And may your God go with you

Dave Allen dies at 68

Tributes have been pouring in for Dave Allen, who died in his sleep at the age of 68.

Sitting on his stool, glass of whiskey in his hand, the Irish comic was a trailblazer for the modern school of stand-up; basing his routines around his own personal experiences and passions.

His Catholic upbringing loomed large in his material, and the only topic he returned too more often than the hypocrisy of the Church was the ridiculousness of the English language.

Comics from both sides of the so-called alternative-traditional divide paid tribute to him last night, showing how his appeal spanned the generations.

Among them were:

Eddie Izzard: "He was an original. He carved his own path. I think he was the first alternative stand-up to have his own show on TV and he was a torchbearer for all the excellent Irish comics who have followed in recent years."

Rik Mayall: "I'm deeply saddened to hear of Dave Allen's death. He was an absolute hero from childhood."

Barry Cryer: "He was so serious and committed, but he proved you could be serious and funny - he was our Bill Hicks.  He was a lovely man.

Dylan Moran: "He was the uncle to end all uncles, childlike yet oracular and possessed of a ravenous appetite for human folly. When he adjusted his waistcoat or shot his cuffs, dragons of unreason gasped and died at his feet. "

Roy Walker: "He was the greatest comedian since the war. He was better than Jackie Mason and Bob Hope and all those guys.  He had a tremendous warmth and he was one of the few who could cross over from joke-teller to modern-day comedian."

Jack Dee: "He influenced the world of comedy as a whole. He was unique - right up there with the greats like Morecambe and Wise.He was so sophisticated and cool and didn't need to act like a clown to be funny."

BBC creative director Alan Yentob: "There was no one like him - the stool, the smile, the cigarette, the hand gesture, the slow burn. He was a master storyteller, a real original."

Jimmy Tarbuck: “He produced a brand of irreverent comedy that was totally his own – it was wonderful."

BBC's head of comedy Jon Plowman: "He was a groundbreaker in many ways, particularly in the jokes and sketches that had a go at religion."

Vivienne Clore, his agent: "He was just a lovely, lovely man. He was absolutely the same in real life as he was on the television. You always felt that he had made a special effort to know everything about you."

Allen was born David Tynan O'Mahoney at Tallaght, near Dublin, on July 6 1936. After school in the Irish capital he went into journalism, like many of his relatives, starting on the Irish Independent.

At the age of 20, he came to London to try to find work on Fleet Street, but couldn’t – so entered Butlins in Skegness as a redcoat instead. It was there he changed his name to Allen to ensure top billing on the alphabetical list.

He got his first break on the BBC talent show New Faces in 1959,and I n 1961 he toured his stand-up routine around England and France with a then unknown band called The Beatles.

His fame first grew in Australia, in 1963, where he hosted a live TV chat show. Back in Britain, it was   guest spots on the Val Doonican Show that made his name.

It led to various series of his own, on both the BBC and ITV, running from 1967 to 1994 and mixing his sit-down stand-up with sketches.  The strong language he used often caused controversy, and a four-letter word he uttered on TV in January 1990 was raised in the House of Commons. Mary Whitehouse denounced him as "offensive, indecent and embarrassing".

Smoking was a trademark part of his routine, but Allen quit his 60-a-day habit in the Eighties, explaining: "I was fed up with paying people to kill me."

He was also famous for missing the tip of one of his fingers, and he invented various tall tales as to how it happened. And when he was asked, “Are you the Irish comedian with half a finger?" he replied, “No, I'm the Irish comedian with nine and a half fingers.”

Allen retired from performing in 1999, ending his broadcast career with a rare interview for BBC Radio 4, but still received offers and was reportedly considering a project at the time of his death.

He once said that he wanted his gravestone to read: "Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me never - I'm going to do nothing for ever and ever."

He leaves a wife, Karin, and three children.


Published: 12 Mar 2005

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