Britain’s highest-earning standup comedian says fellow comics who accuse him of playing safe are ‘doing everything except make people laugh’
Michael McIntyre, Britain’s highest-earning standup comedian, has hit back at fellow comics who have derided his work and criticised him for playing safe.
The 39-year-old star of the BBC’s Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow said he had been stung by jibes from his peers. “They’re doing everything except make people laugh, and that is actually the hardest thing to do. I work really hard at it. I don’t know what they’re trying to do,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Times Culture magazine.
“And I worked with a lot of these comics, they seem to have forgotten. I was on the circuit, I was doing all right. It’s not like I came from some talent show on the TV. I did it with them, and I got more laughs, so they don’t like it.”
McIntyre, who is reputed to be the highest-grossing comedian in the world, earning an estimated £20m, faced criticism from peers following his rapid rise from obscurity to prominence after appearing on his first Royal Variety Performance in 2006.
Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves singled him out in 2009 when complaining about the blandness of popular comedy, with Mortimer saying: “I could have been watching this new crop – Michael McIntyre and people – 20 years ago. It doesn’t feel like there has been that much new.”
In 2011 during an appearance by McIntyre on Desert Island Discs, the presenter Kirsty Young quoted Stewart Lee’s description of him as “spoon-feeding his audience warm diarrhoea”. McIntyre said the criticism and scorn had spoiled some of the highlights of his career.
“I go to the British Comedy awards and, you know, quite a few people were making jokes at my expense,” he told Young. “It just made me feel awful, because I am there with my wife and she has gone out and bought a dress. And it is my big night and I won, and yet the overriding experience was that of nastiness. For what reason, I don’t know.”
In the interview, McIntyre spoke of the tough years he spent on the circuit before he found fame. “I would just be a physical and emotional wreck leading up to a gig, then it would go badly. It was really, really tough,” he said.
“But I just felt I could see this person in me, and I think he’s funny, he’s just got to get out.” His Happy and Glorious tour runs until 11 December.
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