Kate Copstick discovers how Michael McIntyre went from being a nine-year-old yuppie to the BBC's new Mr Saturday Night
PEOPLE often underestimate Michael McIntyre – a reviewer once described him as "taking the easy way". One wonders why, if turning out stand-up of such brilliance is "the easy way", more comics aren't funnier. Perhaps it is the Ronnie- Corbett-meets-Alvin-the-Chipmunk exterior that causes people to think McIntyre is not edgy enough. The common consensus, though, is that he "just tells jokes". As a result, there are lots of things people don't know about him, such as:
1 He had a traumatic childhood
WITH a Canadian father and a part-Hungarian mother, the mixed-race cherub that was little Michael was further destabilised by being sent to a private school where his vowels were force-fed until they became the plump, rounded gobbets of sound they are today. He and his friends, he reveals, all had proper briefcases, Filofaxes and gold pens. "I was a monster! We were mini yuppies. When I look at the nine-year-old me," he muses, "I'm just appalled."
In a breathtaking display of what can only be described as "tough love", his parents realised their mistake and relocated him to a state secondary where his accent, his manners and his tendency to dress smart rather than casual meant he stood out like Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen at a Hibs match.
He tried to deflate those rounded vowels but "it was too late". It is a tribute to his basic niceness that he turned to stand-up comedy and not drug-fuelled violence.
2 His dad was a comic genius
McINTYRE'S father, Ray Cameron, came over from Canada to pursue a career in stand-up. "He was a funny guy," says McIntyre. "There were lots of mother-in-law jokes."
Ray Cameron, in fact, went on to create, write and occasionally appear in the iconic show Jokers Wild with the legendary Barry Cryer, from 1969 to 1974.
He also wrote 42 episodes of The Kenny Everett Television Show (along with Everett and Cryer) and wrote, directed and appeared in Everett's 1984 movie Bloodbath at the House of Death).
Cameron died when his son was 17, by which time, surprisingly, McIntyre says: "I didn't really know anything about comedy, not stand-up comedy, as a career".
But McIntyre was always headed for the professional punchline. "Thank God it's here!" he says. "Comedy as a job. I am so incredibly lazy, there's nothing else I could do."
3 He doesn't write his act
"I don't sit thinking up jokes," he explains. "I just riff off the audience. Then afterwards I think, 'That bit went well, we can use that.' An audience knows when you are just repeating yourself. That's why they don't mind me laughing at my own jokes, because they know it's the first time I've heard it too."
Obviously his appearance on The Royal Variety Show wasn't just about showing up in a good mood and hoping Her Maj would help him out with a riffable heckle but, generally speaking, his performances owe more to the cuff than the crib-sheet. Last year's Edinburgh show was an exception, and one he didn't really enjoy, he says.
"I was banging out solid gags, solid material. I didn't give myself space to enjoy myself with the audience. It was my desperate attempt to win The Award." He didn't, you may remember. He didn't even get nominated. He was, he says, "totally gutted". Frank Skinner consoled him on nomination night with dinner and advice.
4. He is a university dropout
He went to Edinburgh University to do "er, biology, or chemistry … I remember there was a white coat involved".
He lasted a year before quitting, a year in which he and his flatmate took up residence on two sofas with a view of their telly and Edinburgh Castle and basically stayed there. They sticky-taped all the necessities of life – ashtrays and beer cans inter alia – to a small fleet of remote-controlled cars, thus obviating the terrible chore of actually moving very much.
"I seem to remember our flat was always full of Hibs casuals," he reminisces. "Heavily tattooed …" To be fair, he did rouse himself to get a part-time job in a bar off Queensferry Road, but was fired for eating a customer's chips. "Actually, they were really more fat wedges," he remembers.
5 He once auctioned his jokes for 600
Booked as the entertainment at an auction, McIntyre announced that he was going to sell his jokes so the charity could benefit. "I gave each one a nice little introduction, you know, 'This first joke is one I told at the Royal Variety Show and the Queen laughed a lot. What am I bid?'" He made 600 for sick children.
6 He is going to be extremely famous
The BBC, he reveals, wants him for its prime-time Saturday night slot. He has created a show called Time of Your Life, built around his talent for bantering with his audience. The pilot, on which a fair old amount of licence fee cash is being is lavished, is set for October and then, all being well, Michael McIntyre goes head-to-head with Harry Hill. He is smartly analytical about himself, the soon-to-be Mr Saturday Night.
He already hosts a Radio 4 comedy show but isn't sure it suits his style. "I'm one of those acts you have to see," he says.
• Michael McIntyre is at Pleasance Courtyard until 25 August, 9pm