Cassi Roberts interviews judge and former winner, Leon O’Rourke, to find out.

Last year's winner - Leon O'Rourke

Last Thursday night, the Union became home to St Andrews Got Talent, a student talent show that runs annually as part of RAG Week. Earlier in the week, I caught up with one of the judges, Leon O’Rourke, to find out about his thoughts and experiences with the show. Sat in the window seat in Costa, I thought I would start our celebrity off with a nice easy question. “What is your name?” (This was actually just a sound test for the voice recorder on my iPhone, nevertheless).

“Mr Leon O’Rourke” was the prompt reply, in a lyrical hybrid between a Glaswegian and Irish accent.

“Thank you, and what is St Andrews’ Got Talent?” Don’t be alarmed, dear reader, I did already know the answer, but I have to ask this question on behalf of the readers who actually do live inside a bubble and have never heard of the show. (And if I repeat Leon’s answer, I can’t be sued for misrepresentation). The reply, for those aforementioned Bubble-dwellers, was:

“It’s a variety show… It’s, kind of, our version of ‘Britain’s got Talent’”. (He did say more, with lots of ‘erms’ and false starts, but I thought I would make it look neater and just give the relevant parts of his answer.)

“And what is your role in it this year?” I ask, getting a dodgy look from the Madras kids in the queue behind us, presumably for interrogating the mouthpiece of my phone.

“I’m one of the four judges,” Leon answers, oblivious. “Hopefully, I will be the respected one, as in our Simon Cowell or our Gary Barlow – though certainly not Piers Morgan… Or maybe Michael MacIntyre, I like him as well.”

“Are you nervous about it?” 

“I’m actually not nervous, which is nice to know. I’ll probably be, closer to the time, cacking my pants potentially, but no. I like performing and I’m used to performing.” It was at this moment that a Costa Coffee employee came to collect our cups. Leon was, again, oblivious. I gave the woman a polite nod to convey that we had finished with our drinks, and she repaid us with a quizzical look, as Leon continued: “I’m worried that I won’t be funny, which is my main fear, because in previous years the judges have tried to be funny and it… it’s not come across as funny. So I’m gonna try and be funny, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll just become… really mean… and just… potentially swear quite a lot actually, ‘cos I tend to find that hilarious.”

“How did you get the job?” 

“I got the job because I won last year’s St Andrews’ Got Talent and so they thought, you know, let’s get some guy that’s done the process before; he can give it a shot. The other judges are respected members of the St Andrews community and they got theirs out of being voted in, in a sense, whereas mine was really an executive decision by the guys organising it.”

“What was your talent last year?”

“My talent is beat-boxing. It’s not the most well known art form; it’s the art of vocal percussion. My favourite thing to do is singing and beat-boxing at the same time, I know it sounds absurd but it is possible”. If this had been a radio broadcast, I would have asked him to demonstrate. I guess I could have attempted to reproduce it in written form, but the result would have been a series of random letters shunted together with the futile ambition of imitating music. For those of you who didn’t experience Leon’s guest performance in Thursday’s show, you shall just have to be satisfied with your own imaginings. Honestly, it’s better this way.

“What was winning like?”

“Winning was great, as you can imagine. Very, very pleased, so thank you very much to the people that voted for me last year and to anyone that enjoys this year’s performance as well. I’ve seen maybe half of this year’s acts, and from what I can tell, the standard is much higher this year, so I’m very thankful that I did it last year and not this year because they are very, very good, these guys. Should be a really good show.”

I thought it might be nice to learn a little more about Leon, at this point, and this clichéd but amusing question seemed appropriate: “If you could take three things onto a desert island, what would they be?” “Ahhh, oh God, right… I would, er, I would take my guitar, who I’ve named Jeff. Jeff is the most beautiful creature in the world that is made of… Some kind of wood… Don’t make a joke about wood there, that’s pretty rude. I err, oh God, that’s impossible. I would take… right, the guitar’s there… Thing is, you would take your laptop, but you’d have nothing to plug it into so it’d be pointless. See, I’m a very practical man when I think of desert islands… Potentially I would take a boat, or some kind of satellite phone, but that’s overly practical so I feel I can’t answer that… Oh God, right, damnit! Right, let’s think, think, think, think, think. I’m like Pooh bear, I’m gonna sit under a tree, with my honey pot and think think think. Erm. … Ahhhhh. Right. Right, okay. Guitar… What else do I like? A football – maybe! No. Damnit. Right, so far, I’ll bring three guitars, and erm, you might have to come back to me another day! (laughs)

All indecisiveness about desert island supplies aside, Leon and the whole of St Andrews’ Got Talent was well worth watching and if you didn’t catch this year’s show, make sure you’re prepared for the next one.


Cassi Roberts

Image credit – Cassi Roberts