Rewind - The Tallaght Troubadour

By Sean Heffernan

For this weeks piece I have decided to take  a different tack than usual and focus on a more recent figure of note.

We will be hopping back on an 18 bus at stop 4359 ‘Hollyville Lawn’ and will stay on until we get to stop 2475 ‘Kenilworth Park-Harolds Cross Road’, whereupon we will walk back to the junction and turn right to stop 1294 ‘Leinster Road’ where we will board a 49 bus.

Dave Allen

We shall then alight at stop 4749 at Ballycullen Road – Firhouse Park, where this week’s topic Dave Allen was born.

This comedic genius was for many years a staple on primetime TV across the water as one of the stars on the BBC, yet – amazingly- he barely featured on RTE, (some allege) due to his witty observations regarding the Irish Catholic Church.

I am writing about him this week as he is a genuine figure of note who once resided in Dublin 24. I am hoping that some of you reading this, who had never before heard of him, will now get the same joy as I do from watching his sketches on Youtube.

He was born in 1936, Dave Tynan O’ Mahony, and his father was John Tynan O’ Mahony, who had the prestigious role as editor of The Irish Times.

At the age of six Dave lost part of his finger, which he later used as a prop in a number of his jokes on stage, with various explanations given over the years as to how it happened.

His son Peter would have a successful career as a sub-editor for the same paper, - unlike his brother who had a short stint working down in the famous Fleet Street in London, before deciding the journalistic profession was not for him.

He managed to get himself a job working in Butlins as a Redcoat, which back then was a very prestigious conveyer belt of famous comedic/cabaret talent, with many gracing television and West End stages.

It led to him appearing on the enormously popular ‘New Faces’ on BBC television, which was the Britain’s Got Talent of it’s day, in 1959.

Four years later he moved half way around the world to present ‘Tonight Show with Dave Allen’ which became an instant success on Australian Television.

He caused a storm of outrage however, when during one episode of his show, as a producer was telling him to stop the interview he was doing and cut to an ad break, he allegedly on live television told this gentleman to “go and masturbate” and leave him to continue the interview!

The outrage at his remark lead to his show being postponed for a while, before he was eventually allowed back on Australian television.

He caught the eye of the talent scouts at the BBC who brought him back to this side of the world where he starred in the print time television comedy show ‘Dave Allen at Large’ from 1971-1975.

 He would over time cause fury on a number of occasions with his stand up monologues (some at the time called them jokes, others obscene profanities) about different subjects, mainly the political class in Britain and the Catholic Church in his home country of Ireland.

An example of his classic repertoire was the one about the Irish Wake:

“A very important part of the Irish way of life is death.

See if anybody else anywhere else in the world dies that’s the end of it.

They’re dead; But in Ireland when somebody dies we lay them out and watch them for a couple of days.

It’s called a wake, And it’s great.

It’s a party, a send-off. The fella is laid out on the table and there’s drinking and dancing and all the food you can eat and all of your friends come from all over the place and they all stand around the wake table looking at you with a glass in their hands looking at you and they say, “Here’s to your health.”

The terrible thing about dying over in Ireland is you miss your own wake. It’s the best day of your life.

You’ve paid for everything and you can’t join in. Mind you, if you did you’d be drinking on your own.”

To me Allen was one of those edgy comedians who always sought to sail close to the wind in a “Hey look there’s another sacred cow! lets go and slaughter it” kind of way.

When we look back on it now, his gags about the Catholic church, for example, are today seen as mere harmless commentary, but back when they were first told they caused widespread anger.

As was touched on earlier it is reckoned that the state broadcasters morbid fear of ever falling foul of the all powerful all seeing Catholic church hierarchy was the reason why we rarely saw him on Irish tv screens and why his shows were not repeated here in the way Ballykissangel and Father Ted were.

To me that was a great pity, as the vast bulk of his jokes were ‘safe’, really funny and deserved to be relayed to as wide an audience as possible.

So why not add some laughter in your life by checking out his brilliant anecdotes via YouTube?

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