Fully Charged Host, Graham O’Toole Talks Matt Damon and Virtual Game Nights During a Pandemic

Kathleen Keane

Spin’s Fully charged saw a decline in their listenership at the beginning of the pandemic when schools and offices shut. The hosts, Graham and Nathan had once built their popular breakfast show from phone calls and audience interaction.

Graham says that they were forced to rethink their content and become more creative. They were required to adapt to new strategies to fill up airtime and keep their content relevant.

The underdog duo secured an exclusive interview with A-list celebrity Matt Damon whilst he was living in Dalkey at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Graham describes the journey to the interview as an organic experience.

As the breakfast duo were scrambling for new content, they came up with an idea to have listeners phone into the show and detail day to day siting’s of Matt Damon in the seaside Dublin suburb. It was only in their dreams that they could envisage the eventuality of securing an interview with Damon.

As they were preparing to put the Matt Damon content to bed, Spin took a call from an American named Colin, Damon’s agent. Damon had been listening to the show while driving through Dalkey and he had heard from Bono that these radio hosts were looking for him.

“What we learned from that is you never actually know who is listening to the show each morning,” Says Graham, “it was an underdog story, if The Late Late Show or Today FM got it, you’d expect that, but it was never expected from Fully Charged.”

What started as a project to fill airtime led to one of the most sought-after interviews in the country.

He said it was nerve wracking; they knew that it would be big. They had to sit on the information and keep it quiet for some time. They feared that other media outlets would hear that Damon was doing interviews and they would lose their exclusivity.

O’Toole said that they felt a lot of pressure leading up to the interview and received some harsh criticism from the Irish Times which he says was to be expected.

“When you listen to our show out of context you don’t understand why Nathan would tell Matt Damon that he’s about to throw up live on air.”

The interview gained international commentary from the New York Times and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, to name a few.

Graham co-hosts Fully Charged with Nathan O’Reilly. Graham and Nathan struck up a friendship in DIT in 2012 and have been a team ever since. Their lecturers encouraged them as a team and told them early on that they were onto something.

He says that they are very fortunate that they came together naturally. He speaks about how management often think they know best and put people together for shows which doesn’t always work out.

A chance encounter with popular DJ Fergal Darcy at a No Name Club ball in his hometown of Louisburg, Co. Mayo, led him to study media in DIT under Pat Hannon.

“I knew if I did what he said and took my own initiative that I would get a chance at trying to do what Ray Foley did” He said.

O’Toole knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career in radio journalism. He talks about how he was obsessed and became hooked on radio listening to “The Blast” hosted by Ray Foley on Today FM every night in his teens.

“Myself and Nathan are like a married couple, we have essentially commercialised our friendship,” he says, “the most important thing is maintaining the friendship.”

They often take inspiration from Dermot and Dave on Today FM who’ve been broadcasting together for fifteen years.

Due to the pandemic and the increase in online activity, Fully Charged hedged their bets on a virtual gameshow on Zoom. They wanted to add a different element to their show. He says that he has always had an interest in video content and multimedia elements.

Without the pandemic it would be hard to think of a radio show hosting a virtual game night with five contestants over Zoom. This game “Gotta get it wrong” had been a staple on their show since the beginning of their career on Spin. The pandemic and the overnight success of Zoom gave them the leverage to explore this fresh avenue.

Kathleen Keane 

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