“The only good thing about being drunk is it puts you in situations where you can write about later”. TV star, stand-up and former busker Dave McSavage on booze, creativity and his new show.
What have you being doing since The Savage Eye?
I went back drinking for eight months. Which was great for the first three months, because I felt like I was winning, like Charlie Sheen. Then, it was a slow descent into all the things that remind me of what a raging alcoholic I am. So I stopped drinking. I’m writing again. It’s important to say you are writing. You’re either writing or you’re not writing. You are either doing something or not doing something. When people say: “I’m trying to write this …” – what they are really saying is: “I’m not writing …”.
When you went back drinking how did that affect your creativity?
Really bad. Anything that is mood-altering, a drug, alcohol is a drug. But people who drink think it’s a better class of drug than the dirty drugs, the powders.
Well, some people take cocaine recreationally.
Recreationally? You play tennis ‘recreationally’. Look, anyway, alcohol is the opposite of creative – it’s destructive. So, I’ve never written anything when I was drunk. The only good thing about being drunk is it puts you in situations where you can write about later. But, genuinely, the reason I did drink is that I didn’t want to remember anything.
I wanted to take a vacation from my worries, my problems. A friend of mine said to me (I think it’s a Freida Kahlo quote): “You drink to drown your sorrows, but the problem is, your sorrows are very good swimmers and they can’t be drowned”.
You can’t escape from escape, from your truth. Once you acknowledge what’s eating you up – thats a good thing. The drinking thing for me, there is a misnomer, a misconception, that a lot of creative people are drinkers. But that’s just a side effect of having a lot of free time on your hands. It dosen’t increase creativity at all. My issues are no different from anyone else’s. I think we put on theses brave faces. We’re grand, we’re fine. But, you know, I’m very vulnerable. I’m very lonely and I’m wrapped up in my own head. I’m contradictory and I don’t want to admit it to anyone. If I recognise that in myself and I’m truthful … er, so that’s why I drank – to get away from my issues.
Did you think to yourself when you went back drinking that it was going to help you be creative?
No, the reason I went back drinking was that I was down for such a long time. I just had enough of it.
Was drinking in any way a spur to your creativity?
In one of the episodes of The Savage Eye we asked the question: why are the Irish so influential in the world of arts? And in one of the chapters we explored the connection between drinking, drug-taking and creativity.
I talked to psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald and he told me there was absolutely no link between taking drugs, drinking and being creative.
Drinking for me was very destructive. Before I stopped drinking I was having a lot of blackouts so I couldn’t remember a fucking thing, which really defeats the purpose of having experiences if you can’t remember them, so, it was almost like a temporary suicide. I mean, that’s a bit extreme, it was amnesia. But no, creativity is hard work. Working very hard on something and it not being right for ages, then eventually getting it right, is tough. And if you are drinking a lot and having hangovers, you’re this, you’re that … Maybe you can do that when you’re young, but I’m 48, so my body sort of said, “hey, could you stop drinking every 10 seconds? Because we can’t handle it”.
Do you see a greater purpose for your work?
Well, Jesus Christ … I do want to create something original. The track rate for TV comedy in Ireland is poor. If the Irish are so gregarious then why have they got such a poor track record in terms of film and TV output? I’d like to create something that Irish people could be proud of. So, a greater purpose …
Do you see your work as political? You seem to target certain personalities.
The work that we did was sometimes political but I’m disinterested. While working on The Savage Eye we did have targets in terms of attacking politicians and so on. After a while you see a cycle, you know, they say the same things. Nothing really changes, then you just get bored because satire dosen’t change anything. It just makes people laugh and go ‘huhaha’. That’s it.
What’s the new project about?
It’s called Poor Me And The Bastards. It’s about the sort of empty attention-seeking people that gravitate towards performing. The type of people that when their careers aren’t going well they begrudge other people’s success. All these sort of embarassing pimples and psychological scars that people try to hide from each other. It’s all about that sort of stuff.
What’s the over riding emotion attached to it?
Well, I would say that I wanted it to be black and white because I don’t like sitcoms. I don’t like the sort of forced, quirky, all the colours are primary colours, ‘isn’t it great and exciting’ style. I want to strip that away and have it very dark. In terms of Poor Me And The Bastards I think the characters don’t need help in terms of being funny within a situation. It’s about broken people and how life can beat you down over time.
Who is in the cast?
I’m working with Pat McDonnell and Paul Woodful and various actors and actresses and comedians. I haven’t being commissioned but I’m making it any way. I’m my own TV station. I’ve given myself the green light, I’m my own commissioning editor. Not many people are going to see it. But fuck it.
Because what else am I going to do? I’m not going to sit around. I mean, in AA, they’ve a saying: ‘the mind is a dangerous neighbourhood’. If I don’t have a goal? I think a man needs a goal, a little bit of hope. A short cut to feeling good about yourself, drinking heavily, but over time it’s going to kill you. So, let’s say this gets commissioned and I get five series of Poor Me And The Bastards, in five or six years I can go back drinking. FUCK!!!!