sympathy?
There was a feeling of sympathy, probably a feeling of jaysus he’s some eejit as well! But that is totally normal. The public were really invested in it, but you have to remember don’t believe everything you read too and that’s what we would say. Also that, it’s not even about sympathy, it’s about us raising awareness of this with the public, letting people know that, here this can happen to anyone.
Do you feel in this day and age where “Instagram perfection” seems to be all anyone strives to conform to what is perceived as normal, is there more pressure on people to appear to be something they are not?
Yes, definitely, this is like not believing everything you read. Do not believe everything you see on Instagram, it’s just a snippet of people’s lives, it’s a snippet of the good stuff they do. I’m on Instagram mostly for work, I don’t share too much of my personal life on it because I think that is something that you have to keep separate. People will only ever publish their highlights, they never publish the lowlights so don’t get too bogged down, don’t get too winded and I think the most important thing for people out there is not to be comparing yourself to anyone else, I know that’s easier said than done. But if you see someone and you think oh I will never have their body, look I have those insecurities too myself but you have to try and not compare yourself. You’re not them, you’re yourself and your own person so just try and worry about yourself, live your own life and don’t be looking for Instagram perfection because it does not exist.
What advice would you give to any of our readers who is using dating apps or engaged in conversations online?
Look out for those red flags online, are they tagged in photo’s, do you have mutual friends. Check with mutual friends do they know this person, can they give a reference for them and yeah I would definitely be aware of screenshots, it’s just general rules of online. Be careful with online dating, it’s the same as if you were meeting someone in person so same rules apply.
I recently spoke with a good friend of yours, Trisha Lewis who is just an absolute joy with such an infectiously energetic personality, it is so easy to see why you are so fond of her. Trisha spoke about the down side of social media with trolls etc. Have you experienced much of this yourselves or do you feel it is mostly women who are targeted in this way?
Trisha is amazing, she is an absolute legend! I would say from chatting to women we know in the media they definitely seem to get it a lot more than we do. We’re lucky, I guess we’ve been doing it so long that to be honest we haven’t gotten that many trolls’. Of course if you put yourself outside your comfort zone like go on The Late Late Show you will get a bit of it but to be honest we just dont read it. We don’t go online, we don’t read comments and that way I guess it shields us from it. But honestly, we would never be that bothered by what people say about us, we are happy with what we are doing and we believe in what we are doing. We know what we are doing is making so many people happy, we get so many messages to the podcast of us getting people through tough times. It was amazing, just during lockdown we met a guy who said he was in a really bad place and listened to the podcast and it got him through. That’s why we love doing what we do, we don’t focus on the trolls, trolls will never win. I know it’s tough for Trisha and other girls in the media, we’re lucky were able to just block it out, we’re tough boys! When you come from a small town doing what we’re doing you’ll get enough grief that will get you well ready for troll’s!
Finally, what can we expect to see from you both career wise over the next 12 months?
Lot’s more work! We have our radio show Drive It with The 2 Johnnies on 2FM and that is keeping us busy 5 days a week! We have our podcast and our extra podcast on patreon, that’s all going to be ongoing over the next 12 months. We have 3 different TV shows in development so they are coming hot and heavy down the line! So it’s constantly like that and constantly moving, it’s all about adapting and keeping the content pucked out and really just doing what we love is the main thing. We are really lucky, we’ve had real jobs, we’ve been through the grind, this is an absolute cake walk compared to the real jobs. It’s just unreal to be able to do this job every day and we are so thankful for it. It’s going to be a busy 12 months so watch out!
The 2 Johnnies do America begins October 3th on RTÉ. You can also find The 2 Johnnies weekdays from 3-6pm on their show ‘Drive It’ on 2fm