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29 SEPTEMBER 2012

SIMPLY STUNNING 10 pages of stylish recipes from the queen of chic cuisine

I WAS AN ONLINE STALKER One woman’s story of obsession

Jennifer Maguire

THE SERIOUS BUSINESS OF BEING A FUNNY GIRL...


COVERSTORY

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ennifer Maguire is ridiculously funny, but I find it hard to put my finger on exactly why. She doesn’t do boom-boom. She doesn’t do gags. She just keeps a smile tingling incessantly around my mouth, a fraction below the surface. Chatting to her for an hour or so at the Metro café on South William Street in Dublin, I find myself on the verge of giggles the whole time. In the end, I surmise, it’s down to her deadpan delivery and the dry, sardonic wit which subtly infuses every drop of her dialogue. The Republic of Telly star first found fame as a pushy contestant on The Apprentice on the BBC, telling Sir Alan Sugar ‘I am the best saleswoman in Europe’ (he disagreed and fired her). She was then a finalist in Fáilte Towers later that year in 2008, and will be back on our screens on Monday night as one of the co-stars of a frankly fantastic new hidden-camera show, The Fear, which more than makes up for what it lacks in sophistication with belly laughs galore. It is, I feel I should warn viewers of a sensitive nature, pretty outrageous stuff for 9.30pm, with plenty of sexually explicit gags (Hilary Rose playing a nymphomanic nun who begs passers-by to go into an adult shop for her and buy sex toys, or Jen, playing an actress who has an audition for a new adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, asking members of the public to help her practise by reading the [filthy] cue lines from the script) and even some nudity (in one set-up, Ross Browne calls a plumber to his house and greets him in the nude, then goes out into the back garden, and starts turning cartwheels in the altogether). Suffice to say you watch half of it through the gaps in your fingers and the other half wiping away the tears. And you might not want to watch it with your mum. In an inversion to the normal interview procedure, Jen spends the first half of our meeting grilling me. Her pathological need to engage with people is a legacy of the near-decade she spent selling promotions on the streets of Dublin, London and Bristol. It’s a testament to her people skills that I end up telling her that my wife and I are

celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary that day. ‘No way!’ she says, shoving me across the table like Elaine in Seinfeld. ‘Well, I am very happy to hear that because since I got engaged, everybody is getting divorced. Like, that is all I hear. It is mad. Divorce, divorce, divorce.’ I seize my opportunity to get in a few questions of my own at last. I discover that Jennifer, 32, is one of six kids born to Michael (a garda) and Myra Maguire in Baldoyle on Dublin’s northside. Her fiancé, Lauterio Zamparelli, is an Italian actor who she met when she was living in Bristol five years ago. He is 30. So she’s a cougar? ‘Oh yeah. Always go for the younger version, just in case.’ She’s a mischievous girl, is Jennifer. She tells me with delight about a stunt she has just filmed. ‘I was in a security guard outfit. It is amazing when you have that outfit on, people come up to you and ask you for directions, and you can just take the p*** out of them. So, I was charging people for directions. I had foreign people going, “Can you tell me how to get to Westland Row?” I was like, “Down there, take a right and take a left.” And then I’d say, “How many directions did I give you there?” They were like, “Two” and I would say, “That is €2, then please.” And they were absolutely disgusted! ‘I was getting into massive arguments with people. Some French people wouldn’t pay. These Spanish people, they didn’t want to say anything, so they paid the €2. Brilliant. ‘We did have to run after them, obviously, and tell them we were messing and get them to sign releases allowing us to broadcast the footage.’ Can that phase of the operation be a problem? ‘I have been quite surprised at how good people have been. About 10 per cent get really angry and refuse. It’s annoying because they are usually the best ones.’ Is there a technique to sweet-talking the all-important signature out of her victims? ‘You have to go up and go, “Oh my God, you were great.” Shake their hand, make sure it is all cool. Irish people are usually very cool. It has made the job a lot easier.’ Still, it must be a tricky conversation to negotiate. How does she kick it off? ‘I say “Hey, listen, my name is Jennifer Maguire, I work for RTÉ, we are actually a hidden camera ➤ show, and there are cameras there and there

‘The show really works because the public are the stars’

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and there. See that fella in the tree, there is a camera there…” And they are, like, shocked!’ If Jen seems comfortable in her new job, it will probably come as no surprise to those who have known her since she was a little girl. Jen has always loved causing trouble. ‘I was an absolute weapon as a kid. I got suspended the whole time. I remember being at home and my dad coming in and going, “Have you been suspended again? Are you for real?” ‘I just hated school, I hated it, I was very bold.’ What were the worst things she did? ‘I used to run home from school, get into fights… it was just smoking, messing, the usual stuff, nothing too bad. I didn’t stab anybody or anything. Once I was sent down to the principal’s office for being bold. And I was at her door – Sister Carmel, her name was – and I just thought, “No way, I am not going near her.” And I literally MI5-ed it, scaled the wall, hopped over the back wall and ran all the way home.’ Her mischievous personality is probably a big part of why she works so well as one of the co-presenters of the new show, but her passion for the format is also clearly evident. ‘I love hidden-camera shows, they never get old for me. Mike Murphy did it back in the Seventies, even the Sixties – black and white – we are always looking at that stuff on YouTube. And it is just as funny now as it was back then. I don’t think it ever dates or loses its comedy, you know. It has been going for years, years and years and years. It’s a tried and tested formula that works. ‘I think it is because the people are the stars. We just put them into situations where they have to make a decision, and then it’s a case of seeing which way are they going to go? Are they going to do the right thing or are they going to freak out or are they going to be rude? ‘It is a lot easier than standing up on a stage and telling a joke. Well, I think so, I find it very easy but some comedians absolutely hate doing hidden-camera work and wouldn’t touch it. But I did sales for years on the street, so I don’t mind going up to people.’ The new show’s first episode airs on Monday night, but Jen won’t be around to witness the reaction, as she is heading to New York for a family reunion. ‘It’s my mam’s birthday and I have two sisters and a brother out there, so we are all going over. There are six of us and we haven’t been together for about two years. We can only manage one night. It is probably a good thing – you know the family row always comes on day two.’ The youngest of the six Maguire kids, Jen went to school at St Mary’s in Baldoyle, skipping university in favour of waitressing in New York. ‘I was a really bad waitress,’ she says. ‘Always

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From top: Jennifer Maguire with Republic of Telly co-host Dermot Whelan; with father Michael; competing in Fáilte Towers in 2008; and in two of her on-screen personas from new series The Fear

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dropping stuff and getting the orders wrong.’ After that she settled in Britain, in Bristol, and got involved in promotional sales. ‘It’s very tough. You get to a point where you are just all sold out and you can’t stand to sell another thing. I went on The Apprentice, and that didn’t work out, and then I came back here and opened my photographic studio. It is open nearly five years now.’ Jen’s ‘makeover studio’ is called Bella (it’s located on South William Street, just across the road from the café we’re sitting in). ‘We do the whole thing: make-up, champagne and all the pampering. People come in for their birthday, special occasions, sisters wanting a nice photo.’ And how does she combine running her own business with a career in showbiz? ‘I don’t know – I just don’t have a life. That’s one of the main ways. The hidden-camera show, we are filming since August, probably about three days a week. I have a manager at the studio, so she kind of takes care of things, but she is moving to Shanghai – unfortunately for me – in January, so I have to find a new person. It’s difficult to find someone to work part time because they make more “on the scratch”, which drives me crazy, but don’t get me started on that. ‘There is probably going to be a time when I am going to have to choose between the two.’ Would she prefer to do the telly? ‘Well, I love being my own boss at the studio, but also… imagine this for a job: sitting in the office, thinking up loads of stupid things to do to people. It is brilliant!’ And with that, she is off again, ‘Yesterday I was dressed as a security guard, so I had this walkie-talkie and I went up to this little guy – he was only about 18 – and I said, “I am dying. I need to go to the toilet. Can you just watch the bank? I am supposed to be minding the bank. Take that walkie-talkie.” And I said, “My boss will probably call in. Just say, ‘Roger that’.” ‘And I ran off and I left him with the walkie-talkie. ‘And then I got on the radio! Going, “Who are you? Where has Jen gone?” ‘He said “Oh, she just left me and she has gone to the toilet.” ‘I was like, “Go over to that bank now: there is someone suspicious coming around the corner. Get over there now.” ‘He was like, “I don’t want to do this any more.” He absolutely freaked out. I had to give him a hug and everything afterwards. I mean – really? We were cracking up, just cracking up! The things I get up to! Can you imagine having a day like that in your week?’ Well, it wouldn’t suit everyone, but it clearly suits Jen Maguire right down to the ground. The Fear starts on Monday, 1 October on RTÉ Two at 9.30pm you 29 September 2012

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‘Getting into fights, smoking… I was an absolute weapon as a kid’

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