From selling phones to NBC and winding up golf's superstars: The rise of Conor Sketches 1 year ago

From selling phones to NBC and winding up golf's superstars: The rise of Conor Sketches

I remember having my first genuine conversation with Conor Moore at a co-worker's going away party at Devitts pub on Camden Street Lower in Dublin.

I had only been working at Maximum Media for a couple of weeks by that stage but when I saw Conor walk up the stairs to the second floor bar I had the same reaction that I'm sure most people have when they first see him - 'Oh it's your man that does the impressions'.

I said hello to him at the bar and we began talking about work and some of the gigs and functions that he had been doing around the country and he told me about some of the difficulties that he had encountered on the road, but that ultimately, it was going well for him at JOE.

Moore knew his profile was on the rise back then, and he certainly has a great appreciation for how far he has come since then, as he prepares to cover The Open for The Golf Channel, an American cable and satellite television network owned by the NBC Sports Group.

NBC is one of America's three major traditional commercial broadcast television networks but before Moore was flying to Orlando to meet with Golf Channel executives, he was travelling to Dublin to meet with content creators at JOE

"Around the time of Euro 2016 I was working selling phones for Three," said Moore, who some may know better as Conor Sketches.

"I went to a local GAA match and there was a row, a bit of an auld scuffle, and my uncle, my cousin and I were pictured in the newspaper in the middle of this scuffle and it didn't look too good on us.

"I remember taking the piss and it was all handbags, there was nothing really happening in the row, but everyone was getting a bit of craic out of these pictures." He continues:

"I went home one evening and I was just sitting there a couple of days after this row and Snapchat had this filter and you could swap faces with so I started to switch Joe Brolly's face with mine.

"Then I did Jose Mourinho and Eamon Dunphy and then I started slagging off my cousin and my uncle calling them 'bowsies' and this, that and the other.

"I sent it into my Whatsapp group and all the boys went 'that's fucking brilliant man'. I was sitting there all night and I couldn't sleep.

"I thought maybe I should do something more nationally so I ended up doing Colm 'Wooly' Parkinson in an Off The Ball themed sketch with Harry Redknapp, David Beckham, Joe Brolly, Pat Spillane and Davy Fitzgerald."

https://youtu.be/GDBiq_JaygY

"All of a sudden JOE posted it and to me I felt like I had made it. It was the big time. I went viral there for like 40,000 views, it may as well have been 40 million to me as far as I was concerned.

"Paddy McKenna [Head of Content for JOE and SportsJOE] rang me to come up to Dublin and have a chat."

McKenna recognised Moore's talent and wanted to see if he could do a variety of sketch videos that imitated some of the biggest characters in sports and pop culture.

JOE were starting to make some real progress in the UK and their site wanted an impersonator that could imitate a range of Premier League personalities but they soon discovered that Moore was ever so slightly out of his depth. Only he knew it too.

"I went up and had a chat with the boys at JOE but they soon realised that I didn't do any Premier League stuff and that I actually didn't really do impressions at all seriously.

"It was like my first video ever. Paddy told me that they didn't have a job for me because they were expanding into England and they wanted someone who could do the Premier League voices but he suggested that I start up a page and practiced.

https://youtu.be/RRD3z9WaLRg

"I took his advice and started up a page and I began practicing. I realised then that impersonating is not really a natural talent at all. People think that you either have it or you don't but I just kept working at it.

"Some days I could be useless at people. My [Jurgen] Klopp was terrible but then all of a sudden by November I had nailed Klopp and Mourinho and all these lads and then Paddy rang me up and asked did I want a job after Christmas?

"That's when I went to JOE and I came on leaps and bounds. I had Garry Carroll there and he was creating all these brilliant videos."

Carroll had his own unique journey to Dublin and Maximum. He had been working at a factory in Limerick when he was called for an interview at Today FM and then later at JOE after he had gained traction online with his videos lampooning celebrities, namely musicians like Daniel O'Donnell, under the username NostrilShorts.

The two quickly developed an understanding and began creating videos together setting up mock courts where RTE presenter Des Cahill would rule over GAA matters under the title of Judge Dessie.

They put Wexford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald into anger management classes with Matthew McConaughey, they had the fear taking over Ger Loughnane and Joe Brolly's hellish first day at Sky Sports.

Moore was making great progress at imitating some of the GAA's most recognisable pundits and figures and was soon invited on to The Sunday Game and RTE's Up For The Match.

He was comfortable with imitating and mastering the voices of notable figures in Ireland and the UK and learned alongside Carroll that the comedic element of the videos was just as important as the accuracy of his impressions.

"Sometimes you just get them. There's no set time but what I did to help was I deleted all of the music off my phone and I just recorded all of these YouTube videos on my phone.

"I'm just listening to them in interviews and trying to nail certain words. Like Tiger [Woods] is always like 'oh pretty tough'. He always says the same things so you just watch a couple of Tiger's videos just to get those words because those words are where people go 'oh yeah that's him, that's him'.

"In some parts you can probably still hear an Irishness to your voice but it's the key words that make the difference.

"It's weird as well because I used to be so obsessed with the voice but I'd be less obsessed with the voice now and more obsessed with the content. It's better to be funny than accurate. There's more longevity in that."

Moore realised then that it was better to be funny than accurate but he also enjoyed the sketches more when he was brainstorming with Carroll to create ideas like Ger Loughnane smoking fags and drinking cans at a gaff party alongside Davy Fitzgerald.

He was gaining national prominence in Ireland but he wanted to branch out and try different things and different sports.

He discussed attempting golf impersonations with McKenna and Maximum Media owner Niall McGarry ahead of the US Masters and the pair were now happy to give him free rein and a run at one of world sport's most prestigious events.

"I did a video around The Masters and Sergio Garcia tweeted it out and that got the ball rolling for me from there.

"All of a sudden the Golf Channel got in touch and they flew me over to Orlando in May and we struck a deal and got a contract signed up in the last two weeks and here I am at the British Open."

When I was talking to him before our interview he jokingly told me how he hopes he doesn't fuck this up but it's easy when speaking with Moore for everything to become a bit of a joke. It's a great quality of his but it can often overshadow just how hard he works at perfecting his craft.

He has learned over his time at JOE that it's better to be funny than accurate when creating videos but that does not necessarily mean that he doesn't toil over impressions until he gets them right, or at least until he's happy with them.

"Tiger took me three days to get down but it could have taken me two months if I didn't have three whole days to obsess over it.

"Like Phil Mickelson took me a couple of weeks to get right, and he's still not the best, but I wouldn't have been sitting in my room like I did with Tiger for three days.

"Sometimes you get them really quick and sometimes it takes a while but there's no set time. I couldn't do Justin Rose and I was like I just can't do that so I left it away.

"One day I was doing Roy Hodgson and my brother was like, 'That sounds a bit like Justin Rose' so then I started trying to turn Roy Hodgson into Justin Rose and I was able to do him. It's just weird how it can happen.

"And then all of a sudden you're like 'there it is' and you have it."

Moore wanted to try the golf impersonations by himself after successfully learning how to create videos with the use of green screen at JOE.

He now develops the concepts for videos and learns the voices by himself but it's been far from a solo journey for him with his family and friends often used as a sounding board for feedback.

"My two brothers and a mate of mine called Paul Christie, a club-mate of mine, they're the three boys I use. I have a lot to thank them for.

"My younger brother Dean, if you could mention him that would be nice, and Paul would be my go-to guys.

"I could ring my younger brother at 3am and I'd ask him 'Oh does that sound like Ian Poulter?'

"His head would be fried listening to me but he would even play my double in some of the videos. I'd also send my younger brother Darren in New York WhatsApp messages and he'd come back with 'that's shit' or 'that's good'.

"They're the three people I'd use. In fairness, I owe them an awful lot in terms of content and they're honest. They'll be brutal with me and let me know if something is not funny which is brilliant to have."

Moore is funny more often than not but his rise from valued three employee to valuable impressionist has been an ascent filled with laughs and embedded with honesty.  A truthful journey in a world centred around imitation.