Comedian Kevin McGahern and Laura Hogan on series six of Dancing with the Stars on Sunday night. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

Kevin eyes up the 'culchie vote'

Comedian a big hit on Dancing with the Stars

Gowna's Kevin McGahern is breathing a sigh of relief this week having successfully navigated his first night on the popular reality TV show 'Dancing With The Stars', writes Michael Keaveny.

The comedian and his partner Laura Nolan scored a respectable 19/30 for their performance of a Viennese Waltz to 'You Know Me' by Robbie Williams but they can't afford to rest on their laurels and are appealing to Cavan people and culchies to get behind them.

"The pressure last night was unbelievable. But we're straight back into this morning so there were no big celebrations to be had at all," Kevin told the Celt on Monday of this week.

Despite lots of preparation leading up the performance, Kevin endured a nervy final few hours on set.

"Practice definitely takes the nerves off you a bit but the pressure of live TV is huge. As part of my act, I had to hop across a bench and, on my final run-through an hour before we started, I pulled it back completely and Laura nearly landed on her arse. I was just thinking 'oh my god if that happens on live television, I don't know how I'm gonna recover from that'. But, luckily it went fairly well during the actual show."

While Kevin is used to performing stand-up comedy in front of live crowds, he says dancing is a completely different experience.

"When you're doing comedy, if you mess up, you can kind of make a joke about it and audiences love it. You can get laugh at it. But, if you mess up when you're dancing, then that's you done, there's no coming back from it at all. It's a totally different world from what I'm used to."

Apart from the fear of messing up, Kevin says his biggest worry is not performing on the night but he says the energy from a live crowd can help bring out the best of his performance.

"The audience will give you that sort of adrenaline boost so I was confident that once the crowd was there, it would give me a lift. I messed up a couple of little things and I was annoyed at myself over my frame, which is the one thing that you get criticised on a ballroom dance. I had it nailed down for weeks and I was just kicking myself after that I was criticised on the frame," says the Republic of Telly star.

The weeks leading up to the live shows involved lots of intensive training, with hours of practice each day.

"We started a couple of weeks before Christmas. At the first week of training, I was thinking 'why did I sign up for this? I'm not going to be able to get this'. I was messing up and kicking myself over it. But then, once you get into it, the muscle memory kicks in and, once your legs begin to know the steps, you stop thinking about it. That's the place you want to be. You want to know it so well that you're not thinking about it," explains the funny man.


"For the first two weeks, we were training four days a week, for four hours a day. Now that's ramping up because we've only a week now to prepare each dance and were training for five hours a day for four days a week. It's intense. The next dance, which I can't reveal yet, is a lot quicker and has a lot more jumps and hops. My fitness levels will have to increase, which is something I'm definitely working on for the first time possibly ever in my life. I've never really been one for sports or keeping fit. So it's a big challenge for me," reveals Kevin.

Already he's starting to see the results.

"I'm down a belt buckle size. I've lost a few kilos so it's given me the boost to continue. I am enjoying getting fitter now, which is something I've never experienced before. So hopefully I'll continue. I was useless at football and, in Gowna, football is the main means of keeping fit. Dancing really wasn't an option either," says Kevin.

Previously, his wife Siobhan tried to get him to take up a dance class but it didn't appeal to him at the time.

"It's very enjoyable. Once you start showing a bit of progress, you really enjoy it. Probably the only place I've ever danced really was at weddings. But it was freestyle - like there were no real steps there. So I'm looking forward to breaking out a few moves and the next wedding I'm at," continues Kevin.

The standard of dancing is very high in this year's show so the Gowna lad is wary of getting eliminated early on. Week three will see the first eliminations and it's Kevin's goal not to be the first voted off.

"I was talking to Jennifer Zammperlli, the host, and she said, the standard has never been higher on the show," said Kevin, adding there are no "real weak links" in the competition.

"A lot of people online were saying that Shane Byrne the rugby player might not be that good because, usually, the rugby lads wouldn't be the best movers. But I thought Shane Byrne did brilliantly. I was so happy for him because he put the work in and he just gave a phenomenal dance. So it could be anyone's game," Kevin thinks.

Call for culchie votes

He isn't too worried about impressing the judges on the show and is instead focusing on performing for the viewers and has called for Cavan people to vote for him.

"You try not to put too much thought into the judge's scores because, at the end of the day, it's the people at home watching who have the real control over who goes first.

"Myself and Panti Bliss are the only culchies in the show and Panti has the gay vote so I am hoping to get the culchie vote. So, if everyone I'm hoping everyone in Cavan will vote for me. There's a rivalry between Crosserlough and Gowna at the moment so I'm not expecting too many people from Crosserlough to vote for me. But, if the rest of Cavan does, I'd be happy enough with that. It only costs 60 cents per text to vote. If I win, I'll do a tour of the Main Street of Cavan with the trophy and hopefully I'll get a statue beside John Joe O'Reilly," jokes Kevin.

With the gruelling TV show schedules, Kevin didn't overload his schedule in the early part of the year in the hope of getting an extended run on the show.

"I purposely didn't book out because, I'm so wrecked in the evenings, the last thing you want to do is head out again. I have a couple of gigs but nothing major. I have two very small kids at home who are both under two. Siobhan is doing a lot of the heavy lifting at home so you want to try and spend as much time at home as you can.

"My daughter Wallace is two and is mad about dancing. My sister-in-law was babysitting the night of the first show and she said Wallace was watching the television and roaring 'daddy dancing, daddy dancing' and was running around the floor dancing along to the video. So that gives me a boost."

Dancing With The Stars continues on Sunday nights on RTE One at 6:30pm.