From Tullamore to Tullow, Milltown Malbay to Mallow, turn on RTÉ 2fm at 3pm any weekday and the towns, villages and townlands of Ireland are getting a shoutout. It’s ‘Drive It’ time and hosts The 2 Johnnies are, as they say themselves, giving a voice to the culchies of Ireland.

When Johnny McMahon, better known as ‘Smacks’ and Johnny O’Brien, commonly referred to as ‘Johnny B’ hit the national airwaves in 2022, they changed the conversation in RTÉ.

“Even on location alone, our show was all about rural Ireland,” says Smacks. “Instead of broadcasting out of RTÉ’s headquarters in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, we were set up close to home in our studio in Cahir, Co Tipp.”

The lads have a lot of grá for this small studio as this is where they have been recording their podcast The 2 Johnnies since it started in 2018.

Almost immediately, it became one of Ireland’s fastest growing podcasts and has consistently sat at the top of the Irish podcast charts with a listenership of over 250,000 listeners per week.

The 2 Johnnies with their guests — Marty Morrissey, Una Healy and Seann Walsh —

on the first show. \ RTÉ

Top Guests

They’ve secured some great guests over the years, including comedian Tommy Tiernan and Ireland rugby international Tadhg Furlong but it’s the chats with the listeners that always provide a giggle-and sometimes a belly laugh-no matter what the topic.

Going back further again, the lads became known for their comedy sketches on Facebook where they would take off the characters of rural Ireland-a popular favourite being the auld lads roaring at the parish hurling matches.

The 2 Johnnies. \ RTÉ Photographer: Jenny McCarthy

On top of that, these two can hold a tune and have tackled the music scene in Ireland, quite successfully. Over the last few years, they have racked up nine number one singles and have sold out tours in Australia.

From gigs in the 3Arena to Electric Picnic and Live at the Marquee in Cork, they have a solid fanbase and its items like Johnny B’s catfish story (look it up) that keep people hooked.

No surprises so that the latest string to their bow is a new TV show called ‘Late Night Lock In’.

The six-part series is currently on RTÉ2 every Thursday night at 9:35pm and has been described as an hour of “unpredictable chaos”. Guests included former model Roz Purcell, TikTok phenomenon Kayleigh Trappe and Marty Mone, singer-songwriter and the man behind the number one single Hit the Diff.

“Ireland is jammed with so many characters, so many mad scones,” says Johnny B. “That’s the whole point of our radio show and that’s the reason we took the gig – to get mad scones on the phone every day telling their story. The listeners are the star of the show and we’re bringing that format to the telly. Anyone on the audience could end up on camera.”

Johnny Smacks says when the opportunity arose to do this show, they couldn’t turn it down.

“There’s no one, really, from the country like us on TV so we feel like we are kind of representing everyone that is not from Dublin. It’s different, I can’t remember a TV show being filmed in a pub and it’s very us and very unique.”

They’ve certainly made an impact in Montrose on the back of their radio show. “Everyone has been really welcoming to us, absolutely. But sometimes, it feels like we’re exchange students on the Donnybrook campus,” Johnny B says, laughing.

“Definitely the fact that we’re mostly broadcasting from Cahir keeps us grounded. One of our favourite parts of the year is silage season because we do the ‘silage shoutouts’. All the lads and ladies sending in their voice notes of what they’re up to, its hilarious. Plus, when people are driving past the fields, it is connecting them with what is actually happened on farms at that time.”

Their accents are part and parcel of the package. “There was no one on national radio doing what we’re doing. Lots of people relate to our culchie accents, and don’t be expecting us to start pronouncing our th’s anytime soon, its just not in us,” says Johnny Smacks. He adds that they don’t find the term culchie offensive “at all” when sometimes it’s heard in RTÉ circles.

“We are from the country, we’re proud of being from the country, we’re proud of being from Tipp. You’d be surprised, there’s a lot of culchies in RTÉ. If you look at people from Tipp alone in RTÉ, you’ve got Damian Lawlor who’s presenting the Saturday Game and Claire McNamara from Ardfinnan. Everybody has been sound out to us up there.”

Supporting Farmers

Speaking about the flack farmers sometimes get from the media and the public, The 2 Johnnies both maintain that farmers need more support.

“There’s shade being thrown at the farmers that they don’t want to change, that they want to do what they’ve always done and that they don’t care about the environment. No one cares more about the environment in the near sense, farmers can tell you about the grass, the rain, the rivers and the trees, more than any green party TDs,” says Johnny Smacks.

While the lads don’t often veer a long way from Tipperary, they have crossed the waters and spent time filming in America for their RTÉ show ‘The 2 Johnnies Do America’. They travelled across the States looking for the hidden, fun and quirky side of America, providing their humorous observations en route. It’s there that they realised how environmentally friendly Irish farmers really are.

“You’d rarely see cows out grazing, a lot of the time they’re cooped up inside. Ireland has dairy cows and beef cows that spend most of their life outside, eating natural grass. That’s actually rarer than people realise.

“We have something special here; the model of the small farmer, maybe it doesn’t make the most sense in ones and zeros but it’s Irish culture and it’s a better life for everyone involved,” says Johnny B.

Comedy will continue to be the basis of how the duo make their bread and butter and balancing traditional, rurally-focused comedy with today’s audience has never been an issue.

“We just do what makes us laugh, we wouldn’t be like ‘aw, we can’t do that because it’s too country.’ Take Seamus Moore and Craig David on the same bill for ‘Pints in the Field’… nothing has to make sense in our world,” says Johnny B.