Posted: Sun Mar 22, 2009 5:38 pm Post subject: Michael McIntyre
'I spent my life trying to be cool and failing': Michael McIntyre on his change of fortune Did you hear the one about the public school boy whose father worked for Kenny Everett, who became a comedian, who sold out Wembley four times, but doesn't do swear words or 'hilarious' hoax phone calls? By Louise Gannon
22nd March 2009
Michael McIntyre is sitting in his agent's Soho office and talking about his invitation to last month's Brit Awards. His face flushes as he rakes his hands through his floppy black hair. 'The driver took us to the red-carpet entrance and I panicked. It didn't seem right. I didn't want to get out. I was suddenly consumed with embarrassment, with this idea that "who was I, thinking I was red-carpet material?" 'I leaned over and asked the driver to go round again and see if there was maybe an amber carpet for people like me. Not quite ready yet. Not ready for red.' He pauses. 'The driver didn't see the humour. He just said [adopts gruff voice], "This is the only carpet." Then the door opened and I heard people shouting my name. Cameras started flashing. Lots of them. I was just very, very grateful people knew who I was.'
This anecdote sums up the Michael McIntyre story, because in what seems to have been a matter of months the 32-year-old has become a bona fide television-comedy phenomenon. There has been no hype, no multi-million pound PR budget, no Perrier Awards, no star-studded launch. McIntyre has arrived without any TV executives knowing he was coming. His DVD, Michael McIntyre Live & Laughing, is the fastest-selling debut stand-up-comedy DVD ever; Prince Harry referred to him as 'my favourite comic' (he was asked to perform for Prince Charles's 60th birthday); Kate Moss gave Sir Philip Green a copy of the DVD for Christmas; Take That are big fans.
'At the Brits I heard this voice behind me saying [adopts flat Mancunian vowels], "Michael, Michael. Very funny, mate." I turned round and it was Gary Barlow,' he says. 'Then all of Take That were standing round me telling me their manager had given all of them a copy of my DVD. It was surreal. They were all repeating the jokes. Except Jason Orange, who said he hadn't watched his.'
Right now McIntyre has new material to write, a new BBC1 show and a diary that's packed for the next 24 months. The dramatic change of fortune has come as something of a surprise to him. 'A couple of years ago I was £40,000 in debt, doing as many gigs as I could in fairly awful clubs to pay the rent.
'My wife bashed up our old Mini and we couldn't afford to fix it. It could only turn left. I had to work out all these routes round London where I could just keep going left. Or if the road was very wide and clear of all traffic and pedestrians, I could do a very expansive right turn by cranking the wheel at full turn. 'I had another car, a £495 Austin Princess, which had a broken petrol gauge. That was fine, because anyone who has no money knows you only ever put in a fiver or tenner's worth of petrol at a time. For me, success is going onto the forecourt and filling the tank. Asking for a VAT receipt is just telling everyone else in the queue you've made it.'
Performing in November 2008 at a show to celebrate Prince Charles's 60th birthday
He laughs (in fact, he laughs pretty much all the time as he speaks). 'I do actually feel like an overnight sensation, even though I've been at this for a decade. I did a Royal Variety Performance in 2006 and after that people started to notice me. Then there were a few TV appearances and a tour that sold out. That really made everyone take notice.'
When Jonathan Ross was off air due to Sachsgate, McIntyre appeared on our screens in his place, hosting the opening show of the fourth series of Live At The Apollo. It was a hit. McIntyre, as Ross recently told him on his Friday night show, doesn't look like a comedian. He looks like a smooth-faced, chubby-cheeked, ex-public school boy (which is what he is), and has what even he describes as a 'ridiculously posh accent'.
What makes him different (apart from his junior barrister look) is the fact that his comedy is not at all alternative. He barely swears, he carries no evident comedian's angst, he's happily married to an aromatherapist called Kitty, with two young sons, and he focuses his humour on the universal - Friday traffic, hotel breakfasts, man drawers, lofts, easyJet flights. His audience spans all ages from eight to 80 and - in his grandad's cashmere coat and broken specs - he has long since abandoned any attempt to be cool. 'I just want to be funny,' he says. 'I think absolutely everything has the potential to be funny. The most annoying thing about me is I always laugh at my own jokes. But I like to make myself laugh. If I can do that then I know I'm on to a good thing.'
McIntyre was born into comedy. His father, Ray Cameron, was a comedy writer and director who co-wrote, along with Barry Cryer, Kenny Everett's hit TV show, while his Hungarian mother, Kati, was a dancer. Everett would often introduce her to the press as 'my girlfriend'. 'Kenny was just funny,' says McIntyre. 'I remember my mum telling him about this tribe that ate ears, and he said very quickly, "What we got 'ere, then?" I was very young, but I remember thinking to myself, "That's funny. That's very funny. Why did he say that and not me?'''
When he was seven years old, his parents divorced. Cameron moved to Los Angeles in an attempt to make it big over there; McIntyre and his younger sister, Lucy, remained at home in north London. 'I was very sad when they split,' he says. 'I missed my dad a lot. I never really got to know him for what he did. I never talked to him about comedy. He didn't know I was funny. He basically went from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a very big pond. It didn't work out. He fell on pretty hard times and then he died when I was 17. I always remember just missing him.'
'I was the least posh boy at school but somehow morphed into the poshest. I just copied the most outrageously posh accent and it stuck' You have to wonder whether he too harbours ambitions of making it big in America. 'Good God, no,' he says. 'I have absolutely no interest. To be honest, I think there's something quite disrespectful to this country when people assume you only make it big if you break America. I just want to be successful here. I've got my work cut out as it is with that. I also think my humour is particularly British. I'd be very confusing for them.'
Talk of his background should lead into the inevitable childhood problems that stem from divorce and the death of a father. McIntyre shakes his head. 'I was sad about my father, but I accepted it. I was always very happy at home. My mother is wonderful. I didn't have any issues there. All my issues in childhood and in my teenage years were about fitting in and trying to be cool. I spent most of my life trying to be cool and failing so badly.'
His prep school, Arnold House in St John's Wood, London, was 'unbelievably upper class. I was the least posh boy there, but somehow morphed into the poshest. I just copied the most outrageously posh accent and it stuck. There were double-barrelled kids there from generations of in-bred aristos, and because I had the poshest voice they all thought I was the posh one.'
He then went to Merchant Taylors' in Northwood, Middlesex, for three years, and when his father could no longer afford the fees, a state secondary.
'I thought it was all wrong and insisted on wearing my old uniform for a few days, until I realised that was a bad idea.' He bursts out laughing again. 'I remember at the state school asking this boy what house he was in. There was a silence followed by the answer, "Yeah... I'm into house, and R&B and ragga." He sort of nodded and I nodded back.
'I then realised I quickly had to completely change myself to fit in. I saw someone had Public Enemy on their folder and so I wrote that in big letters across mine. I did a lot of nodding when I saw other kids checking it out. There's something about me that means people never like me when they first meet me, but after a while they warm to me. I think I started off trying to be cool, then just realised I wasn't but I could make people laugh.'
His teenage ambition wasn't to be a comedian. 'It was just to have sex with a girl,' he says. 'Everything I did was to get noticed by girls. One year they had an inter-form Valentine's and this huge postbag arrived in our classroom. I got all excited, thinking surely one had to be for me. Every single one was for this boy with long wavy hair. This total sex god. 'That night I decided the solution was all about my hair. I decided to grow it long, but it just sort of grew up and out instead of down. I got a Stussy cap that I crammed on top of my head, and then I read a magazine that had an article on body waves for hair that guaranteed this wavy effect. I went to the hairdresser, who informed me it was only for girls, but agreed to do it anyway.
I came out with hair that was now up and out with a weird kink, and the hat had to go back on. I then got £3,000 from my grandmother to buy a car. I went for the flashiest, stupidest car I could think of. A Triumph Spitfire, which was so wrecked I had to put it through all the gears and them ram it into reverse in order to make it stop. I did a lot of sitting outside the school with my big hair and my hat in the car hoping a girl would get in, but they didn't.
'I then decided to go on a gap year to South America to sow my wild oats, but made the mistake of going with this very, very, very good-looking half-Italian friend. As we got on the plane he made contact with a girl in seat 32A, disappeared to the loo with her and didn't come back for four hours. That pretty much set the scene for the whole trip. I watched him sow his wild oats and managed a few, very badly shredded ones.
'It was the same when I went to university. I shared a flat with five blokes. All the rooms came off the kitchen. I'd sit in the kitchen drinking coffee listening to the sounds of five other blokes having sex and then watch them all come out with flushed faces and satisfied smiles. Everyone was doing it except me.'
It was, however, during his period at Edinburgh University that he decided on a life in comedy. 'I went there through clearing because I had such bad A-level results. I did chemistry - or was it biology? --but dropped it after a year. I then spent a whole year doing nothing. My friend and I had this flat and we'd lie on the sofas all day long. We were unbelievably lazy.
We didn't ever want to move, so we had the brilliant idea of taping all the necessities of life --cigarette boxes, ashtrays, beer cans, TV remote and the occasional, inevitable spliff - onto a fleet of remote-controlled cars, and we'd just lie there making these things move towards us, passing them around. I dreamed up this comedy screenplay and then had the idea of actually doing comedy. By this point I basically understood the only thing I was good at was making other people - and myself - laugh.'
His one other attempt at a career in the mid-Nineties culminated in some comic mischief. He was employed as a runner for a production company making pop videos and adverts. 'It was run by a guy who'd worked for my dad, who then took me on for a few months. I loved it. We did videos for people like Annie Lennox and Bjˆrk, and everyone was laid-back and I could make the girls on reception laugh.
'We then did a job for Saatchi & Saatchi and I was sent - in the boss's very flash car - to their offices to drop off the video. As I was driving there, I put on the radio, and the top news story was that Saatchi & Saatchi had split up.
'I was thrilled to be in on a big event. There were news cameras everywhere. I doubled-parked this flash car, ran in with my package and ran out again. As I came out all these reporters ran over to me to ask what I thought was going to happen.
'Clearly everyone had been given this blanket ban on saying anything. So I stood there and just started saying [adopts dramatic advertising voice], "It's a huge disaster. All the big clients are going to go with Maurice. It's the end of Saatchi & Saatchi." Basically everything I'd heard on the radio.
'All the reporters got incredibly excited and I then shouted that I'd resigned and got back into my car.
I immediately confessed to my boss, who told me he thought it was hilarious but he'd have to sack me if he lost his account. The humour value always came first.'
Right now, McIntyre is looking for his first ever house. 'I've only ever rented before,' he says. 'In the past few months I've started to make some proper money. It's a very weird feeling. I've never had security before, and I have to say it's fantastic. For the past decade I've survived on borrowing money, loans and basically hardly spending any money at all.
Not that long ago I had to pay my train fare into London with a whole load of 5p coins I scraped together from the change pot in the house. It was completely humiliating. I kept getting timed out before I'd managed to get them all in. You'd hear the ching of all that money coming back, which is meant to be the sound of success, but in actual fact it was failure because I couldn't get my ticket.' He bursts out laughing again.
It's impossible not to laugh at McIntyre, and it's also impossible not to be happy for his success. 'I got most of my debts trying to make something happen at the Edinburgh festivals. In comedy you think you can only make it through Edinburgh, but it's so damn expensive to do the whole two weeks, each time it would cost me around £5,000. Each time I'd walk away with nothing. I was never trendy-funny. I got nothing. I'd just get deeper and deeper in debt.'
He himself cannot quite explain his own success. 'I've done a lot of comedy clubs for a lot of years. When I did my first big show at the Apollo, I worried no one would turn up. It was packed.' His glasses fall to the floor and a lens pops out. He laughs again. Somehow this man has tapped into a new form of British humour, putting a fresh spin on old-style comedy for generations bored of an endless diet of alternative performers. He has been compared to Peter Kay and Dave Allen, and in highly placed television circles he is being mooted as the next 'Mr Saturday Night', a potential saviour of prime-time Saturday-evening TV.
So far, his experiences of fame have all been good. 'I love the autograph thing,' he says. 'I love talking to people. The only strange aspect is those people who come up and just stare... but then maybe they're trying to work out who I am.' He grins. 'I have absolutely nothing to complain about. For me it's been a long time coming, but whatever I get, it's fantastic. Bring it on. Bring it all on. Everything. I just happen to find life incredibly funny. If people like that then that's brilliant. I just want it to last.' He pauses. 'Actually... I think that whole hair-wave thing is very, very funny. I think I'm going to write that whole thing down.'
For details of Michael McIntyre's tour dates, visit michaelmcintyre.co.uk or offthekerb.co.uk
Michael McIntyre's comic timing He’s come from an Edinburgh attic to sell out a 54-date tour and bag a primetime BBC slot. So why is the comedian still so sweatily anxious about life? Stephen Armstrong
November 15, 2009
I think it’s possible that Michael McIntyre hates me. Five minutes into the interview, he says: “No, I want to talk about you, Stephen Armstrong.” And he explains, in quite some detail, how aggrieved he still feels that when he was a young, struggling stand-up, selling his wares in tiny attic rooms during the Edinburgh Festival, he was passed over by critics and the Perrier panel. “Edinburgh can give you a leg-up, and Edinburgh didn’t give me a leg-up,” he says with a half smile, looking me firmly in the eyes. “You were intrinsically involved in that.” Me?
“Well, everybody who’s running that award and who’s responsible for picking that list, and anyone reviewing.” He looks down at the tablecloth and picks at it briefly. “I don’t know what those people are supposed to be doing, to be honest. Are they looking for stars?”
But Michael, I say, feeling slightly nonplussed, does it matter? Look at you. You’re 33 years old, you’ve sold out the O2 Arena for four nights and toured to half a million-plus people. You have your own primetime BBC1 show. Your previous DVD is the fastest-selling stand-up disc ever. You really didn’t need the Perrier award.
“I’m not just talking about being nominated.” He’s speaking faster now. “I’m talking about being ignored and not thought of in any way, in any high regard. I knew for a while, because people used to come to my show and love it, and it surprised me that critics were coming and not seeing that. A lot of those jokes that I put out on my first DVD, some of those routines — especially the Scottish stuff — came from Edinburgh. I was killing in those rooms and it was extremely tough for me to get nothing out of it. That went on for four or five years of doing Edinburgh.”
He changes gear: “And this is what I find weird about other comedians, when I hear that they have been less than complimentary about me, because I’ve done their game. I haven’t just shown up fully formed. I did my time. I did more than my time. I’ve hosted Late’n’Live, and I’ve done Jongleurs. It wasn’t just...” He pauses for a long time. “It was everyone in comedy. I was really making no impact for a long time. It was really confusing and hard, really hard, just to keep going. Then doing it became a lot better, and I was getting a reaction, encores and standing ovations in Edinburgh, going to the big rooms and tearing them apart. And not. Getting. Noticed. At. All. Not even getting invited to festivals. It was odd.” Then he shakes his head. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk about it any more.” But he returns to this theme again and again during the interview — that he worked so damn hard and spent so many years being ignored, and he just can’t understand why.
His worrying and worrying at this particular scar doesn’t seem to make sense. Shortly after the interview, I went to one of his O2 gigs — a single night on a 54-date arena tour that plays Wembley four nights in a row, Manchester MEN Arena two nights in a row, Glasgow SECC three nights, Sheffield Hallam Arena three nights,
Cardiff four nights, Nottingham three nights, Bournemouth six nights, and on and on and on. The O2 tickets went on sale for £30, but were changing hands on eBay for upwards of £100. People bid less for Beyoncé.
Sitting towards the front in the cavernous space, I slowly realised that most of the people nearby had never been to a comedy gig before. This was their first. When McIntyre walked on, women ran to the front, shooting footage on their mobiles and smiling up at him. Short of throwing their knickers on stage, it’s hard to see how much closer they’d get to groupies.
This was adulation, pure and simple. And yet: “I keep thinking, ‘Hey, these people have waited six months, they’ve bought my tickets, they’re my biggest fans.’ But an audience, after the initial big welcome, has to be won all over again,” he explains quietly. “Nobody is going to laugh harder at your joke just because they liked your old jokes. The only thing I’m focused on is the sound of the welcome, compared to the applause at the end. I need the end to be as good as, or better than, the beginning. You come on and people go nuts; you leave and they go, ‘Okay, great.’ Even the interval is torture. At the start of the show, it’s ‘Please welcome Michael McIntyre’, and there’s a big round of applause. You go off for the interval, then it’s, ‘Please welcome back...’” He pauses. “And if there’s no whistles in that applause, then I’m on the way down.”
It’s as if he can’t really believe that the past two years have happened; that he’s stuck back in 2005, playing the circuit and the festivals, watching his debts build up and his life slip by. He’s sure disaster is just seconds away all the time. Ratings, for instance, genuinely terrify him. “You get a text the following morning,” he says. “The text comes and it’s your life, and you have no idea what the numbers are going to say. It could say anything.”
Over the summer, his own series — Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow — launched on BBC1. He hosted and introduced other stand-ups. It was a huge hit, with 6m viewers. But once a week he got that ratings text, and once a week he was a wrung-out insomniac.
“One week, I’d convinced myself that due to the weather, and the fact that Michael Jackson had died, and there was a tribute to him on the other channel, nobody was going to watch my show.” He gives a small smile. “I have to say, my mother and my wife, Kitty, didn’t help, because they were agreeing with me.
‘‘By morning, as the sun came up and I hadn’t slept, I said to my wife, ‘It’s all right, we’ve got enough in the bank. I’ve learnt skills. I could still get some residual corporate gigs off my name for a bit. I can always go to Edinburgh. I think I can get the attic space back.’ The text went, and I knew it was going to say zero — but no. It was fine. It was actually bigger than the week before.”
Arriving at the interview, I’d assumed the opposite of all this. McIntyre’s on-stage persona is the jovial party host. He bestrides the vast O2 stage as if he’s stepping between the drinks cabinet and the CD player, delivering his anecdotes and world-view as he waits for his wife to bring the nibbles. His routines are about everyday life: the awkward rituals of men in gym changing rooms, elaborate pretences when trying on shoes, and a sharp deconstruction of restaurant eating. Why do they get us to taste the wine to see if it’s corked, he wonders. We’ve paid good money. Would they bring us a cup of coffee, saying “I think the milk might be off — have a smell”?
There are whispers of technique from observational fellow travellers — he flips between imagined characters and odd-voiced creations like Eddie Izzard, he skims through ageing and family life like Bill Cosby, he puzzles about men and women like Jerry Seinfeld, and he stumbles up against technology and modern manners like Ben Elton. It’s clear that the times demand that he be warm, well spoken and faintly puzzled: he’s the classless everyman of middle England, confident enough to mock his own campness and alpha enough to state his views without fear of correction. It seems so natural that it can’t be shtick, you think; this must simply be Michael as he is with the volume turned up slightly.
“Mmmmm,” he nods cautiously. “A lot of people have said that I don’t seem like a stereotypical comedian, because they see me off stage and I’m happy and funny, but the fact is, I’m not off stage. I’m performing to them. I am a miserable bugger at home. My poor wife. I’m hard work. But when I meet new people, I start showing off. My wife does, to be fair, interrupt me when I’m telling stories. The other night, I was saying something and she interrupted. ‘Michael, how many times have I heard that?’ I’m, like, ‘Nobody else has heard this story. This is my shtick, darling. We’re having dinner with people — you want me to do it without material?’
‘‘My wife’s father — her parents have been married for 40 years he’ll start his story, and his wife will literally go ‘Oh, Simon’, and start another conversation. More and more people, as the story goes on, will peel out, to the extent that there is nobody actually listening by the time he reaches the end. And he just carries on. But that’s the marriage thing.”
He will still try out his material on his wife, though. “But she is dangerous. If she laughs, it’s brilliant. No doubt. If she doesn’t laugh, it might still be brilliant, it might still work. You just don’t know. Like, we were on holiday recently, I did a joke and she really laughed. I got cocky, tried some more material, and she didn’t laugh at any of it. I should have stopped when I was ahead. Sometimes, she just says, ‘Yes, that works.’ That’s exactly what you don’t want from an audience. Can you imagine going out in front of 5,000 people and all of them going, ‘Ah, yes, I see what you’ve done. That was very good’?”
The tale spills out of him and you can hear the riff developing. It would make good material, I say. He bristles. “Everyday stuff is all I have to talk about: eating, travel, cars. You can’t criticise me for talking about an everyday life. Lots of people have that life. If only I’d had a more troubled upbringing. Richard Pryor’s mother was a prostitute. I was never on fire, shooting up my car. All that happened was some people came round for pasta, so I talk about pasta.”
Yet there’s more pain behind the eyes than his brusque dismissal suggests. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Essman says: “Show me a comedian and I’ll show you someone who lost a parent when they were 13.” McIntyre fits the bill. His father, Ray Cameron, was a Canadian comic who co-wrote The Kenny Everett Television Show. His mum, Kati, was a Hungarian dancer. (She calls him up every birthday and goes through the labour pains with him. The first call comes at seven in the morning — that’s when she had the first contractions. Then she rings throughout the day, telling him: “This is when my waters broke.” By six o’clock, she is literally screaming down the phone.)
“My dad came over from Montreal to get into comedy, and while he was having success with the Kenny Everett show, he sent me to a posh school, which is where my accent happened,” he explains. “Any second-generation kid can tell the same story. I was coming home, going, ‘Hello Mummy, hello Daddy.’ My dad was, like, ‘I think I’ve turned my son into an asshole. Just the kind of British asshole I can’t stand.’” The couple divorced when he was seven. Both remarried, and his father moved to America, where his children flew out to join him once a year. “We’d try to cram everything into that one week,” he recalls. “Then, if he had to work, we would get bored and long to fly home. But as soon as we arrived back in London, we’d feel a huge wrench, like a physical ache. We would be in floods of tears, really missing our dad.”
His father died in America when McIntyre was 17, after living on another continent for years. When McIntyre the comedy writer's son was a boy, he used to stand in his stepfather’s garden in Golders Green, trying to deliver stand-up routines. He doesn’t think that the two are connected. “Yes, my dad was in comedy, but it was very different; it didn’t really have any effect on me. Making myself laugh, showing off, that’s all it was for me. Although, socially, I don’t think people really enjoyed it. I think they thought I was a bit odd. When I’d go out, I would come home and say, ‘Was I funny tonight?’ I was only ever trying to be funny. I didn’t think about being attractive to women or nice to people. I was this weird guy who was gigging all the time without having ever been on stage.”
So your heart breaks for the young McIntyre, standing in the garden, practising comedy routines for his daddy, making himself laugh to prove he was funny enough for his father. Finding the stage must have been like finding a little ball of heroin instantly addictive, as if it had always been waiting for him. His first professional gig was in Liverpool in 2001. His first Edinburgh Perrier nomination for best newcomer was in 2003. By 2005, he was £40,000 in debt and had a newborn baby to provide for, but he suddenly felt bulletproof. He knew he was good. He knew he could kill in any room. “When I think about how confident I was, it frightens me, because I was actually fucked.” He seems bemused.
Even so, that’s when everything changed. First of all, he fired his agent. “He’d had this brainwave that we would have nothing on my Edinburgh posters — just this photo. Literally, a photo. No name, no time, no venue. His theory was, it would get people talking. Well, it got people talking. They said, ‘Isn’t that shit?’ And nobody came to my show.”
He hunted down Addison Cresswell, who runs Off the Kerb and looks after Jo Brand, Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Alan Carr and Jonathan Ross. (He secured Ross’s £18m BBC deal.) The agent has a reputation for looking after his acts with a ferocity that can be terrifying. He looked after McIntyre right away, paying off his debts and getting him onto the Royal Variety Performance as his television debut. Gigs and tours followed, but Cresswell’s smartest move came two years later, when he suggested to the BBC that they replace Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, pulled after Sachsgate, with Off the Kerb’s stand-up show, Live at the Apollo. McIntyre was series host, and his gags tickled Britain as if we’d swallowed a spider. It led to the roadshow and the arenas.
One early routine, The Man Drawer, about the junk men can’t throw away, proved such a hit that The Sun asked him to rewrite it as a comment piece. On this tour, he has blokey merchandise — tape measures with the legend “I live in the man drawer” written on the side. He seems to flinch at the thought.
“It’s just such an enormous scale if you start thinking about all those people driving and taking the train and paying for parking and the merchandise.” He shakes his head. “We’ve got mugs. Tape measures. T-shirts saying ‘I’m absolutely gazeboed’. It’s like a movie. It’s barely believable. I was doing these same jokes and nobody was caring, and now I’ve got merchandise.” He pauses again. “You’ve no idea how many drawers I go through in my house, looking to see if there’s another one as funny as the man drawer.” Long pause. “I’m a bit of a panicker, to tell the truth.”
The search for material constantly worries him, on his helter-skelter rush for laughs. “I feel embarrassed when I’ve finished a tour and haven’t written a new show. It’s like all my powers have been taken away. People say, ‘You’re hilarious.’ And I go, ‘Woah, you’ve heard everything I’ve had to say that’s funny so far — but...’”
He tries to find another way to explain it. “I’m writing a book next year. I bought a house, and I made one room into an office so I'd have somewhere to write this book. I painted the walls and bought this big desk, and the view is really nice. And there are these huge building works going on next door, and I’m wondering if it’s going to be finished by the time I start the book, and a bit of me hopes not.” He gives a twisted smile. “Because I feel a bit panicked that if I sit down there in the perfect room, with the perfect Mac, the view, the walls all perfect, what the f*** am I going to say?”
He loves the house. He is delighted to own property after years of renting a flat with his wife and kids. But there’s just this one thing: “I constantly worry that the house is going to fall down.” He gives a half smile. ‘‘Literally. I’ve got this super-top-notch subsidence insurance, just in case. I keep looking at the bricks. It’s semidetached, and I keep looking at their side. ‘What’s wrong with my bricks? Is there damp? Is it the roof?’ I keep banging the walls, worried that it’s going to collapse.
“I was putting up a picture and a lot of wall fell out, and I thought, ‘It’s going to go, we should leave now.’ It was like the beginning of an avalanche: ‘Get out, get out, I told you this would happen. I told you it was all going to go to shit, darling.’”
He pauses, shakes his head. “I think someone’s going to turn up and go, ‘We were kidding, dickhead.’ It’ll probably be the full Perrier panel, saying, ‘We were right, you were wrong.’”
He sighs, leans back and looks at his coffee cup. “It would need a psychotherapist to work that one out.”
Michael McIntyre: a comedian for the Cameron age Loved by the masses, but loathed by his peers – does Michael McIntyre's conservative humour explain his meteoric rise? Paul MacInnes
20 November 2009
Love him, loathe him, have genuinely violent feelings towards him, you just can't ignore Michael McIntyre. Currently touring the sold-out arenas of the UK, and with standup's fastest-selling DVD ever, modestly titled Hello Wembley, 2009 looks set to be remembered by historians as a year dominated by a rubber-faced unusually-tanned comic who invented the concept of the "man drawer".
McIntyre is big. Big in a way few standups ever manage and perhaps only Peter Kay has achieved in this decade. He only made his television debut in 2006, admittedly on the Royal Variety Show, but three years later he is the face of live comedy in the UK as host of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow. In a similar space of time, he's gone from playing attic rooms at the Edinburgh festival to performing nightly to 16,000 people. And what's now being asked by her majesty's press is quite why – and how – that has happened.
The question wouldn't be raised if it weren't controversial. McIntyre, you see, is not much loved by his fellow comics. Among a generation of comedians obsessed with breaking taboos, McIntyre is derided for being safe, his material too centred on familiar observation, too "a funny thing happened on the way to the M40".
For some, this itself is political. In an article in the Independent this week, Dominic Lawson (son of Nigel and former editor of the Sunday Telegraph – and therefore well-placed to assess a man of the people) declared McIntyre a riposte to alternative comedy, something that is to his mind "merely a kind of commercialised Tourette syndrome". He writes: "Suddenly, here was a man who managed to be extremely funny without being cruel to anyone – not even politicians. The subject of his wit was nothing more than the everyday domestic engagements of bourgeois life. To find original humour in the most ordinary of circumstances, this is a rare and valuable gift. " I'll spare you the rest, mainly because it veers off into bonkers rightwingery, painting McIntyre as a martyr whose success came only latterly because pinko-lefty "Luvvie-land" had disdain for his sort, "seeing Margaret Thatcher, for example, as the epitome of evil". (It might not surprise you to find that the Daily Mail bought the article and republished it yesterday.)
Sadly for his critics, Lawson does have a point; McIntyre is a genuinely funny performer. Technically proficient, he knows how to build a routine and squeeze it for maximum effect. He also brings an unbridled effervescence to the stage. McIntyre's energy contrasts starkly with most standups and it never dips; he skips and dances and jiggles and prances, just camp enough for British audiences to warm to. There's also the feeling that he's really enjoying himself. Which helps.
I'd also go so far as to claim that many of his observations are genuinely sharp. At least those he made his name with: "Who phones radio stations with travel updates?", the uncertain quality of the week between Christmas and New Year, uniform embarrassment at passport photos. The Guardian's comedy critic Brian Logan, in reviewing McIntyre's latest show, says the material isn't too hot, and in his recent TV run there has been a tendency to rely on his physical qualities to beef up a joke. But plenty of comics struggle to come up with new material, particularly when they're constantly performing.
Still, I'm not sure it's just his ability to spot comic potential in the term "HD ready" that has led Lawson and the Mail to clasp McIntyre to their bosoms. I do think Lawson is wrong about the class thing; the crowds that pack out the Birmingham NEC aren't all public-school-educated oenophiles, they're middle class of the broadest stripe. But McIntyre's humour is more conservative than most comics you'll see on the circuit. He's not offensive – not in a Frankie Boyle or Bernard Manning sense – but he observes that Man United sounds like a gay club, before mincing around the stage. He's not sexist - but men and women always assume traditional roles (and he's never shy of reminding the audience he's married). He's not racist, but he wonders why Scottish Asians have Scottish accents. He's not a southern snob, but he can milk a good two minutes out of the way Geordies (don't really) pronounce their vowels.
In the end, if I had to point at just one thing that might explain his huge success right now, I would suggest it's his conservatism. Michael McIntyre, you see, is a comic for the Cameron age.
I've not considered him to be particularly conservative, though I have been bothered by the fact that he says nothing of any real depth in his act. The laughs you get are similar to the energy you get from a packet of Monster Munch, you know there's no substance but it's still a good wee snack. The idea of paying to see him amazes me though - that takes a seriously bland mentality!
'I was a loser until my son came along' Michael McIntyre on the moment his life changed forever By Jenny Johnston
20th November 2009
Michael McIntyre only recently joined the ranks of the mortgaged-to-the-eyeballs, but he is already fretting about the chances of his house falling down. 'It keeps me awake at night,' he explains, and not entirely in jest. 'I find myself looking at the bricks, touching them, counting them even, thinking, "Are there enough?"'
It turns out McIntyre can fret about pretty much anything. The other night, he did a live show, then spent the rest of the night interrogating fans in the hotel bar about how funny they'd found him. Given that they were wearing T-shirts adorned with his name, it was safe to assume they'd enjoyed the show. 'But obviously that wasn't enough for me. I was asking, "Did you laugh? How much did you laugh? Did the person beside you laugh?"'
He admits that he recently worked himself into a frenzy when his mortgage advisor was in the audience of a show. Why? 'No idea. When people I know are in, I can go to pieces. I spent the whole night thinking, "But is he laughing?"' It's understandable that a comedian might fret about how funny he is, but worrying about bricks and mortar is a completely different matter. 'I suppose it's a metaphor for my life,' he says. 'I've finally got there and am waiting for the whole thing to come crashing around me.'
What's intriguing is that McIntyre, who is 33 and probably the most successful comedian working in Britain today, has waited so long to become a homeowner. He says he could never afford to get on the property ladder before. Yet his first DVD, Live & Laughing, was the fastest-selling stand-up comedy debut DVD ever. His current UK tour runs for more than 50 nights - including five sold-out dates at Wembley Arena and four at the O2 - and when it's over he will have performed in front of almost half a million people.
One would imagine, then, that he'd have at least a country pile by now, complete with croquet lawn and his own polo pony. Well, no. As little as four years ago, it transpires, McIntyre was not only broke, but teetering on the edge of banktruptcy. 'I was right up to my neck,' he confesses. 'I was £40,000 in debt - credit cards, loans, all that, with absolutely no assets, and often no way of actually meeting the rent. It was at the point where they were cutting up my credit cards in front of me in shops.'
Obviously, being Michael McIntyre, he manages to turn being on his uppers into the funniest thing you have ever heard. There is the anecdote about the microwave he and his wife, Kitty, used to cook their food in, then turn on its side to use as a table. There's their trusty car, a ramshackle old VW Polo, that had faulty steering, so the car could only turn left, which led to some tortuous journeys around London. Oh, and his account of trying to buy a Tube ticket with a pocketful of 5p pieces is tears-down-the-face stuff. 'Those machines are on a timer and there I was shovelling them in before they'd be spat out again,' he says, his head bobbing up and down for theatrical effect. 'Eventually, there would be a click, then a whoosh and all the five pences would come tumbling out again and everyone would scream, "He's won, he's won!"'
Granted, it's funnier in the flesh, if hard to believe at times. He tells me his wife is constantly rolling her eyes when he plunders their life for amusing material for his show. He is, he confesses, the king of taking something that actually happened, then exaggerating it for comic effect. But is he playing up his march towards destitution? It doesn't sound like it, because he can tell you an awful lot about websites, such as Money Saving Expert, that specialise in helping people get out of debt.
And he knows more than most about the sort of credit you can get when you buy a sofa at DFS. 'We got one,' he says, 'in Montana Ice. We still have it actually, although it's been recovered now [I think he means in fabric, rather than by the bailiffs]. 'I was so gobsmacked to get credit from them that I went and found out where they got their finance from and approached that company directly for a loan. I got it too, which was scandalous.'
He tells me he spent so much time being persona non grata at the bank that when he finally started making money from comedy, it was a struggle to convince them of his change of fortune. 'When it did start turning around for me, the bank wouldn't believe me. I tried to pay a cheque in and got grilled. "Where exactly did you get this money, Sir?"' Did they think you were a drug dealer? It's his turn to fall about laughing. 'Do I look like a drug dealer? No, I think they thought I was in the City, behind some elaborate white-collar fraud. They thought I was Nick Leeson - and probably still do.'
Few big-hitters in the world of comedy have achieved overnight success - the likes of Billy Connolly, Jack Dee and Lee Evans slogged for years before making it big. McIntyre was no different, playing the odd night in grotty comedy clubs, driving the length of the country (turning only left, obviously) for the chance of an audience. Being nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Festival in 2003 should have kick-started his career, but he admits that it didn't, really. Nor did having the sort of comedy pedigree that no amount of money can buy.
Michael's father, Ray Cameron, was a comedy writer who, along with Barry Cryer, was responsible for the hit Kenny Everett TV shows in the late 1970s and 1980s. Even more impressive, his 'second father', as he calls him, was Everett himself. His father introduced his mother, Kati, a former dancer, to Everett and they became close friends. At functions, they would often be snapped together, and the young Michael grew up with people thinking Kenny was his dad.
When he was seven and his sister, Lucy, five, his parents split up and his father moved to the US. Just ten years later - 'before I'd really truly got a chance to know him' - Ray was dead. But it is the fact that his father had fallen on hard times before his death that McIntyre remembers most acutely. 'He died on Boxing Day. I was 17 and I remember that I had just learned how to drive and he was really upset that he couldn't afford to buy me my first car.
Michael McIntyre and wife Kitty
'He bought me a book about cars instead, which made me feel quite tearful. I went to bed that night feeling pretty good about it, and then, the next day, we got a call to say he'd died of a heart attack.' He says he has asked himself, endlessly, if he is in some way following in his father's comedy footsteps. 'But I honestly don't think so. It's not as if I ever thought lucidly, "This is my path." I don't even remember watching my dad's stuff on TV when I was a kid. We didn't watch comedy at all, come to think of it. Then, he wasn't around much after the divorce.'
McIntyre isn't much given to analysing his comedy act either. 'I don't watch other comics, deliberately, because if I did, I might start asking, "Why does that work?" and start analysing my own act. I don't do that. I have no idea why it works, but it does, and there is a sense of "tamper with it at your peril".'
It is curious that there was such a sudden turnaround in his fortunes, though. What changed? 'I became a father,' he says, suddenly serious. 'When my son, Lucas, was born four years ago, I looked at him and it all became glaringly obvious that I had to do something. I''d always believed I had it in me, but there was this sudden realisation that success wasn't just going to land in my lap. I remember standing there looking at him, imagining him saying, "You have me now. You have to provide for me. What do you mean, you are still renting? Hurry up, man!"
'It sounds corny, but it really did galvanise me into action. I sacked my management pretty much immediately, and signed myself up with a company that were going to help me. I discovered I could work seven nights a week - no one had told me that before - so I did. I worked my butt off, and gradually things turned around. I made it turn around. I don't want to sound cocky, but I worked very hard to make this happen.'
And here he is, holding court in a £1,000-a-night hotel suite, giggling at how things have turned out. 'This is amazing,' he admits, striding around the room. Even the blinds are remote-controlled. In another hotel my management company booked me into, there was a TV in the bathroom, except I didn't notice it for four days because I was facing the wrong way.'
So does he always get the five-star treatment? 'Oh, God, no. I was in a hotel in Sheffield the other night after a show and the man said, "Hello Mr McIntee, welcome to Sheffield. I've never heard of you. I had to Google you." Later, he told me to fix my own TV. I thought that was priceless. I've just played 10,000 people and now I'm sitting in a hotel room with a TV that doesn't work. I often think, "When is the glamour going to start?" The good thing about playing in London is I can go home after a show, but even then my wife won't let me get carried away. I'll walk in, on a high after this rapturous reception, and she'll say, "Oh, take the bins out, will you?"'
It sounds like his wife, with whom he now has a second son, 18-month-old Oscar, spends much of her time listening to his routines with a poker face. 'Oh yes, she's always getting subjected to it. She's seen her share of nervous breakdowns. But she's fantastic, because she is very hard to please. If she laughs at all, you know it's hilarious.' For all the paranoia and overt desperation to please, though, McIntyre is remarkably self-assured. He says he has always known he was funny, and even today, when he stands in the wings before going on stage, he'll often titter at things he has just thought of.
'Not jokes, exactly, just observational stuff. Life, really. It's terribly egotistical, but you have to be egotistical to be a comedian. To get on that stage means you must think you're the funniest guy on the planet. It's mad, really. We're all obviously quite nuts.'
It is often said that many of our top comedians are tortured souls. Can the same be said of him? 'I don't think I am. If anything, I'm the opposite. But I do worry about what would happen to me if something truly awful happened in my life. I don't know if I could continue being funny.' Quite what constitutes 'truly awful' is debatable. Would your house falling down count? Just in case it does, McIntyre has taken out prodigious amounts of insurance. 'The insurance company said to me, "No one actually needs this level of cover, Mr McIntyre." But I was oblivious. I am covered for everything you could possibly think of.'
What about a pension plan? 'My house is my pension,' he declares proudly, but you can see the terror in his eyes as he thinks of those bricks.
McIntyre shuns debt-collectors' gig Conscience costs him £28,000
Michael McIntyre has reportedly walked out of a corporate gig, the moment he realised he would be performing for hundreds of debt collectors. He lost a reputed £28,000 for withdrawing from the private bash at London’s O2 Arena just half an hour before it was due to start.
Before he hit the big time, McIntyre was £40,000 in debt, and would struggle to meet the rent – or even the Tube fare to get to gigs. However now his fortunes have reversed, and he recently bought a £3.2million in North London. Around 350 employees of Kent-based Cabot Financial Ltd, which made £13million profit chasing bad debts it buysfrom banks and credit card companies, were at the O2 gig, which cost an estimated £200,000 to put on.
A spokesman for the comic told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Michael was in debt himself and has a conscience, especially at this time of year.’
Interview with Michael McIntyre Celia Walden meets the comic who looks more like a private school sixth former.
2 Nov 2010
“Give me a pen,” instructs Michael McIntyre, holding out a palm. “I need to write that down – it’s funny. Very funny.” The 34-year-old comedian has garnered a vast fan base and made an estimated £10 million by finding a lot of fairly mundane things very funny. Where other comedians – the same comedians who criticise the Comedy Roadshow host for being “safe” and “mainstream” – seek out the joke, manufacture the humour or twist real life into something wacky or crude enough to prompt amusement, McIntyre just points at every day things and laughs.
In the fifteen minutes we have sat at our table in the Dean Street Townhouse in Soho, the comedian has twice been reduced to tears of laughter. First there was my Christian name, which in the join-the-dots mind of a humorist was quickly linked to the Simon and Garfunkel song – and from there to the absurdity of the song’s lyrics. “So this guy is lying in bed with Cecelia, and suddenly he decides to get out of bed and wash his face? What’s that about? No wonder someone’s 'taken his place’ by the time he gets back.” Then there’s the suit jacket he decided to wear to our interview. “I’ve been told I look like a banker, but I think it’s my face – do you?” There’s nothing banker like about his smart, larky face – although the ostentatious Rolex Daytona on his wrist might give people the wrong idea. Bling aside, he looks more like a private school sixth former on day release than the King of British Comedy.
Looks are a implicit part of McIntyre’s routine. You can’t base your shtick on the travails of everyman and not look like everyman. But behind the modest jokes lies a desire for self-improvement. The week before we meet, McIntyre is caught by the paparazzi working out with trainer to the A List, Matt Roberts, and his menu choices are as judicious as a Hollywood actress’s. “I’m just going to have the prawns and avocado starter,” he flips the menu shut with a sigh of resignation. I’m intrigued: has McIntyre’s begun to feel the pressures of celebrity? “No,” he scoffs. “But when I found myself buying XXXL sized shirts in Zara, I decided I’d like to lose at least one of those X’s. It’s a weird one: nobody notices when a brilliant comedian is fat or has sweat marks under their arms. Peter Kay isn’t in the best shape and neither is Ricky Gervais, and it doesn’t matter. Still, I like to feel like I’m transforming into something quite cool when I go on stage. I want to feel a bit more showbiz.” So he is feeling the pressure... “Well,” he laughs, “I just don’t want to be plump. I’ve got really nice teeth,” he unleashes great white racks of them at our startled waiter, “so I try to get them out as much as possible.” Shouldn’t comedians be imperfect to look at? “I don’t think so. Although maybe I do get some laughs because I look a bit odd and my head jiggles about all over the place.”
The temptations that come with fatherhood haven’t helped his size 0 quest. When McIntyre’s two boys (Lucas, five, and Oscar, three) – both of whom figure prominently in his routines alongside their mother, Kitty – don’t finish their food, he cleans their plates for them. “Actually I have been known to eat their food before they’ve even started it. Then my wife won’t finish hers and I’ll polish that off too. I’ve got some Jewish ancestry and I don’t like waste.”
McIntyre’s background is a complex one. His rich grandmother was Hungarian and his father – a Canadian television producer who went under the stage name Ray Cameron – moved to LA when he and his mother, Kati, split up. When she got together with the builder, Steve, who was doing up their house at the time, the family moved from their large Hampstead home to a smaller one in Golders Green. Around this time, McIntyre started “to riff on things” in his head. “I was only eleven, but I’d talk aloud, trying to make everything funny.” He grew into “a normal, deranged, adolescent, hormonal person,” whose friendships were based on him entertaining people. “Seeing as no girls were prepared to sleep with me, I was left with that. After a night out I would come back and analyse how funny I’d been.” When he found out, in his early twenties, that he could make people laugh for a living, he was thrilled. “Somehow I hadn’t realised that it could be a job.”
The gigs started coming in, but the women still stayed away. “It’s such a lie that women go for funny men. They would laugh at all my jokes and then say, 'you’re funny – now I’m going home with Mark.’ No,” he shakes his head dolefully. “Girls want good looking blokes who can also make them laugh, but they start with the good looking. They’re not as shallow as men but ultimately physical attraction wins out.” He didn’t do badly with his wife, Kitty, I point out, a beautiful blonde aromatherapist he met at Edinburgh University. “That’s true,” he nods. “But it took me two years to get her to see me as anything other than a friend.”
At the £3.7 million Hampstead home he bought with the advance he was paid for his new autobiography, Life and Laughing, he likes to try out new jokes on his wife. “She’ll be changing a nappy with the wipes in one hand and I’ll go up and say 'do you think it’s funny when...’ Then if she doesn’t laugh I’ll get really upset and we’ll have a flaming row.” Comedy is a serious business, and although he sometimes wakes himself up by laughing in his sleep, he admits to bouts of insecurity. “Sometimes I worry about things changing and people not liking me any more. As a comedian you do feel like you’re walking on a knife edge.”
He blames the Jongleurs époque – the seven year period in which he ran up debts of £30,000 putting on shows at the Edinburgh festival – for those occasional dips in confidence. “We’d be playing to rooms of fifty people and asking each other backstage 'Is anybody in tonight?’” By “anybody” they meant any journalists, producers or TV scouts – and McIntyre would crumble when the answer was “yes.” “One night, a load of critics came in and I completely froze. I couldn’t remember the words to any jokes. I died so horribly that at one point I threw myself to the floor.” Anyone who has ever witnessed the death of a comedian on stage knows that there is nothing worse. “It was excruciating,” he cringes. “Everyone was thinking: “He’s chosen to do this with his life and he’s shit at it.”
Comedians never quite lose that death wish, but over years of successful and unsuccessful gigs on cruise ships, in working men’s clubs and football clubs, McIntyre honed his craft. “You learn to keep six or seven jokes back for when things are going badly.” And when the room is laughing with you, he smiles, the feeling is unmatchable. “It feeds me. It’s magic, in a way, because you don’t know where it’s coming from or whether you’ll be able to reproduce it.”
McIntyre’s fans don’t seem to share those concerns: his Saturday prime-time BBC One show regularly draws 5 million viewers, and last year he sold out 54 arena shows and over 2 million copies of his DVD’s. It baffles him that anyone whinges about being famous. “Fame is amazing. People are so nice to you. The other day I got this massive fine and when I rang customer services there was no blink of recognition at my name. So I hung up and phoned back - eight times. Eventually this Geordie guy goes 'like the comedian? You are the comedian? Well I’m sure we can do something about that – my wife loves you.’”
What’s curious about McIntyre – and probably partly responsible for his success – is that there are no signs of anguish or bipolar tendencies beneath the surface. His cheer is infectious. “I don’t feel like there’s any art or craft to what I’m doing,” he says when I point this out. “It’s just about sharing something funny.” In a scarcely veiled swipe at McIntyre, Jo Brand recently called the new breed of British comedians “ambition boys”. Yet ambition isn’t something he feels ashamed of. “I never focused on making friends in comedy, just getting laughs. But I understand where people’s jealousies come from. If it was the other way round, I would find it tough too.” And for all the success, you never forget your worst review. “I was once called 'the equivalent of an M&S pullover: dependable and endurable, but nothing to get excited about.’ Those words stuck with me, but now I see the positives. M&S is very successful: they sell a lot of pullovers. I’ve even got a couple, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad review after all.”
THE WIFE BEHIND BRITAIN'S FUNNIEST MAN
Michael McIntyre, who is one of the best-paid around, with his 2012 tour expected to net about £25million, does not go in for “her indoors” gags but does like to playfully send up some of her indulgences. For instance, there’s his long spiel about when his wife decides to buy a dress for the British Comedy Awards (“no one should spend that much money on something you can’t drive”) and then confides she’d like to spend £500 on a clutch bag to go with it - “£500!” declares McIntyre in typically exaggerated exasperation. “For £500 I can hire a human being to walk alongside you holding your lipstick, your keys and your phone.”
The truth of the matter, though, is that Kitty McIntyre has pretty much madeth the man and her husband would be the first to admit it. Read McIntyre’s autobiography Life And Laughing (it’s very, very funny) and two main themes about his wife emerge. Firstly, the comic was pretty much obsessed with Kitty as soon as he clapped eyes on her at the age of 22 (“I was in love”). Secondly, that she has been his most steadfast support and encourager throughout his climb from penniless, drop-out student, to jobbing stand-up, to the comedy behemoth that he is today. Starting from tonight, McIntyre, 35, will also be a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, raising his profile still further.
“It’s her day job, basically, to believe in me,” says McIntyre, although it transpires that Kitty’s actual day job is as an aromatherapist as well as being mother to their young sons, Lucas and Oscar. In a recent interview McIntyre conceded that she “knows me better than I know myself” and admitted that: “I don’t think my career would have happened without her because I owe so much to her: for getting me through, for getting me focused.” The funny thing is that when the couple married in 2003, the big day merited a mention in a newspaper’s social diary column on the basis of the bride rather than the groom. Kitty is the third and youngest daughter of Simon Ward, the veteran actor who was the Hugh Grant of his day after he played Churchill in Richard Attenborough’s epic film Young Winston.
This also makes Kitty the younger sister of the actress and former Vogue cover girl Sophie Ward who made headlines in 1996 when she announced after eight years of marriage that she was, in fact, attracted to women. She went on to have a civil ceremony with writer Rena Brannan. In the modest write-up of Kitty and Michael’s wedding - held in the grounds of Combe Florey, the ancestral Somerset home of writer Evelyn Waugh - McIntyre did get a mention as “one of the most promising new comedians on this year’s Fringe” but he also has some showbiz in his blood. His father Ray Cameron, who died when he was 17, co-wrote Kenny Everett’s Television Show and his stunning Hungarian dancer mother Kati became Everett’s best friend.
So it was not Kitty’s starry connections which overawed McIntyre on their first meeting but, quite simply, Kitty herself. (“She wasn’t just beautiful with her blonde hair and her English rose complexion: she worked it, she knew what she was doing.”) The reason the pair met was because McIntyre - privately educated until sixth form when his parents divorced and his dad’s business had gone downhill - had just dropped out of Edinburgh University after writing a Woody Allen-style film script. He was over-optimistically touting it around to agents and even, somewhat prematurely, casting his lead roles. Nothing ever came of the film but McIntyre’s sister Lucy said she knew a girl who was starting out in acting and would be perfect: Kitty Ward.
As soon as he saw her, he was smitten. As he puts it: “She was the girl I had been looking for. In the romantic comedy that was my life, this would have made a good ending. We would fall happily ever after. Within moments of seeing her and chatting to her I was totally up for that ending. Unfortunately, she wasn’t.” Kitty’s reluctance was not because their first date didn’t go well. It did, apart from McIntyre’s slightly bewildered response to being served sorbet in between courses at the swanky north London restaurant they went to. “I’m sorry,” a confused McIntrye said to the waiter. “We haven’t had our main course yet and, anyway, we didn’t order ice-cream.”
The problem was that McIntyre, a late starter who had only had “one sexual experience” before this, was somewhat over-keen. “I phoned her so many times that my behaviour could only be described as creepy.” McIntyre’s “stalkerish” manner of wooing Kitty takes up page after hilarious page in his book and it is when Kitty calls him to say good luck after he decides to try his hand at stand-up that his resolve is crystallised. “I suddenly felt that my life was now full of ambition. I had goals, to be a stand-up and to make Kitty fall in love with me.”
It took two years before Kitty succumbed but she did, to McIntyre’s unadulterated glee. His proposal of marriage was only slightly marred by the fact that when he was whipping out the ring in another swanky restaurant, the actor Richard “One Foot In The Grave” Wilson walked in, so “will you marry me” was drowned out by the cries of waiters yelling “I don’t believe it!” at their famous guest. It took slightly longer for McIntyre to crack the comedy circuit, however, but all the while Kitty remained his biggest supporter, even at his lowest point when slugging away at the stand-up gigs was offering up little reward. McIntyre’s book is full of such indebted phrases as “Kitty, typically positive and wise” and “Kitty believed in me but no one else did”.
Her first pregnancy was also “a fertile source of material” and it was when their first son was born in 2005 (when the pair were more than £30,000 in debt) that McIntyre realised he needed to get his big break. He promptly switched agents to one of the biggest in the business - Addison Cresswell, who looks after Jonathan Ross and Jack Dee - who got him out of the clubs and on television and, in particular, the Royal Variety Performance. From there it was straight up into the comedy stratosphere and McIntyre had made it: big time.
Now when the comedian says things like “the reality of my life was something I wouldn’t have dared to dream of” it is obvious that he isn’t just talking about his incredible career. He is speaking about Kitty, who also remains a constant source of material. Take the one about Valentine’s Day cards. “You have to come up with this stuff every year,” McIntyre moans on stage. “Last week I just wrote ‘I still love you. See last year’s card for full details’.” In reality, Kitty must have a stack piled high of them.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum You can attach files in this forum You can download files in this forum