Comedian Tadhg Hickey tells us about 10 things that changed his life...

1. My father

HE wasn’t a superstar or famous or anything like that, my father was an ordinary man in many ways. But to me, he was extraordinary because he seemed to have a natural ability to negotiate the world and his interactions with other people.

There was a next-door neighbour of ours who was notoriously vicious. She once put a dagger in my football. She unexpectedly called at the door one time though with a cake for my dad because he had been doing odd jobs like changing her lightbulbs and stuff but he never mentioned it.

I was probably about eight and I was staggered by someone who would do nice things but not expect anything in return. That wasn’t the way I felt, I thought good deeds should be broadcast. The idea of doing things without expecting anything back or looking for praise is something that epitomises how he lived his life.

I do my best to emulate that now.

2. Birth of my first daughter Caoimhe

I WAS 20 when she came along and up until that point I was young, I was selfish, I was caught up in drink and drugs. I had a cynical, self-obsessed, resentful worldview, I think. I thought I was a lot smarter than I was and that the world owed me something.

When my daughter came along, there was something so pure about her and specifically pure about the feelings that I had for her. It was like my first experience of unconditional love. I couldn’t imagine getting resentful or cynical about a child when they’re so beautiful and innocent and pure.

Without being melodramatic, I think she probably saved my life as well because I was so caught up with myself and getting into addiction that the fact she came along gave me a real purpose to get my shit together.

3. Scotland

I WENT to Edinburgh when I was around 18 or 19 and I had done one play and met somebody going to do a funded show at the Fringe. To go there funded so you wouldn’t lose your fucking house is very significant.

I’d done one play but never done anything that had toured or travelled. I was in Edinburgh for about a week and the play was out the window. My drinking and drug-taking had taken off.

I was staying in a hostel and I was so intoxicated I used to ring in sick. I didn’t get the fact that there would be tech and directors and co-stars and audiences waiting for me to turn up. I was a very immature young man.

Not to blame Scotland because I adore Scotland, it’s just that my drinking and drug-taking took off there.

4 Meeting RTÉ’s head of comedy

RTÉ is our national broadcaster and I had done a small project for RTÉ Player but there wasn’t an obvious connection between them and the people working on the TV. I forced an email to the head of comedy asking if he had seen what I’d done.

He hadn’t but he watched it and loved it so I got a bus up to RTÉ, having done nothing for TV before this moment and no links to them really. Nobody was ushering me in the door as is quite common in Ireland.

He raised my hand in the air, myself and this guy who directed the show with me, and he said: “You’re the winners”. But he said it was a pity because new comedy was being launched in a week but that we wouldn’t be ready.

And I just said: “No, we will be ready”, and we pulled together three or four sketches in a few days. It was a moment where I backed myself. If I was going to crack on with TV in Ireland, that was the moment.

The National: Eddie Doyle RTE.

The guy’s name at RTÉ was Eddie Doyle (above) and he was an early mentor and supporter of mine. Without him, nothing I’ve done would have happened. If I’d turned around at that moment and said that we wouldn’t be ready then nothing I’ve done since would have happened.

5 Realising I was an alcoholic

WHEN I say became an alcoholic in Scotland, I was being playful because those were the “good old days” but around 2015, I realised that the drink wasn’t working anymore. I tried to stop drinking because I felt like I was losing my mind but found I couldn’t stop and couldn’t stay stopped.

It was a terrifying but existential moment in my life because it was the anaesthetic I had always used but it wasn’t taking away underlying anxiety but I also couldn’t stop using it. It was one of the most painful moments of my life and that’s where my healing journey towards recovery started.

6 Becoming politically active

IN 1984, I was a kid and I watched our flagship entertainment show called The Late Late Show.

They had a really important interview with Gerry Adams pre-ceasefire so he would have been an extraordinarily controversial figure in Britain and Ireland, particularly the south of Ireland.

He made an appearance on it where there were politicians from parties being completely hostile towards him and the host refused to shake his hand. He came out and it really felt like an ambush. All the questions directed against him, seemed to my young ears and eyes, that he was solely responsible for the Troubles.

They tried to get him to express regret and guilt and an admittance of his single-handed role in creating the Troubles. After that show, Sinn Féin started to gain popularity in the polls and his own personal popularity started to increase.

He articulated all the antecedents, everything that had gone before the Troubles – something we were never exposed to. Basically, there was a black hole in Ireland between 1922 and 1969.

After the south gained independence, we didn’t pay attention to the north again until the first IRA attacks. That night, I realised I was living in a jurisdiction that had forced so much propaganda on us that I didn’t understand the whole context of the history of my island at all and it encouraged me to start reading and start questioning everything. I became an anti-imperialist I suppose rather than a supporter of Sinn Féin or an apologist for the IRA or any of that kind of rubbish, I just had a fuller picture of the history of my country.

7 Watching The Office

I REMEMBER distinctly watching one of the first episodes of Ricky Gervais (below) and Stephen Merchant’s The Office. I know stuff had come before which had perfected that kind of cringe comedy but I’d never seen a performance that was so subtle it felt like it could have been from a documentary.

The National:

I thought to be funny and to be thought of as a comedian, you had to be very “hello, is everyone having a good time”, which is not me. Gervais revolutionised how I thought about comedy and I was laughing my head off at it but also feeling emotionally attached to it and it made me feel sad and cringey.

I would credit Gervais for giving me a tiny, tiny little path or route into hopefully subtle comedy drama. I could take or leave what he’s done since then but The Office is an unparalleled masterpiece in my opinion.

8 Celtic FC

WHEN I was in Scotland, I worked on a construction site in Livingston to pay my way because I was doing a play but drinking and so I needed money. I’m an absolutely unparalleled useless man on a construction site. I have small hands and I’m just fucking clumsy and not very practical.

There was a guy called Charlie and he took me under his wing. I was a Celtic fan anyway but he brought me to a game against Dundee United at home, we won 5-0 and Henrik Larsson scored.

When I first came into the stadium and saw it all, I associated it with Charlie’s kindness. He used to keep me out of the way of the foreman on site and bring me home and we’d have haggis with his wife – which I know is clichéd, but that’s what we did – and he’d drop me home to Edinburgh to do my play.

After that experience, I was a Celtic fan for life. It was really about kindness.

9 Recovering from alcoholism

THE best thing I’ve ever done was to stop drinking but I was in a lot of pain, like I said. A big part of recovering for me was about getting help from other alcoholics, doing meditation which I learned.

It calmed my mind down and still helps me be more creative. I learned it around eight and a half years ago when I stopped drinking and it’s done so much to keep me chilled out. I still do it twice a day and never miss it whether I’m going through a tough time or not. It’s not just a painkiller, it’s always helping in some sort of way.

I should say this was all with the help of other alcoholics and reconnecting with my family. I had a chance to make amends with the people I hurt. There’s no point in stopping drinking and getting well and letting this history just sit there. I had the opportunity to make amends to family. All of those are linked with recovery.

10 My new daughter Sadhbh

I’VE had this experience which is weird because it feels like I’m starting my life. It’s like I’ve become a father for the first time because the previous time was so long ago. I’m a totally different person, I’m in recovery and able to hold down work. I can see things through. Before she came along, I was capable of wandering into self-obsession about my career, whether or not I’ve “made it” – books, TV shows, stuff like that.

I’ve won some awards, I’ve done plays and done tours but if I’m not careful then those things can be my whole identity. Since Sadhbh has come along, I’m worrying about my career so much less.

She has reconnected me in the way Caoimhe did 19 years ago to life. We all want to feel love, to express love and care for another human being.

The other great thing about babies for needy comedians like me is you put them down in front of you and they can’t leave so you can do your nonsense and they have to accept it. She’s a ready-made audience which is every comedian’s dream.

I have to mention her mum Claire as well. My new partner was a big part of this new stage of my life at the start of recovery and been a friend and partner and now she’s gifted me this beautiful experience.