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"Gift Grub" originally aired on Today FM's predecessor, Radio Ireland as a three-weekly, two minute sketch series called "Starship Compromise", a parody of Star Trek featuring Gerry Adams as a starship captain accompanied by his faithful officer, Martin McGuinness with the two scouring the galaxy, seeking compromise with alien beings.
In 1998, Ian Dempsey who had left RTÉ joined the newly renamed Today FM which had replaced Radio Ireland. A year later, in March 1999, Paul McLoone, a producer who had moved to Dublin around that time from his native Derry in Northern Ireland joined Today FM and subsequently became a producer for the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show.
McLoone later came up with the concept of "Gift Grub" and was also responsible for co-creating Gift Grub alongside Irish comedian Mario Rosenstock with "Gift Grub" becoming a huge success and helping Today FM gain a stronghold among the listeners in the Republic of Ireland with the first ever Gift Grub sketch airing on May 8, 1999. Seven months later, in November 1999 the Northern Irish pop-punk/New Wave band, The Undertones reformed and following the refusal of original singer Feargal Sharkey to rejoin the band, McLoone became the band's current frontman/lead vocalist with the band to this day regularly touring and performing various gigs all over the world.
For the next five years, McLoone and Rosenstock worked alongside each other with the two participating in various sketches either together or separately with four volumes of Gift Grub being released on CD. In 2004, McLoone resigned as a producer from the Breakfast Show and left Today FM altogether, spending the next two years, freelancing with McLoone even working for a time with the Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ. McLoone later returned to Today FM in 2006 to help produce Tom Dunne's show, "Pet Sounds".
Following Dunne's own resignation from Today FM and joining of Newstalk which occurred two years later in August 2008, McLoone later approached the Today FM staff, asking to be given the opportunity to take over the slot albeit temporarily. The main Today FM staff subsequently agreed, resulting in McLoone stepping down from his role as producer and becoming an official radio presenter instead. Although the role itself was at first originally intended to last for only three months until a new replacement could be found, McLoone later permanently replaced Dunne altogether due to the increasing popularity now associated with him. As such, McLoone eventually made his official on-air debut during September 2008 and he also received his own radio show, "The Paul McLoone Show" which airs from Monday to Thursday and which also at first aired from 7pm to 10pm followed by Ray Foley and later K.C. and then from 7pm to midnight before being given its current timeslot of 9pm to midnight with McLoone's show airing straight after Colm O'Sullivan and later Fergal D'arcy who replaced O'Sullivan due to O'Sullivan retiring after twenty years of being a radio presenter and having become the new Program Director for Today FM.
Since McLoone's departure from "Gift Grub", Rosenstock has continued voicing all the characters which are all based on real people, generally local and international celebrities and political figures by himself.
The title is a remnant of the original format of the pieces, in which the character of Bertie Ahern, Ireland's former Taoiseach (prime minister), would introduce the listening public to favourite ("Gift") meals or food items ("Grub"). The portrayal of Ahern as blustering and inarticulate but infinitely shrewd set the tone for the future. Ahern is still the main star, but other frequent appearances are made by impersonators of Roy Keane, Gerry Adams, Colin Farrell, Ronan Keating, Bill Cullen, Michael D. Higgins, Keith Duffy, Daniel O'Donnell, Niall Quinn, Ben Dunne, Pádraig Harrington, Steve Staunton, Bobby Robson, Rafael Benítez, Joe Duffy, Paul O'Connell, Conor Deasy, Jack Charlton and Brian Cowen
The popularity of the show has generated a number of spin-off compilations, merchandise and catchphrases that have caught on in the general public, such as Bertie's "Infacta", "Jaysus" and "Ya Spanner", and some may claim that the sketches' portrayal of Mr Ahern as street-wise, human and funny has arguably boosted the approval rating of Mr Ahern and his government.
A big part of the success of the series has been the ability of the writers to respond quickly to current news and events with withering satire. A notable episode involved the re-writing of the song Dry Your Eyes by The Streets, with Roy Keane singing to David Beckham, consoling him on England's loss to France in UEFA Euro 2004.
In Summer 2005, a sketch entitled "José and his Amazing Technicolor Overcoat", mimicking Chelsea boss José Mourinho, caught the attention of football fans in the UK on a number of forums and message boards. Rosenstock was invited by Mourinho to attend a match at Stamford Bridge. This track, along with "I Sign a Little Player or Two", based on Aretha Franklin's I Say a Little Prayer, have proven so popular with listeners to London's Capital Gold radio station, that breakfast DJ Mick Brown was quoted in the 24 October 2005 edition of The Sun as saying that the two tracks may be released in the UK as a Christmas novelty song.
On 16 December 2005, a parody of Will Young's song Leave Right Now relating to the events surrounding Roy Keane's dismissal from Manchester United was released as a charity single in the Republic of Ireland. It went straight in at the number 1 position on the Christmas chart; until 2014, it was the last Irish Christmas number-one not to be from the winner of The X Factor. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars would be the next case in the Irish chart, 9 years later. José and his Amazing Technicolor Overcoat was released in the UK on 20 February 2006.
In March 2007, the real Roy Keane met with Ian Dempsey to promote the Irish Guide Dogs Foundation and was introduced to the Gift Grub Roy. Previous special guests who were invited on the show to meet their Gift Grub equivalents included Hector Ó hEochagáin, Eddie Hobbs, Ronan Keating, the actresses who portray Fair City characters Carol and Ali, Aisling O'Neal and Doreann Ni Charaigain. and recently, Bertie Ahern himself to celebrate the segment's tenth anniversary. José Mourinho's sudden departure from Chelsea, in September 2007, and his falling out with owner Roman Abramovich, became the subject of yet another Gift Grub parody .
In December 2008, a parody of Beyoncé Knowles's "If I Were a Boy" about the then Sunderland manager Roy Keane's difficulties in the Premier League was transmitted. The lyrics of the chorus were altered to "If I wasn't Roy". Keane resigned hours later.
In November 2009, Today FM released a special 10 year edition of the annual 'Best of' CD which included 3 CDs', They were a best of 2009 CD, a best of the decade CD and an unreleased sketches CD, which included a sketch Titled "Ronan's Stalker" that became so popular it was then released on "The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show".
In 2006, they also started to upload all Gift Grub Sketches on to iTunes so people can listen to them on the go anytime, anywhere.