Brian Dowling first trotted into the Big Brother house as a contestant in 2001. Pretty much immediately, his hilarious one-liners and LOL-tastic charm cemented him as the nation’s favourite Irishman.
Since then, he’s been awarded the pretty impressive accolade of being the best Big Brother contestant ever (he won Ultimate Big Brother in 2010, made up of the best housemates of all time).
In 2011, he had the scary job of taking over presenting duties on the show from Davina McCall, and, although stepping into Davina’s very nice and fancy shoes was a mahoosive task, Brian managed it with relative ease. In fact, he reminded us why we fell in love with the former Ryanair flight attendant to begin with.
Brian’s back on our screens, presiding over the latest batch of Celebrity Big Brother housemates – so we grabbed him for a chat about all things tanned, toned, Tom Daley and, er, Jackie Stallone’s face.
Your second CBB series is finally upon us. Who’s been your ultimate housemate over the years?
It’s always the craziest ones that stand out. We like the nice ones to win, but the crazy ones make the show, because they’re so deluded. I always go back to Jackie Stallone as my number one. It’s just that moment. [Puts on a Jackie Stallone voice.] “Jackie! Yeaaah! Jackie!” [Whispering] Who’s had no plastic surgery? What the f**k’s going on there?
She’s about 100 years old, isn’t she?
It’s like Michael Jackson saying, “I’m a black man, I’ve only had my nose done.” Someone’s telling lies! It’s an amazing catchphrase. [Puts on Jackie voice again.] “Meeeeh, Jackie!” She kind of scared me, but I wanted her to win.
Who would be your dream crazy celebrity in there?
I think every house needs a crazy bitch. I’m thinking Britney Spears, minus the earpiece. Because Britney Spears is like [putting on a Britney voice], “You’re amazing – yay!” [Claps.] “I love you… what am I doing today?” Take away her medication, take away that earpiece and just get her in the house. She’d be amazing.
There are always rumours before CBB starts that there’s some really big Hollywood name going in there…
…And it never ends up being true. Totally. I’m as f**king disappointed as you are!
Is there a bank of celebs waiting to go in?
I think that sometimes a lot of people hold out for more money, and to find out who else is doing it. I was really surprised when we got Michael Madsen, and Pamela Anderson, who was a house guest. I’m amazed they did it. I was so surprised we got Denise Welch. Money talks, and Denise said herself in her autobiography that she did it because of the money. Pamela Anderson did it because of the money, Michael Madsen: because of the money. Money does talk and Channel 5 has a lot of money!
And it is a recession…
I think, nowadays, people see it as an actual job, to raise their profile and make a s**tload of money. Now, people think, “I can actually cash in here,” and it’s quite good for their business of selling themselves.
When does the BB house smell worse – after the celeb version or the normal one?
It really does reek, but the house always smells the same. I went on in 2001, I went on again in 2010 and it smelt exactly the same. You know how hospitals have a smell? The BB house has the smell of a hospital and a school. There is a distinctive smell. It’s the smell of uneasiness.
When you’ve done a walkabout in the BB house after the show ends, have you ever found anything minging?
Oh, the showers are disgusting! You always find loads of hair in the shower and loads of s**t stains in the toilet and, like, really orange piss stains. Do they not clean the toilet? Hair extensions, and then just urine and s**t. It’s not as glamourous as people think…
Would you ever be tempted to go into the BB house again as a housemate?
I think I’d be tempting fate if I went back in a third time and the viewers were, like, “F**k off – you’ve won it twice, and you’re now the host. What more do you want?” They’d be, like, “Let someone else have a f**king go at winning this!” I think I wouldn’t tempt fate.
Are you friends with many celebrities?
I don’t have that many celebrity friends. I don’t have that many friends, full stop; I’m not very good at making friends, because I don’t really trust people. When I worked at Ryanair, I had five mates – they’re still my best friends. I hang out with Tess [Daly] and Vernon [Kay], because I worked with Tess and I’ve known her for such a long time. I’ve liked hanging out with Louis Walsh, too. I love Louis!
If Tess, Vernon and Louis came to you and said they were going on Celebrity Big Brother, what advice would you give them? Would you say, “Yes, do it,” or tell them to avoid it like the plague?
I would love Tess or Vernon to do CBB! I’d be in my element. I’d love Louis Walsh to do it, too – are you joking me? If my friends wanted to, of course I would encourage them. I’d just say that when you go in, be yourself, but remember it’s not a real situation. But if they want to go in I’d push them in!
You know Louis Walsh – do all Irish people know each other? Do you know Niall Horan from One Direction as well?
Yes. I wanted to set Niall up with my sister, but she has a boyfriend and she’s really in love with him. It’s weird, yes – all Irish people know each other.
When did you meet Niall?
I met Niall at Alexandra Burke’s birthday party in August. We had a right laugh. They gave us goat, and we were, like, “Oh my God, that’s goat! We’re Irish! We don’t eat goat! We normally have beef!” Niall kept making goat noises and running around, going, “Maaaaah.” [Makes goat noise.]
I was, like, “What the f**k’s wrong with him?” He’s really good fun. Even though the band is incredibly famous, he’s very young and just very normal about it all. Maybe that’s the Irish in him. But I do want him to marry my sister. I’m so making it happen. I’ll call Louis Walsh. My fairy godfather Louis will sort it out!
Do you hang around with Eamonn Holmes and Gloria Hunniford, too?
I love Eamonn Holmes! I met Gloria Hunniford once and didn’t know if I should curtsey, because she’s television royalty. Someone had said in a magazine that I am the young Eamonn Holmes, and I was in my element. I also have a little sexy crush on him, which is a bit weird. He’s got the f**king chat. He’s got the chat, he curses. I love people who can swear a little bit.
It’s no secret that you love fake tan…
I’m obsessed with false tan. I get about one or two spray tans a week. But I’m aware that Big Brother is in January and I look like Malibu Barbie. This January, I may have to go cold turkey. I may have to be pale, Irish and interesting, like The Corrs. I’m so pale; people think I’m sick. I could easily be in TOWIE with the amount of fake tan I use. I love fake tan.
Well, you’re not doing anyone any harm…
It’s just a little spray tan. It’s not a line of coke or heroin; it’s just some St Tropez. It’s fine.
Do you have a shade limit? How brown is too brown?
[Mock rage.] There’s no such thing – what are you on about? I always think that if people say, “Have you been away?” then yay! But sometimes I get it done and I go out, so it accumulates because I don’t shower it off. You look like someone’s smeared s**t mixed with chocolate all over you.
When we interviewed Tom Daley earlier this year, he claimed that he didn’t use fake tan. Discuss…
Well, I think that Tom Daley is clearly a liar! [Laughs.] He’s probably actually reaching David Dickinson stature at this point. But, then again, he wears barely anything. He’s always on holiday. I can’t imagine him using fake tan, because chlorine would take the tan off. And I can’t imagine him wanting to go on sunbeds. I would say he’s just very lucky. What age is he?
That’s still young, so I would never comment on whether I find him kind of hot or not. And clearly, by saying I feel uncomfortable about it means that I think he’s very attractive. So, I’ve just outed myself. But everyone’s obsessed with him. He wears his Speedos the lowest I’ve ever seen them worn, but still no bush. What’s going on there? It’s non-existent. That, or he trims it.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?
Be more positive, a little less shallow. That’s the plan. And maybe go to the gym more, but I know I’m not going to do that. I’ve been saying that for 11 years and it never works. I’m lucky – I’ve got a nice rack, I’ve got a nice ass – I just need to work on the tummy. I see these guys who are ripped like Mark Wright and David Haye – I would love that dedication, but I just can’t be arsed. I’m of a certain age, I’m in my early thirties, and I’m, like, do you know what, I’m going to watch the The X Factor with a bag of Doritos.
And here's Brian telling us his favourite Celebrity Big Brother contestants of all time.