In the eyes of dedicated Dramsoc members, there is a hardened criminal on the loose. He hides in the spotlight, considered by the uninformed to be one of Ireland’s most beloved comedic actors, and one of UCD’s most successful former students.
But don’t let his charming performances in The IT Crowd and Bridesmaids fool you – according to Dramsoc lore, Chris O’Dowd is guilty of serious theft, and has yet to be brought to justice.
That is, until now…
For the last few months, Fócas has dedicated its investigative prowess to getting to the bottom of one of UCD’s most tantalizing society rumours: that the famous actor Chris O’Dowd allegedly stole money from Dramsoc in his final year at the University.
Chasing down this decades-old rumour brought us places no journalist could ever imagine: talking with society hacks, delving into the depths of the Dramsoc archives, and even chatting with the man himself.
Young Chris O’Dowd was a boisterous and popular personality in late 90s Belfield. Rising quickly through the ranks of Dramsoc, O’Dowd was given the reigns of the Irish Student Drama Awards (ISDA), an annual festival which UCD hosted in his final year.
According to the age-old rumour, O’Dowd used his control over the ISDA accounts to line his pockets in anticipation of a move to a top-tier British drama school. The amount, which supposedly reached into the thousands, would have been a sweet steal for the cash-strapped student.
At first glance, the undisputed facts of O’Dowd’s exit from the University seem to align with this story. O’Dowd left UCD without finishing his degree, finding himself in London soon after. It’s also true that ISDA, a festival long-plagued by financial difficulties, was cancelled the year following O’Dowd’s exit.
Our research began with identifying and questioning witnesses. Fócas reached out to a number of Dramsoc alumni to see if they’ve heard anything on the grapevine. Interestingly, alumni from the time denied ever hearing the rumour during their time in the society.
We also received a robust response from someone we had not yet asked for comment: the accused himself. O’Dowd had apparently caught wind of our shenanigans and decided to get in touch. After some back and forth, and a denial of the charges, he offered what can be best described as an abstract, “If I Did It”-style account of the famed heist:
“Ah, the Dramillenium heist?! I remember it like it was the back of my foot. There was five of us, see.. there was Ringo, Dingo, Sugar Spice and Rory Gallagher’s giddy ghost. We took the hydro-foil to Dingle that very night because Dingo’s Mam wasn’t well. From there, post-haste, we made our way to Newfoundland for safe haven. Sugar had a friend there called Tom who’d been talkin crazy ‘bout mySpace YourSpace oUter Space, it was a wicked week I wish I could remember. We sold our shares in mYspace the week before Tom killed that Cat in Tibet and everything went tits-up. From there, the path forward was clear. Drain the UCD lake and bury the gold in the vault where James Joyce stuck the ashes of his pet Tiger, Lilly. And that’s where it lies still, submerged in mirth. But we’ll be back. Not Dingo, sadly, who’s Mam recovered well, but is currently locked up on Rikers island for damage done to the Maastricht treaty.”
We’re not quite sure what O’Dowd’s on about, but we reckon it leads to some sort of treasure hidden under Belfield’s main lake…
While we were certainly overawed by O’Dowd’s responses, we needed more hard evidence to either support his comments, or further discredit the rumour. So, out of tireless dedication to getting the facts for our readers, Fócas’ team dove headfirst into the Dramsoc archives, braving the cobwebs and nursing our paper cuts along the way. We were able to identify a couple key facts:
First, nowhere in the surviving committee minutes, either during O’Dowd’s tenure or subsequently, were we able to find any reference to his supposed financial impropriety.
Second, while ISDA was cancelled the year after O’Dowd, this was because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Louth, rather than any financial issues. It’s unclear what involvement O’Dowd had in the outbreak.
THE ORIGIN (*maybe*)
While we’ve found no evidence to suggest that O’Dowd actually committed fraud at the expense of Dramsoc, why has the rumour persisted? In order to answer this question, we present an alternative timeline:
Just before O’Dowd entered UCD, a former Dramsoc auditor was caught stealing nearly £800 in society funds, which were reportedly returned. Like in the O’Dowd rumour, this auditor was apparently planning on using the funds to support himself while at theatre school in the UK.
We posit that this true story was confused with that of O’Dowd’s abrupt exit from the University and Dramsoc.
Of course, the role of the rumour mill should not be understated. The more famous O’Dowd became, the more fun it must have been to share the rumour in hushed tones over pints in the Clubhouse.
O’Dowd is guilty of many things: being a mediocre Roscommon goalkeeper, a weak Rotten Tomatoes score for Gulliver’s Travels, and, according to recently-unearthed committee minutes, once forgetting he was in a Dramsoc play until the second act had already begun. But, after thoroughly investigating this long-standing rumour, we cannot prove that O’Dowd is guilty of The Great Dramsoc Heist.
In his response to us, O’Dowd closed with what really happened all those years ago. Long thought lost to the annals of Belfield history, here’s “the truth” from the man himself:
“We ‘wasted’ loads of money staging dozens of silly plays and it was fucking glorious. It was over 20 years ago but I can still feel the stress, the chaos, the elation like it was yesterday. I’d do it all again in a minute. We pocketed nothing but the experience of endeavour and the hunger to create. Thanks ISDA! I’m sorry if the college lost a few quid in the staging of our national festival, but can confirm : THE EVENT WAS A MASSIVE SUCCESS! I genuinely treasure my time in UCD and look forward to visiting their beautiful new theatre soon. As a sign of my gratitude for three years well spent, I’d love to contribute to the Alumni Fund, but sadly I failed my finals because I was running the Irish Student Drama Festival at the time.
Chris. Politics & Sociology. Peace out.”
Fócas would like to give special thanks to Dramsoc for their openness and assistance during this story.
This article is from Fócas, the investigative wing of The College Tribune. Get in touch with us at [email protected] Let us know what we should be looking into on campus.
Conor Capplis – Senior Reporter
Jack McGee – Reporter
Conor Paterson – Features Editor