The Late Late Toy Show – A Beginners Guide

It’s that time of year again. Billy Barry children loudly singing and tap dancing their way across our screens. Toys running out of batteries at the wrong moment. Adults trying not to swear infront of the numerous children onstage on live television. And everyone, everyone, is sitting in on Friday night, watching The Late Late Toy Show. It’s an Irish institution for a reason. It’s got a routine to it, a familiarity, and it’s the start of the Christmas season proper in Ireland. So, for anyone living under a rock, or who has not been introduced to the nation’s comfort blanket television programme in December, here is a beginners guide to What To Expect From The Late Late Toy Show.

A Beginner's Guide To The Late Late Toy Show

Right, so, are you sitting comfortably? Let us begin.

The Musical Number

We kick off with a musical number – think big stage number normally preserved for the just-before-half-time act, children everywhere. The host, Ryan Tubridy for the last few years, is dressed for the occasion, normally integrated into the piece. This one from 2010, an homage to Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory, is one of my favourites.

The Christmas Jumper

Theres a Christmas jumper (of course). It’s a running theme each year that the host has at least one dodgy Christmas jumper, in some years sporting many. It’s become such a tradition that there’s now a dedicated Late Late Toy Show Christmas jumper (and other accessories) on sale in Penneys, with a portion of the funds raised going to ISPCC (this year it’s €75,000).

Late Late Toy Show Jumpers 2016 -
Toy Show Jumpers and Jammies available in Penneys – picture from Primark website.

Tubs Isn’t The Only One Dressing Up

Audience members dress up in VERY festive form. They are grinning at their luck of getting THE TICKETS of the year – because there is rather a lot of “One for everyone in the audience”. They are singing and dancing and very much so acquainted with the pre-show festive drinks.

All About The Books

Ah, the book section. Normally precocious children who have clearly put down their copy of Dante’s Inferno to tell the great Irish public about whatever children’s book they deigned to read. It does have the odd gem – see JohnJoe the Horologist, or even Irish Youtuber Clisare (that one is a few years back alright).

A Child Meets Their Hero.

Admittedly, some heroes are less attainable than others. There’s been members of Westlife, Girls Aloud, various footballers and even Ed Sheeran. One of the most memorable is this one where Domhnall got to meet Robbie Keane. If this doesn’t melt your heart nothing will.

One for Everyone in The Audience

An element of television reminiscent of Oprah giving everyone cars (except with less valuable items and no icky tax issues as a result), this is key to the Late Late Toy Show. It’s not for nothing that 80,000 people vied to get one of the 204 tickets available for the show! As well as the craic and the experience, the goodies received as an audience member truly do get the jealousy levels going for those of us at home. It happens so much it NEEDS more than one mention.

The Kid That Everyone Is Talking About For Months After.

They’ve normally got rather un-child like hobbies or interests – see case in point, John Joe the Horologist (see above), or Meteorologist-wannabe Johnny.

Random visit from figure of Irish nostalgia

Well, just like Santa only gets out on Christmas Eve, Bosco and Dustin are really only given a set amount of outings a year….

The Baby Section

Toddlers are let in earlier in the day to play with toys aimed at the under threes, very cute segment. This is also generally kids from children’s hospitals, which means you can normally catch me wiping away a happy tear at just how lovely and joyful they are.


The Kids-On-Wheels Segment

Toy tractors, ride on cars and bikes mixed with small children and a contained sound stage. What could possibly go wrong?

Visit from Semi-Big Pop Group

Sometimes X factor Ex-Contestants, other times not. Despite their status as a pop band, they don’t sing – they leave that to the many, many talented kids.

Huge group act

This is also a big segment in the middle! Traditionally the Billy Barry Stage School from Dublin has reigned supreme, but in the later years these group acts have been from all corners of the country. This one from 2013 has a school from Wexford (St Brigids in Killester) performing The Cup Song. It’s feel good and you’ll definitely get songs stuck in your head.

Add in a few more “One For Everyone in The Audience”, cute kids, precocious kids, toys not working like they did in rehearsal, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

The Late Late Toy Show (an Irish institution), airs this Friday night (December 1) at 9.30pm on RTE 1, and can be viewed around the world on the RTE Player.

So get your hot chocolate, your selection boxes, your cosy jammies and the family together, and get stuck in watching the tv equivalent of a warm Christmas hug. You’ll be dying to get tickets for next year within minutes.


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  1. Love this!Love the Toy Show. Introduced it to my French mum in law a few years ago and she thought it was the best thing ever! Enjoy this year’s show!

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Himself (South African) doesn’t really get the whole concept but I’ll convert him one day!!

    1. Just fast forward through the soldier coming home section to avoid dehydration if you’re watching constantly!

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