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Kevin McAleer Group
- "Ohh Ohh!
- Me, Myself, and I
- Kevin McAleer is an Irish professional stand-up comedian. He came to prominence on the RTÉ television show Nighthawks which began broadcasting in the late 1980s. McAleer became known for his three minute sketches of surreal rustic tales told in his slow County Tyrone drawl. One critic said that McAleer "put the dead back into deadpan".
McAleer's 2008 show, Chalk and Cheese, was described by his fans as "better than Nighthawks", prompting the comedian to think he was "becoming fashionable again.
McAleer does a lot of writing late at night and is currently writing a novel about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He writes in his office which is located in Omagh and likes writers such as Flann O'Brien, James Joyce, Don DeLillo, Umberto Eco and Nikolai Gogol.
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The Tyrone funnyman on losing his religion, the strangeness of the human brain and why reality TV theme tunes would be the soundtrack in his personal hell
Since getting his big break on RTE’s Nighthawks, comedian Kevin McAleer has been telling hilariously deadpan rustic yarns for over a quarter of a century. His sublime wit, slow County Tyrone drawl and forays into paranoiac delusion have left audiences the length and breadth of Ireland with sore diaphragms and possibly a renewed appreciation of the terrible truth - that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
Kevin’s 2008 act Chalk & Cheese questioned the weird machinations of hotel room intruders fond of miniature soaps and making beds, the effrontery of the electricity board bugging his home (why else did they put wires everywhere?) and the infrequent arrival of ransom demands from Save the Children.
McAleer’s hyper-paranoid persona knows the world is watching him and duly wears his foil-lined crash helmet to stop spies picking up transmissions. All this absurdist comedy is delivered in the dilatory manner of a farmer telling a stalling tale while leaning on a gate, chewing a blade of grass. The Sunday Times credit the Omagh man with having put the 'pan in deadpan - others say he put the dead bit in; someone else said he put the 'nse' in nonsense.
What are your most vivid memories of childhood?
My mother going off in an ambulance when I was two, saying don't worry I'll be back in a few days. She came back in a black taxi with a white bundle containing my baby sister. A big clock on the wall in primary school which crawled around slowly every day from 9am to 3pm. A feeling of intense boredom and impatience watching it move. Going to see JFK's funeral on TV at a neighbour's house in 1963, the first time I saw TV. We didn't have electricity until 1968. The funeral was very boring, but the adverts were amazing. Throwing a stone at a small bird in a hedge, and feeling very sad when I scored a direct hit and killed it.
You grew up in rural Omagh, in a Catholic household. How did this affect your development?
I'd like to think a lot of fear and boredom could have been avoided by not being exposed to the nonsense about hell and sin that was inflicted on us as children. I was 18 before I stopped believing in all the Catholic stuff, and it was a great weight off my mind. I remember being very disturbed by the notion of eternity as a child, even an eternity in heaven. I used to think that kids were naughty and that grown-ups were good, and that if you managed not to die until you were an adult, you'd be ok in the afterlife. What a twisted world-view to teach a child.
Which subjects were you top and bottom of the class in at school?
I was good at English and languages, and bad at maths and science.
When did it become clear to you that you were destined for a life in comedy?
I drifted into comedy in my mid-20s. I did an open-spot at a club in Dublin - I didn't have any material but I got a few laughs, and I was completely hooked after that. Then I moved to London and there were dozens of clubs there, and suddenly there was a chance of making a living doing something I enjoyed.
Your style has been likened to the madcap whimsy of Flann O'Brien and the absurdism of Samuel Beckett. What writers have influenced your comedy most?
I'm not aware of being influenced by any one person, but I'll take those comparisons any day. I remember reading Spike Milligan's novels in my early teens, and hearing Ivor Cutler reading his stuff on John Peel's radio shows. I like Nikolai Gogol a lot, and his short story 'Diary of a Madman' was the spark for my Chalk & Cheese persona, full of paranoia and delusions and comic nonsense.
Do you think comedy is an important way of critiquing the weird parts of human behaviour?
I think all parts of human behaviour are weird. We are a very strange species, and the human brain is
0 Comments 145 weeks
The Bearcat is still roaring with laughter after 25 years
4:32pm Thursday 9th July 2009
The Bearcat Club has been bringing the best stand-up comedians to the Turk’s Head in St Margaret’s for the past 25 years and there will be a mirth-filled birthday celebration this Saturday night.
For one night only, the club is making the short trip across the A316 to Twickenham Rugby Stadium’s Live Room for a show headlined by Jo Brand, with Paul Thorne, Greg Davies and Simon Brodkin as Lee Nelson.
James Punnett has been running the club alongside Grahame Limmer since it first opened its doors in 1984 and Punnett believes there are plenty of reasons for the club’s longevity – with the consistently high standard of the acts being principal among them, even from the early days.
He explains: “There weren’t that many acts around when we started so we got all the people who were at the top – Jeremy Hardy, Jo Brand and Harry Enfield.
“It was quirkier in those days, more experimental and political – it was in the era of the miners’ strike.
“The standard was OK at the beginning because people were learning but, as time has gone on, it has just got stronger and stronger.”
As well as Brand, a number of these stars have returned to perform at the Bearcat and they have been joined on the alumni list by other stellar names, including Rob Brydon, Harry Hill and Rory Bremner.
When the Bearcat first started, stand-up comedy clubs were few and far between and Punnett says not only was this vital in attracting performers but also in garnering a loyal audience.
“Stand-up comedy was a bit of a backwater in those days – it was called alternative cabaret,” he says.
“To begin with we had to find a niche for it and, fortunately, we hit the ground running and people came back for more.
“We used to do it every other Monday and we have now been doing Saturdays for the past 10 years.”
It was the “alternative cabaret” moniker that inspired Punnett to come up with the unusual name for the club.
“I thought ‘alternative cabaret’ was like a crossword clue and Bearcat is an anagram of cabaret,” he says.
So who does Punnett pick as the funniest act to grace the Bearcat stage?
“A guy called Kevin McAleer, who did a slide show about owls.
“He didn’t speak for 10 minutes and he just had to point at the pictures and everyone was killing themselves laughing.”
And the worst?
“Often people who think their reputation is bigger than it is and take things for granted.
“There was one guy, well-known for doing a football comedy show with Frank Skinner, who came on and when the audience didn’t laugh, he implied they didn’t understand his jokes.”
He adds: “Our most famous booing off was of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer early in their career.
“Their act consisted of a tray of vegetables which they pretended were spacecraft and they acted out a space scene, but not for very long!”
The Bearcat Club’s 25th anniversary show featuring Jo Brand, The Live Room, Twickenham Rugby Stadium, July 11, 8pm, £15, bearcat comedy.co.uk
0 Comments 175 weeks
Jerry Sadowitz | Kevin McAleer | Richard Herring
Saturday 26 August 2006
For all its charms, the Edinburgh Fringe can be terribly cosy and incestuous - and if this year's is too smug for your tastes, you'll love Jerry Sadowitz. This Glaswegian Jewish stand-up conjurer changed the course of British comedy, and it all hinged on one joke, about Nelson Mandela, which we can't repeat here, however funny it may still be. Before he turned up at London's Comedy Store, alternative comedy was a politically correct cartel, with just as many taboos as the trad circuit it had ousted. Sadowitz reminded everyone that good comedy doesn't conform to any manifesto and that the best comics are always surprising, even if they're not always quite so shocking. Sure, he can cross the line at times (though that line is in a different place for every punter), but although you're bound to hear him crack at least one gag which turns your stomach, there's no filter between what he thinks and what he says, and that's what makes him compulsive viewing.
Kevin McAleer isn't easygoing. If you want a highly polished one-man show, look elsewhere. However, his strange, disjointed sense of fun has been hugely influential, inspiring some of the best comics on the British club circuit, and since he rarely plays that circuit nowadays, he's precisely the sort of comedian it's worth travelling to Edinburgh to see. McAleer was raised on a small dairy farm in Omagh. His family didn't have a TV until he was a teenager, which may have helped to cultivate his uniquely quirky stand-up style. It certainly makes a nice change from listening to stand-ups droning on about the TV shows they watched when they were kids. Although he's virtually unknown in England, he's a familiar face in Ireland, where he's sold out solo shows in big theatres on the back of his TV appearances on RTE and BBC Northern Ireland. Like a lot of Irish comics, his act feels more literary than comedic. No wonder he's been likened to Samuel Beckett and Flann O'Brien.
· The Stand, to Sun 27
The real stars of the Edinburgh Festival aren't the comics who turn up twice, win a sackful of awards and vanish onto TV. The true stars are the acts who keeping pitching up, year after year, not to try and get on telly, but to try out something new. Richard Herring is one of those stars, and this year he's starring in his 21st Fringe show. Not bad going, considering he's still (just) under 40. He's spent over a year of his life in Edinburgh, performing his funny, thoughtful plays and daft, enlightening one-man shows, but this year is only his second stab at straight stand-up, after a long hiatus. "We're not out there to try and get on TV any more," Herring told the Scotsman. "We've done that and failed. We're just doing it for its own sake." Buy that man a baked potato.
· Underbelly, Edinburgh, to Sun 27; then Norwich Arts Centre, Fri 1
0 Comments 175 weeks