It’s been over a decade since the infectiously jovial British comedian Michael McIntyre bounced onto the stage at the Royal Variety Performance and launched into stardom. Since his big break, the record-breaking, stadium-filling stand up has brought audiences to tears with his hilarious and relatable observations on everyday life, often centred around his long-suffering wife Kitty and two sons, Oscar and Lucas. And now the sharply-dressed, quick-witted 41-year-old is set to touch down in Hong Kong this November 27 and 28 as part of his brand new ‘Big World Tour’. Naturally, we jumped at the chance to grab five minutes with him.
Countless impressions of his wife putting on her tights, falling into the dishwasher and emerging with pasta and peas on her face, and farting in her sleep are among McIntyre’s most famous sketches that have sent audiences into fits of laughter and catapulted him to immense popularity among the masses. Then there’s that terrible misunderstanding of the ‘pants down’ game that he plays with his kids that got him into trouble with one unimpressed, burly father. The list of anecdotes goes on.
There’s no doubt about it, McIntyre is first and foremost a family guy, and the first to admit that he wouldn’t have an act without them. “My children have given me endless material”, he tells Localiiz. “I mean, I have jokes about getting my wife pregnant, and then jokes about her pregnancy, followed by jokes about them being babies, and now jokes about their whole life, so it’s comedy that’s come all the way from then through to when they leave home. Maybe one day I’ll just do a tour of all my kids’ jokes.”
And how does his family feel about being the butt of his jokes? “Oh, they’re really fine about it, and I explain to the kids that it’s just comedy and exaggeration – although they don’t like it when I make jokes about my wife”, he confesses. “I had this one joke in my last tour [watch below] which was a little bit cheeky, but she was absolutely fine with it. It was about farting in your sleep, and people were loving it because they were relating to it I presume – I mean that’s why they laugh. She really didn’t care at all, but honestly Ozzy [his youngest] was livid, and thought it was really mean, [chuckles] he was like, “Why are you saying mean things about my mum?”
Fart jokes aside, it’s abundantly clear just how much McIntyre adores his little clan, who he says have given him motivation over the years. In fact, despite always knowing that he wanted to do comedy, it wasn’t until the birth of his first son, Lucas – when he was up to his eyeballs in debt and slogging away on the circuit – that he got the jolt he needed and started taking it very seriously. “I didn’t want his first words to be critical, I didn’t want them to be, ‘Why didn’t you wait a few more years to have me? You weren’t ready’. I just remember him lying in his basket in the middle of the living room and thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god, here’s this tiny, fragile person who doesn’t really do anything yet and who won’t speak for a year or two’, and I thought, ‘Well I’ve got until then to sort things out’.”
Rather surprisingly, criticism is a topic that pops up several times during our “chit-chat” (another McIntyre-ism) as we discuss his rapid rise to fame. Ironically, it seems that his infectiously bubbly nature, which has made him a cherished household name to half the nation, is the very same thing that appears to irritate the other half.
“I’m definitely jovial”, he giggles. “I do talk too much sometimes, and I always regret it. I know that as I walk away from people they’re like, ‘Wow, he’s a bit weird’. Sometimes I’m a bit too animated, but it’s all because of the routines I’m working on and stuff. But I’m not one of those people who just gets really depressed and serious. There are a lot of serious comedians and I’ve met a lot of them now, and well – I don’t know, I’m just not like that at all.”
It’s clear that Michael isn’t big on misery either, often using somewhat tragic situations to create amusing anecdotes for the stage. There was a time during his hard up days when he and Kitty would cook their food in a microwave he found in a skip, then turn it on its side to use as a dinner table. Then there are his “teenagey” sons who can’t quite seem to escape him. “They’re basically trying to get away from us”, he laughs. “I mean that’s what happens to people, they grow up and they have to leave, but they seem to be trying to leave already. When we’re walking down the street, they walk really far ahead, and when I drop them off a school they want to be dropped off further and further away. We barely got in the car the other day and Lucas [his 12-year-old] asked, ‘Can I just get out here?’. I hadn’t even started driving yet, [giggles] I mean, I’ve got to drive towards the school first, so that’s really annoying and upsets me greatly – but it’s all comedy.”
It seems like nothing can knock McIntyre down, not even the criticism he’s received from some of his peers and those with alternative tastes who feel he plays it “too safe” by steering away from crass humour and profanity. But was this ever really a conscious decision? “I don’t think so, I just don’t think I ever want to upset anyone, because people have been rude about me and I think to myself, ‘That’s a bit unnecessary’, and I don’t want to be like that. I mean, I came up with a joke the other night about Teresa May, but I don’t really want to do it because it’s rude and not very nice, and it just makes me feel uncomfortable. And she’ll never even see the joke [laughs], but I’d hate to think of her going, ‘Oh that’s not very nice’. Having said that, watching the telly with my wife, I can be pretty brutal about people.”
As for rarely dropping the f-bomb, well there is the watershed aspect of his TV show to consider – that and the fact that he doesn’t feel the need to resort to lewd words for his jokes to hit the mark. “Because I do a TV show that’s pre-watershed, people unfortunately think, ‘Oh he never swears’, but the problem I have is that I swear more when I’m in the creative stage of making the show”, he explains. “So my first warm-up is basically only profanity, and as it gets more and more funny on its own, I feel the jokes can stand up without me hammering them home with the F word.”
But does this judgement ever get to him? “At the beginning I would think, ‘Oh I didn’t expect that’, but it doesn’t really affect me anymore at all, there are people far more successful than me getting all sorts of nonsense. And that’s just the nature of success, people will try to knock you down.”
And that’s why we love him. Take him or leave him, there’s no denying that McIntyre is a master of comic storytelling and a roaring success – not only that, he’s a bloody nice bloke too. Who else could fill the same arena as Beyoncé and Rihanna and still fret about whether they can make it over to my hometown in England to perform for my mum who is their biggest fan – after me that is, of course!
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