An Interview with Michael McIntyre
After a gap of three years, Michael McIntyre is returning to the live arena. The most successful comedian in the country, he is delighted to be coming back to stand-up comedy with his huge new ‘Big World Tour’…
We are chatting in the run-up to the UK leg of the ‘Big World Tour’, and Michael McIntyre is just as funny off stage as he is on it. An hour in his company simply flies by and is punctuated by gales of hearty laughter. He is a supremely uplifting, invigorating and entertaining presence.
The multi-award winning comic, who has broken box office records all over the world, seems thrilled about the forthcoming tour. “I’m so excited about it!” Michael beams. “Stand-up comedy is what I do, and it’s so rewarding. If you write a joke and tell it to an audience of 15,000 people who laugh their heads off at it, it’s the best feeling in the world… What more could you ever want?”
McIntyre is without doubt the most popular stand-up in the UK. What makes his shows so exhilarating is the sheer joy he pours into them. He loves his work, and that passion is contagious. His audience can’t help but be swept along by his infectious brand of comedy.
His comedic philosophy is very simple: get on stage and try to make people laugh their socks off for two solid hours. Michael muses: “But this is comedy. We are trying to make people laugh here. So, let’s be really silly for two hours. That’s where I come in.”
“Widely loved routines”
He goes on to explain how his comedy has developed over the years. “My show is about silliness and exaggerated stories. I like jokes where people don’t stop laughing. I want that all the time. I don’t just like to use punchlines anymore, especially in arenas. They freak me out. There is nothing worse than 15,000 people waiting for a punchline. You’re standing there thinking, ‘I hope I remember the punchline.’ But once you start to think that, you immediately forget it. I much prefer getting into that sense of rolling laughter. When you get that right, there’s no better feeling.”
Over the years, Michael’s most memorable routines have invariably prompted that sense of rolling laughter. He has an uncanny knack for finding the funny in his accounts of the most apparently mundane things: “I sometimes reflect on my own life on stage and no one laughs, but you have to have faith in it and hope that people will laugh. It’s fantastic when you suddenly get those moments and they resonate with everyone.”
In the past those moments have included such widely loved routines as the “man drawer” and “herbs and spices.” They have struck a universal chord. A comedian who, thanks to such wondrous material, has sold over 1.5 million tickets in the UK alone. Michael notes that: “We’re all living the same lives. I highlight something that people haven’t really thought about before. They realise we all do the same thing, and it makes them laugh. When I hit those moments, it creates a very big laugh indeed.”
The enormous popularity of those routines persuaded Michael to open his last show with a film of members of the public retelling his most famous jokes. He recalls: “People would say to me, ‘Every time I do that, I think of you.’ As a comedian, that’s what you like to hear. It’s very gratifying.”
“The atmosphere is amazing”
However, he continues with a laugh, not everyone pays heed to his jokes. “I did a joke about the daily struggle to get your kids to put their coats on, and my children still refuse to do it. I say to them, ‘Put your coat on. I did a joke about this on the telly, and it’s gone viral. It’s got 5 million hits, and still you’re resisting!’”
McIntyre, who as well as playing UK and Ireland is revisiting Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and Norway and travelling for the first time to America, Canada, Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands, is especially looking forward to playing arenas on the “Big World Tour”: “I used to be daunted by the prospect of performing in an arena. Before a show, I would look out at the huge audience and think, ‘Great, what’s on tonight? Oh my God, it’s me!’ But having played so many arenas now, I can see that there is something rather magical about them.
“I recently played a big room with an audience of 3000 people and no screens. That made me realise that screens can be really helpful. They can make the performance very intimate and help you see the subtlety of the stand-up’s facial expressions. In a large theatre, you can’t always see the nuances of the performance.”
The comedian has delivered a record-breaking 28 performances at London’s 16,000 capacity O2 Arena where, after matching the achievements of Prince, Take That and One Direction, he was given the keys to the venue in 2015: “Some people say, ‘You might as well watch an arena performance on TV’ But it’s not the same. An arena show is live, it’s not an edited TV programme. Things will be happening in the room that night which will never happen again. When you’re there, the atmosphere is amazing and you’re surrounded by people really laughing. Nothing beats that. Rather than being frightened by that, I really feed off it and enjoy the fact that each night is a one-off. It’s everyone’s special night out and I have the privilege of sharing that with them and I work hard to make it the best night it can be.”
As he has done so often in the past, Michael will also be focusing on his family in “Big World Tour”. “I always talk about my two boys. That’s an ever-evolving subject. They’re amazing. They’re doing very well, and I’m very proud of them. But that changes every day – talk to me tomorrow and I may give you a different story. But I will definitely be doing jokes about my oldest getting a little bit teenager-y. The way he says ‘sorr-ee’ is hilarious. He has an amazing ability to say the word ‘sorry’ in every way other than the one which means ‘sorry’!”
The comic, whose BBC1 programme Michael McIntyre’s Big Show has been a monster hit, winning the Best Entertainment Performance BAFTA award last year and averaging over 6 million viewers per episode, regularly beating The X Factor, says his wife may not feature in “Big World Tour” as much as she has in previous shows.
“She seems in the clear at the moment. She’s had it quite bad in the past. That was never clearer than when went to the Royal Box at Wimbledon. At one point, Prince William walked past. He stopped and said, ‘Hello, Michael’. Then he turned to my wife and said, ‘So you’re the one in all the jokes’. Prince William has been watching jokes about my wife farting at night! But things are looking pretty good for her in this show.”
Michael will be talking about his new puppy, too. He reveals: “We’ve got a trainer who trains the dog to stay away from you. The most trained dog you can get is the dog you don’t get to see!”
He will also be discussing his country house. “It’s our dream home that we haven’t been to for several months! We have a security system where I can watch the house on my phone. So I can look at my dream house and move the cameras, but what I can’t do is live in it! We have made our own personal paradise there. We’re very lucky, it’s got everything we want, but unfortunately we can’t have that in London, so we have got to enjoy it in the middle of nowhere!”
The stand-up, who has hosted the Royal Variety Performance twice, confesses that his lovely country house comes with a few inbuilt problems. “There is constant anxiety. There is continual tension about the plumbing and electrics. Every time I turn on the hot tap, I’m fearful: will the water warm up or not? You start to kid yourself that it is heating up, but of course it’s not. And whenever I turn the light on, I expect the whole house to go up. It’s quite old, so when you flush the loo, it makes noises for the next 24 hours in the weirdest places I stand there thinking – ‘We’ve got a pipe in there!’”
Michael has also come up with a solution for his resident eyesore: the septic tank. “I have surrounded it with fairy lights and put a statue on top of it. It looks very nice now, so you forget it’s there.”
The comic has put out four best-selling DVDs through Universal Pictures (UK) – Live and Laughing in 2008, Hello Wembley in 2009 (which became the fastest-selling UK stand-up DVD of all time), 2012’s Showtime and 2015’s Happy & Glorious, both of which became Christmas DVD best-sellers. All in all, Michael has sold an eye-watering 3.5 million DVDs.
He jokes that he often watches DVDs at his country house: “Because if I download a movie there, it won’t be ready till next Christmas. By October 23, it will be 62% downloaded. We are still downloading The Hobbit from last Christmas!”
“Try to make them laugh as hard as possible”
Back to the world tour and Michael has a particular fondness for visiting Norway. He jokes: “I’m one of the the biggest acts in Norway! Who knew?! I’m playing to 7000 people in Oslo in 2019, and the show has already sold out. I think they come along to practice their English and laugh, even if it’s just to pretend to their partner that they get the joke. But what I really like about Norway is that I can’t read the reviews because they’re all in Norwegian. That’s such a breakthrough. At least it was until I was flying out of the country and some bloke at the airport in a high-vis jacket came over and said, ‘Sorry about the review, man’. So I had to get the review translated sentence by sentence on Google Translate!”
Finally, Michael reflects on what he would like audiences to take away from his “Big World Tour”. “I would like them to take away the programme, the merchandise and the motivation not to write a bad review which I will read in the car home! In all seriousness, what I do is so silly. It helps when you remind yourself that it’s all very silly. I try not to get overawed by people staring at me – tomorrow they’ll be staring at something else. They just want to have a laugh. So I try to make them laugh as hard as possible for as long as possible and give them the opportunity to say to each other on the way home, ‘That was hilarious. My face hurts.’