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Mattress Mick's guide to life: "Believe in yourself - and don't give up"

We chatted to Michael Flynn and Paul Kelly, the man behind his videos.

Source: Element Pictures Distribution/YouTube

THE CHARACTER OF Mattress Mick is big, brash and bold – a bit quirky, a bit odd, and always guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

But behind the character are two men: the real Mick, Michael Flynn:

mattress mick 2 Michael Flynn Source: YouTube

And Paul Kelly, the guy who has helped create Mattress Mick and turn him into an online phenomenon.

mattress mick Paul Kelly Source: YouTube

The relationship between the two men and their journey to nationwide fame is explored in a new documentary, Mattress Men, which doesn’t shy away from showing viewers the tough times the pair have had.

When TheJournal.ie goes to catch up with Flynn and Kelly in Mattress Mick’s Pearse St store, the back room of which has been turned into a studio for the occasion, the first thing we do is plop ourselves down on a nearby mattress.

It’s certainly the most comfortable wait we’ve had for an interview, while the shop, like Mattress Mick, is bright, flashy, but also familiar.

It does what it says on the tin – it’s not promising you anything more than you need. Indeed, Flynn (who comes from a family with a retail background) owned general furniture shops prior to the recession, but changed his focus to just the one product: mattresses.

Both Flynn and Kelly are all about focus. And they’re two men who know about surviving the rough times. Their work together has helped them both grow.

The documentary was meant to be a 10-minute film, but “it took its own legs, basically”, says Flynn. That’s in part because they became better known, with Flynn being invited to turn up in character at a range of events, his fluffy white hair and large glasses – as well as that toothy grin – becoming his trademark.

mattress mick 1 Source: YouTube

“I was going to be completely honest”

Flynn says he didn’t find the process intrusive – but it’s a documentary that shows some of the rougher moments for himself and Kelly.

“Now, there were some situations filmed that I would have liked to have been a little bit more private but they were there and [director] Colm [Quinn] did a good job in portraying them,” says Flynn.

“Well, I found it strange to be in front of the camera rather than behind the camera,” says Kelly, for whom the process was a life-changing experience. When Quinn approached him to make the film, he was in debt, unemployed, and not living with his children. “My life was completely downhill,” he says now. The documentary follows as he attempts to turn Mick Flynn into a star, and tries to turn his own life around in the process.

When he agreed to star in Mattress Men, he was going to be frank about what he was going through.

I was going to be completely honest and open because there are a lot of people in the same situation as I am… I could easily give up, claim the social welfare and not do anything with my life, but I felt I was better than that and my story should be told, so it had to be completely 100% open in every circumstances and every situation within this film because that’s life, and this story really shows them hard times.

Being Mattress Mick

Because Mattress Mick is such a character, it’s tempting to think the man behind him is too.

But Flynn is, above all, and as the documentary shows, a businessman. He’s been through hard times – he’s felt the impact of the recession on his life and pocket. He’s had to make difficult decisions and reinvent himself.

Mick-in-Car

Though he and Kelly’s situations were different in some ways, at the heart they tell the same story of overcoming the odds.

“I don’t think people would realise that I had the problems that I had, the financial problems and so forth,” says Flynn.

“We’ll all find we had problems somewhere along the line and I opened up my problems to the world by saying I had problems and I think… they’ll see me just as a normal guy trying to sell mattresses, and more mattresses, and more mattresses.”

I would consider myself a serious businessman. I got into bother when the recession hit, things went wrong but I had to get going again, I had to survive and I had to prove myself to myself as well as to the people who would have known me.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

His hope is that the film shows the darkness. “I hope that it encourages other people who may have been in the same situation as we were not to give up, to move on and to fight and to believe in yourself, that is the most important that to believe – that you are capable of getting back up there, getting on top of your troubles and problems, do not let anyone interfere with you, just be totally focused on your own goals.

“And that’s what I did, and Paul is also doing the same,” assures Flynn, that grin replaced with a look of steely determination.

mm 2 Source: YouTube

Thinking positively

For Kelly, the whole process has been a spiritual journey, he tells me. “And I know some people may think it’s crazy,” he smiles. “But I had absolutely nothing and I was nowhere and I started reading positive books about visualising and setting yourself goals, the laws of the universe. And once I started believing in that, things started happening.”

He believes the pair were fated to work together, telling me that he used to pass Michael Flynn outside his Pearse St shop when he worked nearby 20 years ago.

“I used to remember thinking to myself ‘one day I’d like to be my own businessman and be that happy in my business’,” he recalls.

And in time, Kelly was able to set up his own company, Shoot Audition – which provides an online platform for actors’ auditions – and Flynn was able to help him with office space and a way of making money.

It’s paying off – Flynn says their business is getting stronger and they’re “very pleased” with how the film turned out.

“It’s different, it’s quirky and it’s fun, but we couldn’t have done it, I couldn’t have done it on my own, Paul couldn’t have done it on his own, he needed a Mattress Mick and I needed a Paul, and it worked together.”

Any bad times, they “overcame them because we both believe in our own destinies and we both believe we can get back on top again”.

Paul-films-Mick

“He gives me something back”

The pair’s relationship began in the most Irish of ways – in a pub. They met in Flynn’s regular drinking hole, The Yacht.

“He was at a bad place in his business so we were meant to meet and do what we did together,” says Kelly now.

“I would have had nothing: no business, no nothing if it wasn’t for Mick giving me the room space to grow and learn.”

He learned how to make the zany, effects-crammed Mattress Mick videos through YouTube tutorials.

In turn, Flynn has learned from him. “I couldn’t have done it without Paul because I knew nothing about social media and I was used to advertising, for example, in newspapers. Like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter were all names that I knew but didn’t understand and Paul brought that into my life, and that’s how I think we work well together,” says Flynn, looking at his friend.

“I can give him something, and he gives me something back.”

What’s their life philosophy?

Mick-dressed-as-a-pimp

Paul:

My one would be: The greatest souls are awakened out of suffering – the most impressive personalities endure many scars.

Mick:

I can’t beat that one.
My words would be: Set a goal, believe in yourself and go for it and don’t give up. No distractions. That’s all I can say.

Read: Mattress Mick shared the most heartbreaking story on the Humans of Dublin Facebook page>

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