Michael McIntyre talks about being famous and handling hecklers
He’s the floppy-haired, upper middle-class comedian known for his flamboyant nature and ability to pack out stadiums with humorous tales of his daily life and family. Stereotypically British, Michael McIntyre’s outlandish and observational comedy often divides opinion. But love him or loathe him, audiences can’t resist seeing a grown man skip and twirl across a stage.
His stand-up made him the highest grossing comedian in 2012 and in the same year, he played to more than 700,000 people and performed for a record-breaking 10 nights at the O2 Arena in London. Proving his popularity, McIntyre has hosted his own BBC TV series’ Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and The Michael McIntyre Chat Show, he has featured in Live at the Apollo and, in 2011, was a judge on UK TV series Britain’s Got Talent. But despite this success in TV, the star says he still prefers the stage, and testament to this is his previous ‘Showtime’ tour, which included a sold-out stop in Dubai in 2013, and was the biggest-selling comedy tour in the world. ‘It’s more fun to do what I’ve always done on a stage. I found sitting in a chair was a little bit restricting,’ he says.
Success first came to the 39-year-old in 2006, when he performed at the Royal Variety Performance. Unlike other comedians, McIntyre says he only really developed an interest in comedy when he was at university after watching endless Woody Allen movies. ‘Weirdly, my earliest memory is when I was about 21. I don’t know what I was doing before then, but I remember watching Woody Allen and that was the moment something resonated and I just thought, “This is hilarious”.’
The comedian has risen through the ranks to become one of the best-known faces in British comedy and has amassed more than Dhs115 million in just two years. ‘It was very exciting and sort of a whirlwind when things started to take off,’ he says. ‘Now, I just try and stay here; keep my audience on side. Things have really settled down, which I kind of like.’
McIntyre is hitting the road again as he prepares to tour the UK and Ireland with his new show ‘Happy & Glorious’ from August – with support from UK comic, radio and TV presenter Paul Tonkinson, known for his role on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast – and says he isn’t phased by the long hours and early mornings that will likely ensue. In fact, he says, he doesn’t even need to set an alarm. ‘I feel so lucky and fortunate to be able to wake up naturally. Being woken up by an alarm clock and dragging yourself out of bed – that’s really hard. But having said that, I’m only working three nights a week because I still need to live my life.’ In the spirit of living his life to the full, McIntyre has been bringing his wife Kitty and two sons to Dubai on holiday each New Year’s Eve for the past six years. ‘My family and I love Dubai. The weather is almost strangely perfect. I’ve never seen a cloud, it’s a novelty. The only thing that frightens me is the driving,’ he laughs. ‘Literally, people can’t drive, they seem to think there is a lane where there isn’t one. The braking distances in Dubai are the smallest in the world… in a city famed for having the biggest things in the world.’
Returning to these shores on Friday June 12 and Saturday 13, McIntyre will give UAE crowds a taste of his brand-new show, and he says he’s ‘thrilled’ to be coming back. ‘I’ve got all-new jokes, it’s funnier… I’ve gone onto another level,’ he reveals, which he hopes will not only win over the UAE crowd, but will also please a notoriously tougher to crack London audience. ‘They’re quite spoilt because they have a lot of entertainment options,’ he says. ‘They’re a good crowd, but they can be slightly tough. In the UAE, though, there’s more of an atmosphere because it’s more exciting for the audience to have [well-known] comedians perform.’
McIntyre recently documented his love for Dubai in his televised BBC show, Michael McIntyre’s Easter Night at the Coliseum, in London, when he opened the show with tales of a family trip. The comic re-enacted moving parasols to keep his children in the shade, which he hilariously demonstrated by rolling across the stage. ‘Everything can be funny,’ he says. ‘I just have to look hard enough. I never focus on areas where I think I’ll find comedy, I just keep talking, really, until I say something funny.’
It is this precise ability to make everyday mundane tasks humorous that makes McIntyre not only likeable, but at the top of his game. ‘I’m laughing all the time. That’s my life. I’d say funny things when I was a kid, especially in a classroom where it’s like you have an audience. Obviously it wasn’t set up in the way I would have chosen; I’d have had a microphone and a spotlight,’ he laughs. Not surprisingly, McIntyre is quite the exhibitionist. At a recent London show, he arrived on stage with the cast of West End musical, Anything Goes. Somehow, though, he manages to be so without being irritating, perhaps, he says, because Londoners aren’t so easily pleased. ‘People don’t really care in London. So many people completely ignore you and it actually makes me panic a bit. I think, “My goodness, no-one likes me anymore. What do I have to do?” I’m totally left alone to the point where it’s a bit of a worry.’
But outside of the UK capital it’s a different story; something the comedian is thankful for and perhaps even slightly relishes. ‘When I go outside of London I feel famous again; I feel like a star,’ he laughs. ‘I say to the kids, “Oh look, these people really want to meet me”. But they can’t understand it.’ Despite being a celebrity in his own right, though, he says he can still get star-struck in the presence of footballers. ‘I went to a football match at Christmas in Dubai, Real Madrid were playing AC Milan. I kept hearing whisperings that Ronaldo was staying in our hotel and if we heard that he was in the gym or at the beach, we’d go in search of him, but we never saw him. For some reason footballers are like superheroes to me,’ he admits.
But that’s not to say that he doesn’t keep other famous company, and he counts the likes of Simon Cowell as a friend. ‘I just collect famous people’s numbers,’ he says. ‘I don’t know why, but it seems quite fun to have famous people in your phone. Although I accidently text Dr Who, Matt Smith, instead of my actual doctor. I saved his number under ‘Dr Who’, which was a hilarious mix up… and a potential hazard.’
But what’s no longer a ‘potential hazard’ for McIntyre is hecklers. ‘That’s the thrill of playing bigger rooms; you can’t really hear them anyway! And when people have paid to come and see me, hecklers are just a bit unnecessary. Once there was a woman shouting and being loud and I don’t need to deal with that stuff anymore, so I just had her removed,’ he laughs. Michael McIntyre Happy & Glorious, Dhs350-1,000. June 12-13. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.donevents.com.