Mike O'Malley's Dirty Life and TimesLegend, visionary, black messiah—these are just a few words that could be used to describe Mike O'Malley, a man who dreamed of changing the world, failed, and then got himself a role on a semi-popular television sitcom.
Born in Ballycotton, Ireland in 1969, there was little inclination that he would go on to success. Life in Ireland was hard for the O'Malleys. Mike's father was head potato farmer for the county, a position that was technically unpaid, but allowed him to steal precious potatoes to feed his family. His mother would give hand jobs at train stations. Because of a lack of money and adult supervision, the O'Malley children were left to entertain themselves. They often played practical jokes on Mike, who was the youngest and considered to be the "baby" of the family. A favorite prank was to dress him in a pair of panties and a bra. Then they would then tie him to a chair and carry him throughout the city while locals threw rotten cabbage and fruit at him. Another common joke was to wait until Mike went into the outhouse. They would then push him down the hole. While his brothers considered this to be "good natured ribbing" Mike grew to resent them and the entire nation of Ireland. At a young age he vowed that he would not end up like an old Irishman, drinking whiskey, eating potatoes, and dreaming of a better life that would never come.
The Irish town where Mike spent most of his youth.
At the age of ten, he moved with his parents and seven of his fifteen brothers to London, where his mother had secured a job as a prostitute. Things where finally looking up for the O'Malley family. They moved into a two room apartment, and could finally afford to send their children to school. It was also here that Mike would meet somebody who would change his life.
I was walking down from the market one day when I saw this naked boy tied to a light pole crying. I felt bad for him and decided to untie him. From that day forward me and Mike where inseparable. - Moira Quirk "Interview with Moira Quirk", Woman's World, April 1993
Mike and Moria soon became close friends. She helped him adjust to life in England and avoid the cruel pranks of his brothers. One fateful day Moira was able to convince Mike to try out for the school's production of Hamlet. Mike was a natural; he impressed audiences and critics alike with his rugged, unrefined acting abilities. That next year he was able to get the lead in the spring production of The Tempest. Word of his stage abilities spread. He was even able to get some bit parts on British television. The prestigious University of New Hampshire thought he had great potential and offered him a not only a full scholarship, but also an opportunity to escape the poverty that had flagged him his entire life.
The scholarship from New Hampshire was a great opportunity for me, and my career, but it also meant having to make major changes in my life. I would have to leave London and go all the way across the ocean to America. I was hesitant to leave my family, but then one night my older brother Shamus got drunk and sodomized me with a broom handle. It was then that I realized that I hated all of them. I left the next day. - Mike O'Malley "What's It Like Being Mike", Nickelodeon Magazine May 1995
At the prestigious University of New Hampshire Mike flourished. He dropped his trademark Irish accent and adopted his new trademark non-Irish accent. He majored in game shows with a minor in family sitcoms. This is also where he first came up with the idea for Global GUTS.
I was thinking "Why do we have wars, they only lead to heartache?" I decided to find a way that countries could solve conflicts while avoiding wars, I called this alternative GUTS. - Mike O'Malley, "New Shows on the Block", T.V. Guide December 1992
Mike in the college production of Death of a Salesman
After graduation Mike was approached by executives from Nickelodeon. They wanted him to host a new game show that was in development. This show, Get the Picture, was by all means completely retarded. Cheese Battalion said it best when he reviewed the show for popular internet website Internet Movie Database.
Get the picture is show where contestants have to remove squares from a video screen and guess what the picture is. Get the picture is not all that great of a show because for one,it gets boring and repetitive really fast,every time they play a show,the only new thing to look forward to is what different picture they're going to show,and it really dosent appeal to anything. The younger audience might look forward to this show,but it definently wont appeal to the older audience.And now,we get to the good parts,the good part of the show is that is theres nothing on TV,you can watch this,and the last good part of this show is that its funny to see the contestants mess up horribly bad
Early prospects for the show were bleak. Test audiences hated the program, and several reportedly wept while watching it. It can be easily argued that the choice to add Mike O'Malley is the sole thing that saved it. He would often steal the show, his oddball shenanigans taking center stage. Many moments became golden memories. Who will ever forget the time he pretended to be a robot, or the time he sang along with the theme song? Get the Picture became a huge successes. Ratings soared, awards were won, and groupies were literally throwing themselves at Mike. Mike had riches that he could only dream of in Ireland. He moved to Hollywood, started attending high class events with other stars and paid a group of drunken hooligans to break the legs of his brothers who had so often terrorized him as a youth. Life truly was great.
But as Get the Picture became more and more successful, tensions rose behind the scenes. Creative differences between O'Malley and the show's producers became more and more frequent. The producers said that Mike was pulling focus to far away from the actual game while Mike said that he was the only thing saving the show from the trash bin. Eventually these differences led to Mike leaving the show, ending its successful run in 1993.
I remember one day Lou [Get the Picture head producer Louis Pancinko] said to Mike "You either do what we tell you or you are out of here". In response Mike flipped Lou the bird, dropped his pants and took a huge dump on Lou's desk. It was the coolest thing I have ever see, although cleaning that up was pretty gay. - Jerry Maynors, janitor at Get the Picture
Few people know that Mike was a huge grunge fan. Here he is wearing a jacket with Nirvana lead singer, Kurt Cobain’s, face on it.
Mike had greater goals then simply a successful game show. He saw this as an opportunity to reintroduce his GUTS program. Financing most of the show himself, he built an arena filled with challenges and competitions like nowhere else in the world. But he did have to make concessions concerning his dream.
We had to, due to budget restraints, only use Americans. This didn't bother me much because I knew that after we were a success we could go international. The real problem was that we had to use children. Nick had a policy where there shows had to feature kids prominently. This makes sense really, but it threw a monkey wrench in my overall plans. - Mike O'Malley "A Look at Gameshows", High Times Magazine November 2003
Mike knew that in order for GUTS to work as a world wide peacemaker it had to have an international backing. So he called his good friend Moira Quirk to be head referee.
At first I didn't know what to say. I wasn't sure if I was qualified enough. Sure I had a physical education major from one of Brittan's most prestigious physical education schools, but I wasn't sure if I could do what he [Mike O'Malley] wanted. Then Mike looked me in the eyes and said "I believe in you". Then I knew I could do it.- Moira Quirk "GUTS", Referee's World May 1996
The success of GUTS made Get the Picture look like The Chevy Chase Show. All over America GUTS fever was burning like a California wild fire. Mike O'Malley became a national icon. Sales for NERF crossbows went through the roof. From coast to coast people where asking "Do you have it"? The time was ripe for GUTS to go global.
The first episode of Global GUTS is one of my fondest memories. I remember thinking this is it. My dream is almost here. - Mike O'Malley "Whatever Happened to that Guy from the Show GUTS?", Game Show Monthly June 2001
Do You Have It?
Mike was also having trouble with drug addiction. A legendary partier on the Hollywood scene, he had been able to keep his personal demons in check for a long while, but the addictions eventually caught up to him on the Global GUTS set. He began showing up late for tapings, was short tempered and irritable, and was slowly coming unraveled. One contestant remembers:
He (Mike O'Malley) showed up an hour and half after we were suppose to start. When he did show up he refused to talk to any of us, and made up personal information that wasn't true. He said my nickname was "Smiley" but it wasn't. That is such a gay nickname, I would never let somebody call me that.. Then later I went in the bathroom and I heard crying. I opened the stall and there was Mike O'Malley with a needle sticking out of his arm bawling his eyes out. I could only stare, then he yelled "Don't look at me!" and I ran away. That is the day I realized that my hero was dead. - Sean "Smiley" Riley
Moria took over most of the responsibilities of running the show, while Mike continued in his downward spiral. He became depressed, and extremely paranoid. He was convinced that international drug dealing terrorists were after him. He separated himself from friends and business associates. Those working at Global GUTS often wouldn't know if he was going to show up for tapings. They began using old footage and impersonators to fill in for Mike. He did show up for the closing ceremony of the Global GUTS tournament. What should have been a momentous occasion was tarnished as a clearly inebriated O'Malley stumbled over words, confused the results of the tournament and accidentally gave the Nazi salute to a competitor from Israel.
Mike's lawn, a shadow of what it had been.
Nickelodeon chose not to renew GUTS for a fourth season. Mike was unable to finance the show anymore but Nick was not willing to pay the large costs themselves. They also felt that Mike was no longer reliable, and his reputation as kid friendly host was gone. Not wanting to competently abandon the man that made their network a hit, Nick allowed Mike to make many guest appearances on the incredibly bad show Figure It Out.
I don't remember much of the Figure It Out days. By that time I was injecting pure heroin into my eyeballs every half hour. I mostly remember how that show is really gay and if I wasn't desperate for cash I would have never done it. One morning I woke up naked in the back of a Ford Bronco with Lori Beth lying beside me. I don't know if we had sex or what but I knew that I had hit rock bottom. The next day I checked myself in to the Betty Ford Clinic. - Mike O'Malley, From Ireland to Graceland: The Mike O'Malley Story.
After cleaning up Mike set out a new man. In 2000, he got starring roles on two television shows that nobody watched. Baby Blues was quickly cancelled, but Yes Dear is still going strong, proving once again that no matter how low your ratings are, if your show is on then CBS they probably don't have anything better. They actually kept Becker on for several years and that show was so bad it had negative ratings, and let's not forget Listen Up. Come on CBS you aren't even trying anymore.
Mike at the Betty Ford Clinic
Mike doesn't regret the past. Instead he looks towards a new future.
I'm disappointed that Global GUTS failed but I have nobody to blame but myself. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. I can't change my past, and in all honestly I wouldn't want to. I have taken everything that has happened and learned from it. Plus if I wasn't such a partier I probably would have gotten laid less. I tell you I use to get a shit load of tail. There was one woman who I use to screw in exchange for coke, now she's my wife. - Mike O'Malley, "Can't Forget the Past: A Talk with Mike O'Malley", Can't Forget the Past Magazine November 2004.
These days Mike spends most of his time with his wife and seven children, and working on Yes Dear, but that doesn't mean he still doesn't have other projects. Make sure to check his upcoming movie A Journey to the Center of the Planet. Also make sure to pick up his book of short stories Tales of an Autumn Evening.
Mike with his sixth son Maurice.