Monday, November 26, 2007

A sit-down comedian

I have sometimes thought that if I ever got into comedy (and I have toyed with the idea once or twice), my favoured mode of delivery would be the gentle, rambling anecdote while slouched against a bar - kind of a lean-to comedian, rather than a conventional stand-up (and certainly not your hyper-kinetic, tiger-prowl ranting of the angry young men school).

One of my great comedy idols was the wonderful Irish raconteur Dave Allen, who had a late-night TV series on BBC1 throughout most of my '70s childhood (it was one of those late-night treats that I really shouldn't have been able to witness at such a tender age; but my parents very soon abandoned any attempt to enforce an early bedtime for me). It was revived in the late '80s/early '90s, but I didn't see many of those later shows. It's the mid-70s 'golden age' that I hark back to in my mind.

Dave's trademark was that he always delivered his jokes and stories while sitting on a stool or a nice comfy swivel-chair (no sense in working up a lather over it!). Ah yes, and the fact that he drank (although one suspects it was only ginger ale, rather than whiskey, as he liked to kid people it was) and smoked throughout his performance. (It wouldn't be allowed today, of course - although I grew up adoring the man, yet was never once tempted by his example to adopt smoking, as 'cool'.)

Also, he had a fantastic voice - you felt you could listen to him for hours. And you might sometimes have to: he was a master of the "shaggy dog story" - the joke that becomes so elaborately protracted that the point of it becomes the manner of its telling rather than the eventual punchline.

Although I suppose most of his material was quite mild by contemporary standards, it was pretty risqué stuff for an 8 or 10-year-old! He always had a twinkle of subversive wickedness in his eye, and there was quite an exhilarating undercurrent of irreverence throughout (particularly with regard to religion: although he had been brought up a Catholic, he liked to strike an atheistic pose in his monologues, and was notorious for his ongoing series of skits featuring the Pope,.... and he signed off every show with the mischievous, mockingly conciliatory line: "Good night.... and may your god go with you.")

I've been meaning to give him a shout on here since he came up in discussion over on Froogville a few months back. There's a lot of his stuff posted by fans on YouTube now. This little story is one of his classics....


Anonymous said...

i've read half-way through the 2nd para... very intrigued. will return later, but wanted say -- intrigued...

The British Cowboy said...

Dave Allen rocks. Without any question.

But what makes you think it was ginger ale not whiskey, froog? The Beeb never stopped Floyd boozing it up on camera.

In fact, there should be a thread of great brunken British TV moments.

Do you remember the C4 show After Dark, which was a disaster waiting to happen. 4 "stars" without really a moderator, sat around on couches on live TV at midnight on a Friday or Saturday, a huge trolley of booze, and just a camera to film them talk. Oliver Reed was priceless. Something about mushy peas, his genitals, and the backside of a female guest is the conversation I particularly remember.

Froog said...

Really?! You could be making it up, Cowboy... or your mind could be playing evil tricks on you.

I vaguely remember the programme, but not Ollie having been on it. I must go and search YouTube for "Oliver Reed"+"mushy peas".

Froog said...

Cowboy, I'm afraid it was Dave himself who I once saw in an interview claiming that he wouldn't actually booze during a show.

Of course, he might have been kidding.

anthony said...

May I suggest James Hunt, 1976 Formula 1 World Champion, as a suitably unsuitable role model? A man, of course, who sported an overall patch that read simply "Sex -breakfast of champions." As a well-known drinker and womaniser, "Hunt the Shunt" was presented with an elaborately carved cocktail cabinet for winning the 1977 British Grand Prix, whereupon he promised on live TV to "fill it full of booze tonight and give it a damn good thrashing."
After his career ended he was famously arrested for brawling in a nightclub, before dropping dead of a heart attack at the age of 45 - shortly after being declared bankrupt.

Way to go. What a legend.