Malachy McCourt was born in Brooklyn, USA and from the age of three was raised in Limerick, Ireland. He returned to the land of his birth at the age of twenty and again worked at the manual tasks such as longshoreman, truck loader, dishwasher, until he became an actor. That career took him to Broadway and Off-Broadway and regional theatres in plays such as Mass Appeal, Da, The Hostage, Inherit the Wind, Carousel and Translations. The soap operas such as Ryan's Hope, Search for Tomorrow, One Life to Live, and All My Children were also a good source of work and sustenance as were the movies Molly Maguires, She's the One, The Devil's Own, Green Card, and TV movies such as You Can't Go Home Again and The Dain Curse. Due to a heavy schedule of writing, book signings and public appearances McCourt had to take a sabbatical from the acting trade but is now back after completing five movies Happy Hour, Guru of Sex, Gods and Generals, and Ash Wednesday plus a running part in the HBO prison series Oz. As well as being the co-author of the play A Couple of Blaguards with his brother Frank, Malachy has written his own New York Times bestseller memoir, A Monk Swimming, published by Hyperion Press. His memoir, Singing My Him Song, now out in paperback is published by Harper Collins. Running Press recently published four of Malachy’s books: the history of the song Danny Boy, a history of The Claddagh Ring, Voices of Ireland, an anthology, and Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland. Recent books, Harold Be Thy Name and Bush Lies in State, are published by Welcome Rain. In the works is I Never Drink When I’m Sober for Harper Collins. Malachy writes a column, Sez I to Myself, that appears in the Manhattan Spirit, The Westsider and Our Town in NYC.
Question: You ran for governor in 2006 for the Green Party. With New York suffering from political scandal, do you think third party candidates have viability in the future?
Malachy McCourt: Patterson walked into the Governor of New York at the moment, walked into a mess and a national and international mess, and he’s lost. And he’s having a rough time. When I ran for governor and I was up in Syracuse, a reporter asked me, “What would you do if you were elected?” And I said, “Well, I’ll change the name of the state.” And he said, “Why is that?” And I said, “Well, I don’t like the name ‘Empire State.’ It resonates of colonial times, you see. I don’t want to be Emperor. I want to be Governor.” And then a while late, the Governor, Spitzer, was caught in that compromising situation with the ladies, and the name of the club that supplied the girls was The Emperor’s Club, so I didn’t realize I was being so prescient at the time.
But, I think people are so disillusioned with the parties. It’s one party with two different names, and they are so spineless. And I had great faith that perhaps this man Obama would do something, but he is, we’re all in the grip of big money. And unless we can do away with that, we are done. And the Supreme Court gives corporations the same rights as a human being. It’s absurd. You can’t do that. Corporations can deduct their planes, all their office expenses, their machinery, their computers and Teleprompters and whatever else they have. They can deduct their yachts, they can deduct their limousines, their planes, everything. Now, here am I, a human being and that has a body that is getting old. And I only have one, I can’t trade it in. Like they can get a new plane or a new limousine, or a new yacht, they won’t give me a new body, but I can’t deduct my heart, or my lungs, or I’d like to deduct my falling hair. But no, they won’t let me do that. But yet the corporations can do that. It’s not fair.
Question: What spurned your interest to run for Governor?
Malachy McCourt: The Green Party asked me. And I thought, I am utterly free of any kind of, I mean, of all my scandals – my scandals in my book amongst swimming and singing my songs, so all of my life is fairly well, and my brother Frank wrote about our life. So, it’s pretty much out in the open about our lives. So there was no scandal involved there. And I'm an alcoholic, recovering. And I used to smoke cigarettes, and I was a philanderer and I, wouldn't call myself good. As I said I’m on the lines of the sinner, and I want to be known as that. Over in the British Isles, in Ireland, people stand for office. And over here, they run. I don't know why. So I decide I would stand for office here. And so it was to see if I could get the 50,000 votes for the party. And a strange thing happened: all my running mates, who are less well known than I all got over the 50,000 mark, somehow or another I didn't, so I suspect there was chicanery to keep the party from getting the 50,000 votes. So maybe I'll do it again.
Question: How can we get people to become more involved in politics?
Malachy McCourt: It's an organic thing really. If you don't read; and kids are not reading much these days, and we are getting insensitive to human suffering because we can't distinguish what happens on the screen between that which is similar, violence and rape and murder from that which is real.
The purpose of the media is to make us all spectators, to watch. So that's why we have millions of fat children watching the games, eating and consuming and not playing themselves. That's the unfortunate thing that's happening. So we are spectators to violence, and therefore are, how well we don't know and make sure we don't know the difference of real violence to that of simulation. So keep us out of it. And that way, you have total control. Does that make sense?
Question: How do you practice democracy on a regular basis?
Malachy McCourt: I tell my children, shut up and let me speak. What I've learned, I have been married for 45 years and in my own family It is that I've learned to stop being judgmental, to listen. And I tell Diana, and wife, every morning that I love her. And that's very difficult for an Irish man, because you never see the palms of Irish people stands when all is close, you see. Whereas Mediterranean people, Jewish people, and other ethnic groups, you see the palms. Oh no. Just watch. So anyway democracy to me is letting the other person speak and being dissenting without being disagreeable. It's perfectly all right to know. And to make sure that we don't ever disappointed child because my childhood was so full of disappointment that the scars of it are still there. And I mean, you can't give them everything, but don't promise something that you’re not going to fulfill. And to always make sure that a child’s self-esteem is at the proper level. They know when you're bullshitting them, you see. But if you say, “I like what you did with that problem.” They can deal with that. But if you say, “I think you’re Einstein,” well that’s bullshit, you see.
Recorded on March 10, 2010