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As Liverpool was to football, so McIntyre is to comedy

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“Do you like Liverpool?” I was once asked by a fellow student during my ‘A’ Level days. He was enquiring of their successful football team of the 1980s rather than of the city. I replied in the negative, professing that I found them too safe, too predictable and too successful. “Ah, I knew it! “ he replied, adding, “Why do British people hate success?!”

If ‘Liverpool’ was the by-word for this perceived national trait in the 1980s, then I would say that ‘Michael McIntyre’ is the shorthand for it in the 2010s – with apologies to Manchester United fans.

For a start, he is as successful. Like Liverpool once did, McIntyre continually tops the league in his field, as it were. His dominance was underlined last week when it was confirmed by tickets sales tracker, Pollstar that the 36-year-old was the biggest-selling live comedian in the world in 2012, nestling among big beast music acts like The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith.

This surely puts McIntyre in a league of his own (ditto on DVD sales), so that there is now club comedy, touring comedy, arena tour comics and Michael McIntyre. Lee Evans and Eddie Izzard may have blazed the stadium trial but McIntrye has overtaken everyone, practically making the 02 his second home – just as Arsenal used to claim Wembley was, if I may borrow another football analogy.

[pullquote]The underlying tone of the criticism of McIntyre – an activity that has become a cliche, if not a sport, in some quarters – is the resentment of his success rather than disdain of his craft.[/pullquote]

Showtime, McIntyre’s last tour, played to almost 700 000 people across 73 arenas, including ten nights at the aforementioned super venue, the 02. For my review of it in The Stage I noted that” his very status is the reason why McIntyre is now almost contractually obliged never to deliver a classic show. To stay Britain’s biggest comedian he’s fated to play cavernous venues, where you can’t appreciate the warmth of the reception he’s getting, and he is expected to deliver 90 minutes split by an interval when 60 or 70 straight through would show him at his best.”

On the face of it this night played to those who berate McIntyre for being bland and MOR, and feel he has nothing to say for them. However, I don’t hold with this view. I think McIntyre is a great comic, sometimes struggling against format and context.

Moreover, the underlying tone of the criticism of McIntyre – an activity that has become a cliche, if not a sport, in some quarters – is the resentment of his success rather than disdain of his craft.

It’s the Liverpool factor all over again. I learnt to be appreciative and admiring of the mighty Reds, and would suggest to the McIntyre-baiters that they could undergo a similar realisation, even if it is against their initial instinct.

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