Michael McIntyre on Irish jokes, coping with Justin Bieber levels of fame, and who makes his face hurt from laughing
Michael McIntyre’s Big World Tour comes to Dublin’s 3Arena from Thursday 7th – Sunday 10th June
After a gap of three years, English comedian, actor and TV presenter Michael McIntyre is returning to the live arena with his Big World Tour. The most successful comedian in UK, he has broken box office records all over the world, but far from being jaded he’s as excited as ever to hit the live circuit.
“I’m so excited about it!” he says. “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?”
Among his dates are a series at Dublin’s 3Arena and he reveals that he will have some tailor-made Irish jokes for the audience. Previously he cracked the Comedy Roadshow audience up with his ‘Irish recognition scanner’ gag.
“I remember that joke,” he says. “When I was coming to Dublin to film the Comedy Roadshow, I came a day or two early to try to immerse myself in Dublin life to have some local jokes and before I even got on the plane in London an Irish man at security asked me to go in the ‘Iris’ recognition scanner which sounded like ‘Irish’ recognition scanner. I haven’t had to go in one before or since, I don’t even know if they still exist. That was a gift.
“I’m on a World Tour at the moment and try in every place to make local jokes, so I will be on the lookout when I come to Dublin. With a bit of luck airport security can come up with something for me again.”
McIntyre’s infectious sense of exuberant joy is what makes his shows so exhilarating. His philosophy is very simple: get on stage and try to make people laugh their socks off for two solid hours. He 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.”
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," he says.
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. His wife and two boys often come in for some gentle ribbing too.
McIntyre, who has sold over 1.5 million tickets in the UK alone, adds, “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 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 that, “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.”
However, 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!’”
Michael, 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”.
He admits that, “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.”
He praises Irish audiences, “They have always been amazing and I think the 3Arena is one of the best to play in the world. The arena actually feels like a theatre but has 9,000 people in it, 9,000 Irish people which is even better. It’s a gig I really look forward to.”
The comedian, who 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, adds that, “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.”
He outlines some of the topics he will be covering in his new show, and he says his family will feature again.
“I always talk about my two boys [Lucas 13, and Oscar, 11]. 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’!”
However, he says they have yet to take umbrage with being the subject of his jokes.
“I think the kids understand that I’m a comedian who makes jokes about life and they’re a huge part of my life so they will inevitably feature in my material,” he says. “My wife was ok with my jokes about her farting in the night so I figure anything goes. Although I keep getting all these emails about changes to privacy laws, I hope my wife doesn’t update her privacy settings with me, then I will have a lot of new material to write.”
Those ‘farting in the night’ jokes might not feature so heavily in Big World Tour, however.
“[My wife] seems in the clear at the moment. She’s had it quite bad in the past,” he says.
“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; “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!”
However, he 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, he 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!”
Given the scale of his success, and recognisability across the globe, one might wonder how he copes with Justin Bieber levels of fame and going about mundane everyday tasks like buying a pint of milk.
“I certainly don’t have anything like a Justin Bieber level of fame,” he protests. “Girls don’t scream at me, my wife screams at me but it’s less ‘I love you’ and more ‘Why don’t you put your plate in the dishwasher and not next to the dishwasher?’
“I have never had any issues buying milk. I once went to the newsagents to buy a magazine because I was on the front cover and I held it up next to my face to show the shop assistant that it was the real me. He didn’t react at all and just said ‘£2.80’, which was the price of the magazine.
“But when people do approach me I have to say I love it. I love meeting people and chatting. I often chat too much to be honest and they are the ones who say they have to get going.”
Despite his protestations, he is phenomenally successful. He’s 42 years old and has already published a best-selling autobiography (Life & Laughing, in 2010) and is a regular face on TV from the BBC’s Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and Michael McIntyre's Easter Night At The Coliseum to being a judge on ITV’s Britain's Got Talent.
Outside of his success in the UK, he reveals, “I’m one of 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-viz 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!”
He continues that, “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.’
“’My face hurts’ is a particular favourite.” As for who makes his face hurt, he says, “I love Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm and growing up I was a big fan of Billy Connolly. But it’s mainly my family and friends who make me laugh.”
Michael McIntyre’s Big World Tour comes to Dublin’s 3Arena from Thursday 7th – Sunday 10th June. For tickets see www.ticketmaster.ie