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My Salute to Dave Allen

Dave Allen is one of the few entertainers in the world I consider an artist. A master in the craft of storytelling, he can entertain for hours armed with nothing more than a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and an arsenal of jokes in his head.

I discovered him many years ago when the local PBS station ran his BBC series, "Dave Allen At Large". The show consisted of an Irishman in a three-piece suit sitting on a bar stool in the center of a bare stage telling jokes. It may sound like a boring concept, but "Dave Allen At Large" was one of the funniest shows I have ever seen.

Dave Allen once said that his sense of humor is comprised of five subjects: "Life, Death, Drinking, Religion, and the English". That gives him a lot to work with, and he uses it well. Many times, it's not the punchline of his jokes but the delivery of them that leave you rolling with laughter. I have yet to see even the worst joke the man could not make hysterically funny.

From "Dave Allen at Large":

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Then there are the skits (what he calls "quickies"), short comedy sketches performed by Dave and his ensemble cast of players. They can be about anything from cowboys in an old west saloon to a Priest officiating at a funeral or baptism -- but all of them are cleverly written and well-executed bits of comedy that round out the experience that is Dave Allen.

Skit Photos from "Dave Allen at Large":

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Thanks for the laughter, Dave. I appreciate it more than you know.

The following information is provided courtesy of Vivienne Clore of the Richard Stone Partnership (Dave Allen's agent):

Dave Allen was born David Tynan O’Mahony in July 1936, son of a leading Irish journalist. His career began 19 years later when, for no apparent reason, he decided to become a professional entertainer.

The next four years were spent working all over the country in night clubs, variety, summer seasons, pantomimes, and occasional radio. In 1959, he made his first television appearance in a BBC production, New Faces. He remembers, "I was given three minutes, told to relax, take your time, and above all be yourself. It was the longest, most terrifying three minutes of my life".

In 1962, he toured South Africa with the legendary Sophie Tucker, whom he considers "one of the most charming and delightful performers I have ever worked with."

In early 1963, while doing a nightclub and television tour of Australia, Dave was contracted to host a late night show. What began as an eight-week season became an 18-month stay. Tonight with Dave Allen was one of the most successful television shows ever seen in Australia.

At the end of 1964, Dave, against the advice of many people, returned to England comparatively unknown, but within a month of his return he appeared on the ATV television show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, the stars being none other than The Beatles - "Old friends," he said. "We toured together as unknowns in 1961." This one appearance led to others, the most important being a 13-week season with fellow Irishman, Val Doonican.

Within a year of his return from Australia, Dave was offered one of the most coveted positions on television - Compère to the Palladium Show. In between television appearances, he was touring the top nightclubs, culminating with a six-week season at The Talk of the Town, where he has since appeared several times.

In 1968, Tonight with Dave Allen was back, this time on British television. Dave became known for his involvement with his guests in funny, informative and often extremely dangerous situations. It became one of the most unusual shows on television. "I think a great number of viewers turned on wondering if this was the night they would see me kill myself."

By mid-1969, he made a complete break from comedy and entered the television documentary field. It was during this year that the major cities of America were suffering both social and racial problems, and this was the theme of a film.

"We spent nine weeks in New York filming and speaking to all sections of the society, from the battered alcoholics, both men and women of Skid-Row, to police undercover squads, drug pushers, psychiatrists and extreme militant groups from all racial backgrounds. The end result was a programme aptly titled The Melting Pot."

In 1971, BBC2 offered him a chance to do the type of comedy show he had wanted to do for years, a break from the usual format - no singers, no big bands, no show business paraphernalia - just a stool, a glass and a cigarette, talking to the camera, interspersed with quick sketches. For the next 15 years, Dave Allen at Large was one of the BBC’s top-rated comedy shows. It was also one of the few British comedy shows not only to have achieved worldwide sales but to be shown behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1972, another ambition was realised. He was offered a straight acting part in the Royal Court’s production of Edna O’Brien’s play, A Pagan Place.

In 1973, after completing another series for BBC2, Dave returned to Australia as one of the international cast of entertainers to appear at the long-awaited opening of the Sydney Opera House. This was followed by two television specials for Australian television and a one-man concert tour of New Zealand.

Dave returned not only to England but to the legitimate stage. He doubled as Mr Darling and the infamous Captain Hook to Maggie Smith’s Peter Pan at the London Coliseum.

1974 was spent mostly in the top clubs in England, followed by another tour of New Zealand and a television series again for the BBC. For ATV, he made two documentaries about eccentrics, In Search of the Great British Eccentric and Eccentrics at Play.

"Initially I thought these people eccentric, but after meeting, talking with and finally filming them, I came to the conclusion that if any one was the eccentric, it was me. Surely sitting in traffic jams, or spending hours in a studio, where one never sees the light of day, or even worse, getting on a plane and flying over some of the most beautiful parts of the world without seeing any of it, must be termed eccentric, if not sheer lunacy!"

He was voted Top Foreign Television Star in Denmark, receiving his award from Prince George of Denmark. His first book, A Little Night Reading, was published, an anthology of horror and supernatural stories in which he selected an interesting variety of subjects and writers.

In 1975, he recorded another television series for the BBC. He made a rare stage appearance with a one-man show at the Royal Court Theatre, the proceeds of which were donated towards the repair of the theatre’s collapsing roof. Then he was off to New York, where he appeared for the ABC network in Salute to Sir Lew Grade, a television tribute celebrating his Award for Services to Television, with an all British line-up: Julie Andrews, Tom Jones, Peter Sellers and John Lennon. This was followed by a one-man concert tour of all the major Australian cities, culminating in a highly successful five-week season in Hong Kong.

In 1976-77, he returned to a series of documentaries in which Dave wandered through Britain, looking for and often finding not only people with unusual pursuits, but also music pre-dating Christianity, obscure legends and little-known folklore. The idea was extended to the USA and a further 14 programmes were made covering various aspects of the unusual side of American life.

In 1978, he returned to England and began the year by touring the country’s leading theatres with his one-man show, breaking all box office records on the way.

In May that year he made a television spectacular for the BBC, which was then chosen as their entry to the Montrose Television Festival and subsequently won the highly coveted Silver Rose as the Best Comedy Programme. Dave was also nominated for an Emmy Award for the same programme.

It was also during this year that he made his television debut in One Fine Day, a 90-minute play for London Weekend Television written by Alan Bennett. The year finished on a high note with a 10-week (Full House) season at London’s Vaudeville Theatre with his one-man show.

A six-week season in Australia during early 1979, followed by a short autumn tour of England, again sold out. After that, he made a special Christmas programme of Dave Allen at Large for the BBC.

In 1980, Dave played a spring tour, which enabled him to play some of the provincial cities in which he had not previously appeared. He then made a short return visit to New Zealand before taking a well-earned rest for the summer.

In 1981, he recorded two specials for BBC-TV and returned to Hong Kong for three performances at the City Hall.

In 1982, Dave played a sell-out run in London’s West End at the Haymarket, followed by a run in Birmingham and Manchester.

1983 saw Dave touring the UK visiting places like Jersey, Scarborough and Cornwall. In 1984, he recorded three specials for BBC TV, went out on the road again and took his show to the Middle East for the first time.

In 1985, Dave played The Father in Edna O’Brien’s powerful play, The Flesh and Blood, at Guildford and then on tour. In the autumn, he toured Australia with An Evening with Dave Allen.

In 1986, Dave made a quick appearance in New York at the Canon Theatre before touring Canada for the first time. A compilation series containing sketches from his TV shows over the years was shown to great ratings success on BBC TV. In the autumn, Dave settled into another West End run at the Albery Theatre, which took him through to early 1987.

In 1988, a further five compilation shows make it to our screens, and in the autumn, Dave embarked on a major UK tour in approximately 50 dates over a three-month period.

In 1989, Dave toured Australia in the spring and completed work on a new series of six half-hour shows for BBC1 for transmission early 1990, and finished the year with a tour of Canada and New Zealand.

In 1991, Dave played a sell-out run at the Strand Theatre in the West End of London, and in 1992, a six-part series entitled Dave Allen which featured Dave in stand-up mode, was transmitted on the ITV network.

In 1994, Dave released a first video of especially chosen archival material entitled The Best of Dave Allen (BBC Video). A Boxing Day special, again featuring Dave in stand-up mode, was transmitted on ITV.

In 1995, he made a rare TV appearance as a guest interviewee on CLIVE JAMES.

Polygram Video released a brand new video, Vintage Dave Allen, in 1996, featuring more archival material originally transmitted on BBC TV. That same year, Dave also appeared on This Morning (Granada TV), Des O'Connor (Thames TV) and contributed to his old friend Val Doonican’s Christmas Special on BBC Radio. Added to this, Dave won a Lifetime Achievement accolade at the British Comedy Awards.

On New Year’s Day in 1997, a documentary celebrating his work, Dave Allen - God's Comic, was broadcast on BBC Radio.

In 1998, a new series of compilation programmes, The Unique Dave Allen, was transmitted on BBC TV, bringing his comedy to a new generation. He released another video, Dave Allen on Life, in November, and this brought second appearances on Clive James and Clive Anderson, and a debut on The Big Breakfast.

In 1999, Dave took part in a new radio series, Paul Jackson in Conversation With..., and gave an interview for the BBC TV documentary, The History of Tobacco. He also made a welcome return as a guest of Clive James on Monday Night Clive (Watchmaker Productions for ITV).

In 2000, Dave was one of the featured artists in the new BBC show, Stand Up With Alan Davies.

Dave Allen passed away March 10, 2005.

Miscellaneous Photos

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E-mail community for discussions of Dave Allen and his work.

More Dave Allen Sites

- UKStuff.com - Dave Allen Videos in the U.S.
- Matt's Dave Allen Page
- Welcome to an Evening with Dave Allen
- Dario Meets Dave Allen
- Nostalgia Central's Dave Allen Page
- Dave Allen At Large
- Extract from Interview with Ken Windsor

If you know of any sites I've missed, please e-mail me.

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