'I Like The Guinea Pig Element – So I Hit The Gym To See Could I Get A Six-Pack In Four Months'
RTÉ's Keith Walsh doesn't just host documentaries – he lives them, as we'll see tonight
“She was going a little bit mad,” admits Keith Walsh.
He's talking about his wife Suzanne, and her frustration over his fastidious food plan to acquire a six-pack for his upcoming Reality Bites documentary The Gun Show, which airs tonight on RTÉ.
“I was pretty much left to my own devices in the kitchen, I spent a lot of time preparing food for the next day, planning exactly what I was going to eat and when I was going to eat it.
"I'd have to spend an hour the night before planning what I was going to eat, putting all the food into Tupperware containers to bring with me into studio.”
"I play hurling as well so I was playing soccer, playing hurling and going to the gym a minimum of four times a week"
In The Gun Show Keith delves into the male preoccupation with sculpting the magnificent six-pack – and in the vein of all the best documentary makers, he puts himself at the heart of the action as the ever-willing volunteer.
“It’s kind of Louis Theroux in that it’s a light-hearted way of looking at stuff and people. It's about fitness and the obsession with six-packs and getting ripped and getting the perfect body,” he explains.
“I like the guinea pig element, so I took to the gym myself to see if I could get a six-pack within four months.”
And did he perfect the desired toned physique? “I got very close to getting a six-pack, but it's very difficult,” he concedes. “It completely changes how you feel though and your body shape. I play hurling as well so I was playing soccer, playing hurling and going to the gym a minimum of four times a week."
"The six-pack can be a lot easier for some people, if you've got the body type. I'm not sure whether it was worth it to be honest – I completely cut out the booze and cut out carbs for about six weeks. It's basically dehydrating yourself so the skin grips to the muscle, whatever muscle you have.”
That seems like an awful lot of effort to go to for a set of well-developed abdominal muscles. In all fairness, is it worth the bother?
“Not really,” he laughs. “I still go to the gym, I love that part of it, and I don't really eat sugar anymore, but I do like a few beers at the weekend.
“There's another documentary I’m doing too called Tested on Humans. We're just working on what we're going to do but the idea is similar to the guinea pig thing in that you're a presenter and you try out different things to see how they affect you – it’s Jackass meets science.”
As a documentary maker Keith is now making the natural transition from radio to TV, and says television is a medium he is definitely interested in pursuing more of.
"Initially a lot of people turned off and what we did was we probably halved the audience, so you had that period for us where we went 'Oh my God..."
“I am absolutely interested in TV, and because I work with the two guys [Bernard and Jennifer] people often ask about Republic of Telly. But if you look at Kevin [McGahern] he's a presenter, actor and a comedian so he has a whole different set of skills than I do.”
It’s a year and a half now into Breakfast Republic’s controversial launch on 2fm where Hector’s soldiers of the dawn literally switched off in their thousands.
“Initially a lot of people turned off and what we did was we probably halved the audience, so you had that period for us where we went 'Oh my God...'” Keith assures however that Breakfast Republic is now not only the best breakfast show on radio, but its figures are rivalling that of Hector’s original peak of 138,000, and constantly growing.
"It's a scary thing to do because you need to attract a whole new audience so you're clearing out a certain age group. Hector's was just the wrong end of 35"
The 5am starts to anchor a show being pummelled by critics, though, must have been some cause for concern to Keith – who left Phantom’s breakfast show, where he was also head of programming, to move to 2fm’s revamped breakfast slot.
“But that's what we wanted,” he says of the drop in audience figures in early 2014. “It's a scary thing to do because you need to attract a whole new audience so you're clearing out a certain age group,” he adds of the show’s 18-35 demographic.
“Hector's was just the wrong end of 35. You know Breakfast Republic isn't for them, you know it's not going to be for them, and that's okay – but you still don't know if the new audience will come. But it is going great now.”
So great, in fact, that Keith predicts Breakfast Republic will be the No. 1 breakfast show throughout the next decade. “I always say this is a marathon, not a sprint, we want to be here for 10 years."
“Of course, it's not always good fun because it's work and everybody has bad days,” he says. “I worked with Bernard before [on iRadio’s breakfast show in 2009] so we have our working relationship and I think Jennifer is one of the best people I've ever worked with, there is no bullshit.
"It's one thing putting a show on that people enjoy but the secret is everyone coming in and doing the job the best they can. The pressure is on to knock it out of the park everyday. We work very hard, we talk about the show an awful lot, we pretty much wreck our heads about it.
And does he resent the fact Bernard and Jen get an extra sleep-in, while he hosts the show solo from 6-7am? “No,” he laughs, “I resent them being in my studio from 7 o'clock!"
The Gun Show airs tonight on RTÉ 2 at 9.30pm