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Monday, September 21, 2020

Conor Moore – the voices in my head 

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The 9-Hole Course is back in the limelight, and none more so in Ireland than Cruit Island, Mulranny, Castlegregory and Bushfoot

For County Westmeath funnyman, Conor Moore, success didn’t just arrive overnight, but it was pretty damn close!  

“I fell into it by accident,” he recalls of a schemozzle at a Mullingar Shamrocks game that opened the door to his talent 

We were playing a GAA match in the summer of ’16 and a bit of a row broke out between the teams. It was all handbags stuff but there were a few pictures in the paper and they didn’t look too good!  

Nobody got in any trouble over it but we thought the pictures were hilarious so I did a Snapchat video, just doing a few impressions over the images and sent it into the WhatsApp group. I was calling everybody out, doing Joe Brolly, saying, ‘this fella is not a man,’ and Jose Mourinho, saying, ‘this is disgraceful, and the lads were like, ‘that’s brilliant, we didn’t know you could do that. You should put that online!’” 

Inspired by his friends’ encouragement, Moore, believing the match in Mullingar was too niche a subject to garner much interest, went to work on a little sketch that night about the wider GAA Championship scene and it was over cereal the following morning that he hit the record button on the many voices in his head.  

60,000 hits later and Moore’s star was born. 

OK, so it didn’t burn as bright as it does today – his own show, The Conor Moore Show airs on The Golf Channel and digitally on GolfPass – but back then it flickered enough for JOE.ie to call him in for a job interview. 

“I went up to Dublin and the lads were like, ‘alright, let’s hear your stuff’. And I was like, ‘that is my stuff’. They had the laptop in front of them! They were like, ‘you’ve got to have more than this?’ And I was saying, ‘no, no, no, that’s the only video I’ve ever done’.  

They said, ‘but we thought you were an impersonator’. And I said, ‘well I am like!’ but when they asked me to do Jurgen Klopp and all these soccer ones, I couldn’t do them and I didn’t get the job.” 

He couldn’t capture those voices then but what Moore realised through the interview process was that impressions were much like everything in life, the more you practice, the better you get. The next day he quit his job as a telemarketer with Three and decided to dedicate six months to the art of impressionism, focusing on curating a backlog of characters from the worlds of Gaelic and Soccer before ever venturing inside the ropes of golf. 

For his transition into golf, he had his Dad to thank. The elected Captain of Mullingar Golf Club in 2018, proud father Tom wanted talented son Conor to woo the members with his impersonations over a few key dates in the year. 

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to go in there doing Ger Loughnane four times in the year – people will be sick of me after the first time. I thought if I’m performing in a golf club, it would be cool if I had golfers to do, so I decided to do a golf video and stick it out on the Monday of the Masters. I remember my phone just went mad that night!” 

Moore’s ability to take off the likes of Ian Poulter and Tiger Woods proved an instant hit. On the Tuesday, his phone repeatedly froze after Sergio Garcia tweeted his thumbs up to Moore’s depiction of the giggling Spaniard and the Golf Channel reached out via email too, eager to line up a chat with the voice of so many golfers. A few million hits later on that Masters production and the world wanted more Moore. 

“I had been working with JOE.ie for a year and a half at that stage but when you’re making content with JOE, you’re making it under the JOE umbrella. I knew at some time I wanted to go out on my own and build up my own content and social media profile.  

The Golf Channel allowed me to do that and within about ten days, we had a verbal agreement that I’d be going to Orlando. I met all the Golf Channel people and I just immediately fell in love with the energy of the place.” 

Moore’s first official outing as a Golf Channel employee came at the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2018 where Italian Francesco Molinari, who would become one of Moore’s most loved characters, lifted the Claret Jug. It was the Mullingar man’s first real experience with the players he impersonated so freely to that point. So how did they receive a faceoff with their jovial tormentor. 

“Sure every time they see me they just laugh,” he says. “I met McIlroy and he laughed at me when I shook his hand. When I met Tiger, he just smiled and said, ‘do me!’ I was like, ‘what?’ And he said, ‘come on, do me, I want to hear it!’ And I was like, alright ‘I thought I played really well today, I putted well, but conditions were really tough out there,’ and then he goes, ‘God dammit man, you sound just like me!’ 

Few images could better portray the trajectory of Moore’s rise to prominence than his five-foot five-inch frame draped in Tiger’s Sunday best, standing next to Woods for the Bridgestone advert the pair produced together last year. 

He was so cool,” Moore remembersI brought my brother and my cousin to the shoot. I asked them could I bring my manager and my agent and they were like, sure! I think I brought more people to the shoot than Tiger did!  

I brought the two lads and when we walked in, Tiger saw my brother and was like ‘you’re definitely Conor’s brother! The game was up straight away but they didn’t care. Tiger, honestly, and I’m not just saying this, he couldn’t have been nicer.” 

Unlike the team sports that Moore can more ruthlessly go after in the realms of Soccer and GAA, the individuality of golf means there’s a line he’d never cross with his impressions, but if anything, that only adds to the enjoyment. They say imitation is the best form of flattery and Moore’s skills have clearly rubbed the bellies of golf’s biggest stars in the right way.  

Even Ian Poulter, the Ger Loughnane of Moore’s golf arsenal in terms of popularityhas embraced the character Moore has created around the brash Englishman. 

“With Poults – I said to him one day that I hope you don’t mind and he just cut me off and said ‘mate, take the mick out of me all you want, I just embrace the character’, Moore said 

It’s not like it’s really Ian Poulter – obviously he’s said some bullish things in his time – and when I read those things, I thought this guy has a cocky arrogance about him but I’m going to take it to the next level where he’s the greatest athlete of all time.  

The trick to it is finding the nugget that you can exaggerate. At the end of the day, it’s more important to be funny than accurate. The impression is only so funny after you’ve seen it a few times. Then it’s all about the content. 

And that’s the pressure now for Moore in his new role as presenter of the Conor Moore Show – to be funny and stay funny in The Golf Channel hot seat. 

“The lads came to me last year saying, ‘we think we can do a bit of a show. It doesn’t have to be all impressions, it can be you as well,’ and that was the important thing for me because you’d never want to overdo it,” he said. 

Initially Moore felt it was all a bit “pie in the sky” but when The Golf Channel returned with a very serious vision after ChristmasConor was able to allow himself to get excited. Armed with a team of writers for the first time in his life, Moore credits brainstorming sessions with his fellow creatives as the lifeblood of the show.  

“It’s a massive help,” he says. “I’m not sure you could do it without writers. You need people thinking and throwing ideas around and the guys we have on the team really are brilliant.” 

A far cry from the kitchen of his humble Mullingar abode, The Golf Channel has opened other doors too with the show already proving a hit on the Rory McIlroy endorsed digital platform, GolfPass where the reach of Moore’s act has never been so deep.  

GolfPass already had a great variety of content – golf instruction, travel advice and different videos – but throwing a bit of comedy on there seemed like a great idea and thankfully it’s been very well received,” Moore says. 

It’s been a whirlwind few years for Moore with everyone wanting a soundbite of a famous voice from his repertoire but in quieter times, how has the experience been for Conor, the man? It’s easy to picture the funny man, making faces at the mirror as a stream of voices flow from his lips but with everyone looking for a piece of the comedian’s act, is it ever hard to switch the voices off and just be Conor? 

“I’ll put it to you this way, I remember laughing, telling everyone I haven’t worked a day in four years ever since I quit my job with Three. I would go as far as to say I haven’t taken a day off in four months now. Between the Soccer, the bit of GAA and obviously the golf, the green screen is set up in the living room all the time so it does feel like I’m in the office a lot. 

“I’d never call it hard work because it’s not manual labour,” he addsThere are lads working on the building sites and that’s hard work for me but I’d definitely put in 10 hours a day on different things. Lockdown hasn’t been bad for me in that way. I’ve been able to get a lot of work done with no distractions. I’ve worked on impressions I haven’t brought out yet and it has been a productive time but I’m looking forward to getting back in the studio.” 

For all the glitz and glamour Moore’s fame has found him, from BBQ’s at Augusta with Shane Lowry to teeing it up regularly at some of America’s most exclusive golf sanctuaries, there’s no escaping homesickness for the proud Mullingar man. 

“Everyone knows I miss it a lot,” Moore says. “I’m definitely a bit of a home bird but the only thing is that in terms of missing it, with the whole lockdown thing going on, I’d only be stuck in a room anyway.  

When I miss home, I probably miss having a few pints down the pub with the lads but that won’t happen like it used to for at least a few months. My girlfriends back in Dublin and we would’ve planned to be going back and forth to each other so I probably won’t see her until September but it’s the same for everyone. 

For now, as Moore’s star continues to rise from Florida, friends and family in Westmeath must waitThe Conor Moore Show returns on July 21st for episode 11 while his contract has been extended with a further eight episodes in the pipeline. The future looks bright but just like the sportsmen he imitates, Moore’s refusing to look too far ahead. 

“I don’t look any further than the next episode so I just try to put my best episode out there,” he says 

I want to do some stand-up. I had plans to do a bit in Orlando. I thought I could get away with it a bit here – nobody would know me so if I crashed and burned, I’d be fine! – but obviously I can’t do that now. It’s just little things, trying to evolve. 

I’m even learning the guitar so I can maybe add a few songs to these impressions. I think the show can keep going, definitely a couple more years but even if I went back two years, I never set out to get on an ad with Tiger Woods.  

These things just happen if you’re working on yourself and getting better all the time. If you stand still at all, you will get left behind and people will get bored of you. It’s all about keeping fresh.” 

For a man constantly chasing new voices, ironically enoughit’s Moore’s own voice that he’ll be looking to become more comfortable with over the coming weeks. 

The stand-up will help me get a bit more experience as Conor Moore,” he hopesMy mates will tell you, it wasn’t that I wasn’t the funny guy, but there were lads telling more jokes than me growing up. I was the storyteller. If we happened to walk by something and we were in a group environment later that night, the lads would get me to tell the story. 

Those stories are becoming more convoluted by the day for the now 15-handicap golfer who’s seen shots tumble since being advised by a certain Brandel Chamblee to take lessons from a coach in Orlando. But perhaps the story closest to his heart since this whirlwind journey began in his kitchen in Mullingar centres around one voice he’s yet to master. 

The complex tones of 18-time Major winner, Jack Nicklaus have eluded Moore so far but he’s had plenty of opportunity to rub shoulders with the Golden Bear to extract the right inflection. He may have inadvertently had his Dad to thank for finding the niche that’s seen him make the move to pursue the American Dream, but Moore’s profile allowed him to repay that favour and then some when introducing his Dad to Nicklaus. 

“I’d met Jack before and when I did, I told him that you’ve caused more rows in my house than you’d ever know,” Moore laughs 

He was like, ‘what?’ I said, when I was growing up, we were just big Tiger fans and it was all Tiger, Tiger, Tiger and my Dad would come in and he’d sayJack is the greatest of all time. Tiger’s not as great as Jack. Of course, we’d never seen Jack play 

When I was leaving, Jack said, make sure you tell your Dad, thanks for the support, and he asked me his name. I said Tom, and when I left, I got an email from his manager asking what my address was in New York. Sure enough, a few days later a photo arrived, me and Jack in the photograph saying, ‘Dear Tom, Best wishes, Jack Nicklaus’.” 

A nice touch. That was only the beginning. 

“I was then invited down to do a set for the Jake Foundation at the Bear’s Club in memory of Barbara [Nicklaus’ wife] and Jack’s grandson,” Moore recallsI was in Florida but Dad was in town so I asked if I could bring him. They said, absolutely no problem, we’ll find a place for him 

The manager of the hotel text me when I arrived and said ‘Conor, I’m really sorry about this. We’ll have to move your Dad’s seat; we’ve miscalculated the numbers. I was thinking, where’s he sitting, like is he outside? Is there no place for him?’ Of course, I said no problem at all, but where’s he sitting?’ 

The manager replied, ‘I really hope he’s going to be OK with this but he’ll be sitting at a table with you, Jack and Barbara. My Dad’s sporting hero was Jack Nicklaus so that was probably one of the coolest things to have happened over the past two years. It was just amazing to be able to share something so surreal with Dad.” 

The many voices of Conor Moore are far from finished yet.


Listen to full Podcast interview below or listen on iTunes or Spotify

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