Katherine Lynch exploded on to our television screens back in 2008, and began splitting our sides with her amusing monikers. Quickly becoming a comedic goddess, reigning supreme as the glamorous Sheila Chic, the lovable Liz Hurley and the legendary Singin’ Bernie Walsh, Katherine soon became a household name. Lynch, and her many aliases, took some time out to chat to GALWAYnow on her meteoric rise to fame, her recent hike on the Camino de Santiago, and her upcoming musical debut!
A small-town girl, Katherine grew up in humble surroundings which paved the way for an inevitable injection into the arts scene. The grand-niece of the distinguished poet and novelist Patrick Kavanagh, creativity was a web weaved in the early days of her life. “I grew up in a house of literature and writing,” she recalls. “My father used to write sketches for Scór na nÓg, and we would hold rehearsals in the kitchen. My mother would create the costumes, and we’d all act. We were just like the Brady Bunch!” With her father’s influence, another comic genius, the Mohill native developed her love and talent for humour. “My dad was a very witty man. He could floor an entire room with one line! I was exposed to the power of comedy from an early age, and I just loved it!”
With a number of different professions under her belt, it would be a while before Katherine made the stage her career, and it was by no means a straight road. “I always had acting in my heart but I was told by my teachers to do the sensible thing and get a trade. I decided to go into hairdressing. That was creative in my mind. As long as I was free and able to create, I was happy. That’s how I wanted to live my life, and that’s how I have lived my life.” Building on her craving for creativity, the former Celebrity Bainisteoir took on the bright lights of Dublin, but not before a quick trip down under where she began her studies in Bully Alley Theatre Training Company, and took a job in a quaint café (which would turn out to be bigger than she thought). “I began working in a gay café called Small Talk. At the time, there was a huge divide between the gay and straight communities. The café entered me into the Alternative Miss Ireland competition as my alter ego, Tampy Lynette. We had a budget of about £50 and were up against the likes of The George, but we won!” The win catapulted Katherine into the LGBT community and soon after she took up a residency in GUBU (now Panty Bar) for five years. Singin’ Bernie Walsh was then picked up for the RTÉ talking heads show, The Unbelievable Truth, and Lynch, who was already an icon in the LGBT community for years, gained nationwide iconic status.
The three part series, Working Girls, which intertwined the fantastical lives of a collection of slightly weird yet strangely lovable characters, unveiled the beloved and hugely popular personalities, Sheila Sheikh and Busty Lycra. Fresh from the success of Working Girls, WonderWomen, a six part mocu-soap, followed the intertwining lives of somewhat unusual, yet highly identifiable, modern Irish women. A third series, Single Ladies, debuted with an audience of 380,000 viewers, which was an incredible achievement for a 10.50pm time slot. Wagon’s Den, a tongue-in-cheek showbiz review presented by one of Katherine’s most popular characters, Sheila Sheikh, was another ratings smash. The irreverence and disregard for political correctness struck a chord with Irish audiences and really pushed the boundaries of comedy dialogue. Lynch puts the relatability of her characters down to their success. “Everybody knew a Liz Hurley, a Bernie Walsh and a Sheila Chic. I would have people approaching me in the street telling me that they are just like their friend, sister, aunt etc, so these were the kind of characters I ran with.”
Not pigeon holed in to one genre, Katherine went onto participate in the ever-popular Celebrity Operation Transformation and Dancing with the Stars, and maintains that the shows taught her to be much more mindful. “Women struggle all the time, worrying about how they are aesthetically. I think we’re all really hard on ourselves. The shows certainly directed me to live a more mindful lifestyle but we have to remember, we’re beautiful no matter what.”
Ever the chameleon, Katherine is looking forward to gracing the stage again this December as Miss Hannigan in the hit musical Annie at the National Concert Hall. Having already recorded her own album, Settling Dust, Lynch is no stranger to a tune or two but admits the nerves are coming in hard and fast. “I’ve never done any musical theatre before and it’s such a huge show so it’s quite a daunting task. The team are fantastic though so that’s half the battle!”
Having just hiked the ancient pilgrimage route, Camino de Santiago, in aid of the Irish Hospice, Katherine aims to live her life in a positive way and empower as many people as possible along the way. “I think life is all about being kind. Walking for the Irish Hospice was a great privilege. I come from a small town where so many people have been given the dignity they deserve by this fantastic organisation. Life is a journey, we need to enjoy it.” This zeal stems into her career story too. “I haven’t worked a day in my life. Love what you do and do what you love – I want to spread that message! It’s really important to live like that.” A singer, actress, comedian, philanthropist, and an all-round life guru, Katherine is certainly leaving a formidable legacy behind her. For those of you who want to follow in her footsteps, she only has one request – “wear nice shoes b*tches!”
Katherine will take to the stage alongside Deirdre O’Kane, Eleanor Tiernan, Gearoid Farrelly and Chris Kent on Sunday 29 October in Roisin Dubh as part of the Vodafone Comedy Carnival Galway. See vodafonecomedycarnival.com for the full programme of events.
Katherine Lynce graces our cover this month – For more on her fabulous story,
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