Father Ted star Joe Rooney reveals how comedy saved him from panic attacks and agoraphobic

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Father Ted star and comedian Joe Rooney told how comedy saved him from a life riddled with agoraphobia and panic attacks.

The Meath native famed for Ballynascully and for playing the hilarious Father Damo admitted getting on stage was the dream ticket to a panic free life.

Joe told the Irish Mirror: “I had panic attacks in my early 20s before I did comedy.

“I was having these weird palpitations and felt disoriented, I thought I was getting a heart attack or going a bit mad.

“It made it worse because I didn’t know what it was, eventually I had to give up my job, I didn’t want to go out for a while.

“It’s the reason I got into comedy, I quit my job in a sandwich bar.

“I got over the attacks by staying in, I couldn’t go out because I had agoraphobia.”

Agoraphobia is a fear of public spaces.

“But doing what I wanted to do, getting into comedy helped me, years later I went to a talk therapist.

“The mad thing was I had no fear of going on stage even though I had agoraphobia, comedy saved me.”

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Joe Rooney who played Father Damo at the unveiling of the National Wax Museum Plus’s newest wax work,Father Ted’s Father “Dougal” which was played by Ardal O Hanlon at the National Wax Museum Plus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
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Joe Rooney who played Father Damo at the unveiling of the National Wax Museum Plus’s newest wax work,Father Ted’s Father “Dougal” which was played by Ardal O Hanlon at the National Wax Museum Plus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The comic admits quitting booze during his troubled times was crucial to combatting the attacks.

He explained: “Sometimes we make bad decisions that aren’t going to help our mental health like drinking alcohol so I quit that for a number of years in my twenties.

“Maybe there’s a tendency to lock yourself away and that isn’t good either.”

The 56-year old funnyman admitted he’s not completely panic attack free: “Recently I had an attack whilst at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival.

“The streets were jampacked, I knew what it was, I told my kids ‘I just need to get out of here and go to a quiet place’.

“It’s a general fear that accumulates if you’re not dealing with it properly to the point where you need to cocoon yourself and be in a safe environment.”

Joe joins a whole host of famous comedians gracing the stage at the Vodafone Comedy Carnival Galway from Tuesday October 22nd to 28th.

With 75 shows and over 100 acts, the star studded bill includes Bill Bailey, John Bishop, Ross Noble, Jason Byrne, Reginald D Hunter, Ardal O’Hanlon and Omid Djalili.

Joe said: “I’m doing four gigs over the weekend, a Father Ted gig with Patrick McDonnell, he played Eoin McLove and I’ll be doing improv.

“Galway is a great buzzy city and The Vodafone Comedy Carnival is great, you get to hang out with Bill Bailey upstairs afterwards and there are great acts coming over year in year out.

“It’s a great way to have a big laugh before the winter sets in.”

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