Despite all the innovations in comedy style and presentation over the years, for a lot of people they don't compete with watching the classic stand-up comedian getting by with little more than a one-legged stool, a dashing silken suit, whisky tumbler in hand and a cigarette nonchalantly held in the other. Timeless and enduring.
Dave Allen was born David Tynan O'Mahony in Dublin, Ireland during July 1936. He was the son of a local prominent journalist. He had been struck, from the age of 19, with the desire to become an entertainer. For the next four years he learned the trade by touring extensively through the English Provinces with various theatre ensembles. He learned both the dramatic and comedic acting disciplines. Gradually he became an all-round entertainer, able to work in such varied environments as theatres, nightclubs, vaudeville and working-men's clubs.
In 1959 he felt confident enough to take his first shot at television on the BBC production of 'New Faces'. He later remembered it as... the longest and most terrifying three minutes of my life. He continued to ply his stand-up comedic trade for the next four years. During this time the rise of 'Packaged Tours' became a prominent feature on the entertainment map, they generally had a mix of established and up-and-coming entertainers, across the spectrum of rock'n'roll, easy listening music and stand-up comedians. One such up and coming group was the Beatles, whom Dave had the good fortune to tour with not, only around Britain, but France as well.
Things changed dramatically when during a 1963 tour of Australia. Dave got his first chance at Television, with his own show entitled 'Tonight With Dave Allen'. Initially it was to be a eight-week run, which, due to popularity, was subsequently turned into an 18 month engagement.
At the end of 1964 he returned to England hoping to make his mark. Within a month he had appeared on the popular ATV television show 'Sunday Night at the Palladium', yet again along side the Beatles. Within a year he was offered the chance to do his own show on the BBC. The British version of 'Tonight With Dave Allen' premiered in 1968. It quickly garnered an audience like it's downunder forerunner. With it's engaging, witty and informative style, it caught the audiences eye. Although, it's primary attraction was the various stunts Dave entered into doing, people tuned in to see whether anything would go wrong.
In the middle of 1969 he attempted to branch out into new horizons by focusing on documentary films. During a nine week shoot in United States, he explored some of the social changes happening in turbulent America.
In 1971 all of his efforts were rewarded when he finally got to do the type of comedy show he wanted to do, the BBC 2 show 'Dave Allen at Large'. With its abundance of straight to camera monologues and short comedy sketches, it became one of the highest rating programmes for the next seven years. Controversy was courted however with the abundance of sharp religious satire.
In 1972, safe in the knowledge that his show was a hit, he resumed his other interest - dramatic acting. Making his West End debut he appeared in the Royal Court's production of Enda O'Brien's play 'A Pagan Place'. This was followed up the next season by a role opposite Maggie Smith in a production of Peter Pan, playing both Mr.Darling and Captain Hook.
During the next few years, with the popularity of his show rising, he took time out to not only tour his stand-up routine around the globe, but also to appear at the opening extravaganza for the Sydney Opera House in 1974. He filmed a further documentry on 'Great Eccentrics'. He released a book entitled 'A Little Light Reading' - an anthology of horror and supernatural stories, for which his input was in choosing the participating writers. In 1975 he made an appearance in a dramatic one man show again at the Royal Court Theatre - which the proceeds went to repairing the theatre's roof. He recorded an insert for the 'Salute to Lew Grade' special, starring alongside such luminaries as Peter Sellers, Julie Andrews and John Lennon. Later, he found time to complete two more documentary series dealing with British pagan myths and folklore, and, in America, a series of 14 programs exploring some of the unusual aspects of their way of life.
As his television show began to lose it's impetus towards the end of the 70's, he returned to his live stand-up. He successfully toured Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He toured his dramatic one man show extensively thoughout. He got the opportunity in 1978 to do an Alan Bennet dramatic play for television. In May of 1981 a new challenge arose when he was given the opportunity to do a two week engagement at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, unfortunately translating his humour for the American market presented a considerable challenge. This initial success was not translated into a wider market. Due in no small part to the sacrilegious tone present in many of his routines.
Dave now is enjoying semi-retirement from the rigours of showbusiness, occasionally guesting on shows such as those of Clive James. Health scares forced him to give up both his cigarettes and excess alcohol which, given the relish he showed for them in the seventies, must have been quite a challenge.