For over four decades, Kevin McAleer has been a stalwart in the world of comedy, bringing his dry wit and deadpan humor to audiences across Ireland and beyond.
As he prepares to bid farewell to stand-up comedy with two final shows in Belfast and Dublin this April, the Beragh man reflects on his journey from Dublin’s comedy clubs to the role of ‘Uncle Colm’ in the TV smash-hit, Derry Girls.
Kevin’s comedic odyssey began unexpectedly during a trip to San Francisco in the early 1980s.
“They had open mic spots
where people could go on stage for the first time,” he told the UH.
“I didn’t, but afterwards I found myself wondering why not.
“Before then, comedy was not on my radar at all, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the trip.”
Kevin was living in Dublin at the time and when another opportunity to get on stage came up, he didn’t pass on it this time.
“A comedy club opened so I went along to do stand-up.
“On my first night, I got a few laughs and it was really encouraging.
“Within a fortnight I had written a 15-minute act.
“I was just hooked and I could barely sleep because I was so excited about it.”
Kevin received early encouragement from established comedians who were traveling in from London to perform in Dublin’s new clubs.
This included Oscar McLennan who, after seeing Kevin perform at an open mic spot, encouraged him to work on his material stating, ‘You have something there’.
So, after honing his craft in Dublin’s emerging comedy scene, Kevin moved to London to pursue his comedic ambitions.
He recalled, “I remember going into the back room of a pub and
and a small bald guy was sweeping the floor.
“He came up and introduced himself to me, saying he was the organiser of the show.
“Turns out he was Clive Anderson who went on to have a high profile TV career for years.
“The comedy scene was very DIY and experimental… it was a fun time to be starting out.”
Kevin got on television himself for the first time when he was asked to perform his act ‘The Slideshow’ on the revolutionary new Channel 4 show ‘Saturday Live’ hosted by Ben Elton.
Soon after, he made his big break on Irish television when he was spotted by Anne Enright (now a famed author) who was producing a new show on RTE and asked Kevin to write a part for what would become ‘Nighthawks’.
“I came up with a reminiscing character for the show, and after doing a few tests I would speak to the camera for 45 minutes at a time.
“I knew if these were edited together correctly it would be a goldmine of comedy.”
The character also developed into a popular live act and was one of the highlights of ‘Nighthawks’ which enjoyed great success in the
Kevin said his live audiences increased massively due to his newfound fame and within a year he progressed from performing in
rooms with dozens of people to selling out a week of shows at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre.
He continued performing on TV and stage during the ‘90s and 2000s but Kevin’s career reached new heights with his portrayal of ‘Uncle Colm’ in the acclaimed series, Derry Girls. Reflecting on the experience, Kevin acknowledges the impact of the character had on his career.
“Uncle Colm introduced me to a whole new younger audience,” he remarked. “It’s brilliant to see all the young people coming and really enjoying my live act.
“The character I play is a very slow-talking guy so it’s not really a huge jump from Uncle Colm to my live persona.
“But Uncle Colm is completely Lisa McGee’s creation – she wrote everything I said word for word.
“The character is actually inspired by my old Nighhawks persona and I know people thought I had written some of those parts, but it was all Lisa.
“Her comic timing is perfect and so was the entire script to be honest.”
Kevin added, “It was such a great experience playing Uncle Colm.
“I got to work with fantastic actors in the main cast, including Liam Neeson which was amazing.”
Despite his success, Kevin has decided to retire from stand-up comedy, citing a sense of closure and the need for a new chapter.
“It feels like a natural ending,” he shares. “I’ve been doing stand-up for over 40 years. It’s time for something new.
“I will never say never again… but it does feel like a definitive end.”
Kevin will play his farewell shows in the Vicar Street Theatre , Dublin on April 11 and in Belfast’s Mandela Hall on April 21.
l For more information, you can visit www.ticketmaster.ie.
I will never say never again… but it does feel like a definitive end’
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