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Friday 11th March 2005

I was very sad to read (on the internet, how modern) that Dave Allen had died. He was one of those amazingly influential comics, who whilst not unacknowledged, was certainly under-rated. I remember not really being allowed to watch his show in the 70s, but still occasionally wearing my parents down so they let me. I can even remember having that awareness that much of it was going over my head. As the adults and my older brother laughed at something I would look at them wondering what was funny about that and realising that there were vast swathes of secret (and I must have known also naughty) knowledge that I was not privy to. It was a tantalising feeling.
I can't help thinking that Allen's then very edgy views on religion must have influenced me a little, or possibly at least helped me formulate the atheistic questions that were already forming in my brain.
Mostly though he was super-cool, sitting on his stool, drinking and smoking, as if at a gigantic public bar that stretched through every home in the country.
I met him only once, very briefly and it wasn't through any of my subsequent TV or radio work. I was about 20 and doing a play in the Oxford Playhouse called "A Month in the Country". I was only in one scene, playing a bumbling suitor being coached by a character played by Max Carlish o I didn't know then would one day be punched by that bloke off the Libertines (see here).
Even though it was a long play and my scene was quite short, me and Max used to steal the show quite effectively. My character was very shy and not a million miles away from the way I would subsequently portray the Cyclops on Lionel Nimrod (if any of you heard that). I hammed it up mercilessly and annoyed all the proper actors who had to work hard because I got picked out in all the reviews. Ha ha ha!
Anyway, enough of my bragging about something that happened almost two decades ago.
One night we'd heard that Dave Allen was in the audience. I think he knew the director or someone else in the cast. I was very excited about this and no doubt hoped that if I performed well he might ask me to come and work with him on his next TV show.
After the show me and Max were coming down the stairs at the back of the theatre on the way to the pub and suddenly Dave Allen was in front of us, ascending the very same stairs. "Here come the heavies!" he said, still continuing on his way.
Now both me and Max were (and are) quite fat, but I liked to think that he was really saying, "Here are the two heavyweight actors". That is, he was saying we were the best. Even if he meant it the other way (or both ways at the same time or if we just looked like heavies from a movie coming down the stairs shoulder to shoulder) I was just pleased to have been addressed by one of my favourite comics.
In hindsight, I think he had probably had quite a boring evening watching some students act and didn't really give a fuck, but was kind enough to give us a few words, guessing correctly that they would mean something to us.
It was a pleasant enough feeling for it to have stuck in my mind all this time, just as the delicious and at the time unknowable naughtiness of his act also stuck with me. Thanks Mr Allen.

On a more sinister note, I used an image of Dave Allen to help me remember my DA words in Scrabble. I also used Edwyn Collins to remember my EC words and now one of them is dead and the other has had a brain haemorrahage. Is this the curse of the 3 letter word Scrabble list? Look out Celia Imrie and Clive Owen. That's all I can say.

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