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Monday, August 10, 1998 Published at 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK

Living the life of Smiley

Smiley abandons stand up for a scripted one man comedy

From accepting a 50 bet at an open mic night - to the life of a stand-up comic, Michael Smiley has come a long way.

In his new show the comic is returning to his past life as a cycle courier to pull in the laughs.

On the road

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Re: Cycling, as his show is called, is a departure for Smiley who has played the Edinburgh Fringe every year since 1993. For the first time he is abandoning his stand-up routine for a scripted one-man comedy.

"I used to be a cycle courier. It wasn't the sort of job you planned to do, you just end up drifting into it," he says.

The play is based around a day in the life of a 32-year-old courier, who's "a bit long in the tooth to do the job".

"He has a wife and kids and bills to pay and you see him unravelling - falling to bits because the job isn't helping him anymore."

Different 'tribes'

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Smiley who was born in Belfast, draws on his real life experience as a courier for the character. Now 35, he spent two years at the job after moving to London in his 20s with his wife.

But it's not wholly autobiographical. His character's traits draw from the different "tribes" found in the job.

"You get your grungy squatter types and your Tour de France sorts who dress head-to-toe in Lycra. You also get your student types who are just doing it for the summer."

Put it down to experience

Smiley is well used to playing his past life for laughs. Last year his Fringe show, Confessions of a Catholic Buddhist, recalled family life and religious bigotry he experienced while growing up in Northern Ireland.

His experiences as a club DJ have also been deployed in a previous stage act.

It was while working as an acid house DJ that Smiley fell into his life of comedy. Fuelled by alcohol and a 50 he decided to try his luck on stage at an open mic comedy night.

"I made the audience laugh and from then on I was completely addicted. There are parallels with being a DJ - seeing people enjoying themselves because of what you're doing."

TV work

Since then his career has taken off with regular slots at top London venues such as the Comedy Store and Jongleurs, as well as TV work on shows such as Naked City and Late Licence.

He has just returned from his third successive year at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and after Edinburgh is heading off for a stint in Cape Town.

"Then it's back for Christmas and time to start thinking about material for next year's Edinburgh," he says.

Michael Smiley's Re: Cycling will be on at Calder's Gilded Balloon between 7-31 August (not 17th) at 1830.

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