Michael Fry: I’m lucky I’m a white man — most people in my corner of the internet are nice

My name is actually Matthew Dinneen. I used to work for a public body where they had quite a strict social media policy where you had to split your social and your work accounts, and I already had a work account… I started using Michael Fry because I was using ‘Michael’ for the sketches, and my username was @bigdirtyfry, so I just put the two together. I’m stuck with it now.

I grew up in Navan, Co Meath, the second of four boys. I don’t have the Navan accent — my mother is from Donegal and my father is from Salford. I think because of the mix of accents in the house, I’ve a better ear for them now.

My earliest memory is of being in a pram in the rain. My mother had this plastic sheet over it and I just remember being really, really warm. It’s not very exciting.

There’s something really weird about calling yourself a comedian, especially in Ireland. It’s like you’re telling people you’re hilarious and people don’t like that. They’re kind of like, ‘I’ll be the judge of that!’ None of my family ever worked in the media or TV or anything like that, and my brothers are all very academic… but growing up, we watched a lot of sitcoms. My parents were big fans of the Vicar of Dibley, Dead Ringers, Father Ted, that kind of stuff. I went to stage school when I was a kid, but I was never any good. I wasn’t a dancer, or a confident kind of cheeky child — which I think is all you need to be successful in stage school.

Michael Fry on the set of Holding with Pauline McLynn Picture: Michael Fry
Michael Fry on the set of Holding with Pauline McLynn Picture: Michael Fry

The first time I was on a stage since I was 16 was on the set of Holding, the TV adaption of Graham Norton’s book. There’s a village fair at the end and my character performs a song. That was really nerve-wracking because not only was it the first time I’d been on stage [in years] but it was in front of 85 extras and people like Pauline McLynn and Conleth Hill. It was frightening, but at the same time it was like right if I can do this, I can do anything.

I think the greatest challenge I’ve faced so far in my life is social anxiety. Throughout my school years and even for a bit of college, there was this constant fear of being bullied. I never was bullied, but the fear was always there. I’ve since realised people are a lot nicer than I ever gave them credit for. I used to be very defensive or a bit standoffish with people…I’m learning not to do that now. And it has really benefited me to realise most people are genuinely sound.

My proudest achievement… I’m full time at the comedy now. I’ve managed to get onto a ladder that I want to climb. I think that’s probably my proudest achievement, that I’ve gotten here. And learning how to drive as well. That’s a big one for me, because it took me about six years.

I definitely think there are versions of me who grew up in immense privilege and are far further on than I am, and versions of me who did not have the benefits of the stable home and the education that I did who are a lot further back. I probably always wanted to be a writer, comedian, musician type thing, but whether I would have gotten that opportunity had I not grown up where I did and with the people I did.. I don’t know if I’d be here now.

Most people in my corner of the internet are very nice, but I know that’s definitely not the case for my female colleagues or anybody who’s anyway slightly different. I’m lucky that I am a white man. People aren’t going to come out and correct me immediately for anything I say. That doesn’t really happen to me. I think people understand that if I’m ribbing things, my intentions are generally good.

I think my greatest quality is that I am observant. 

I can read people well, and I pick up on things that maybe other people don’t pick up on.

The person I turn to most in life is my friend Megan who I met on Twitter back in 2012. I talk to her nearly all day every day. She’s the first person I go to if I have news or if I need advice.

The life lesson I would like to pass on would be — you can complain all you like, but sometimes you’re the only one who can do something about your situation. I’ve realised that most of my life is under my own control and it’s important that I do something about it instead of complaining to people about it. But there’s an obvious caveat there, people have different circumstances… I don’t want to sound like Kim Kardashian.

Michael Fry in a Derry Girls cameo Screenshot: Channel 4
Michael Fry in a Derry Girls cameo Screenshot: Channel 4

I got some great work advice from my friend’s mother a while ago. She said, ‘In a job, learn as much as you can and move on.’ I thought that was good advice because it means you’re not stuck somewhere, you don’t get too comfortable, you challenge yourself. I’ve definitely taken that to heart. I’ve had a lot of jobs, so maybe I took it a bit too, literally… but that’s the way I do things now. I did an improv workshop recently because I knew it would be uncomfortable, but I also knew that I would learn loads about comedy. I think it’s good advice for anyone’s career and for life, to keep yourself stimulated. My other bit of advice would be, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

I think my greatest skill is that I can construct a good sentence. After 10 years on Twitter, I can be very succinct.

  • Michael Fry is a comedian, actor and content creator from Navan. He is best known for his satirical sketches and musical renditions of viral videos on Twitter and Instagram which have led to appearances on podcasts, radio and television in both Ireland and the U.K.

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