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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 13:08 GMT
Obituary: Dave Allen
Dave Allen on TV
Dave Allen: Laid-back Irish comedian
Dave Allen's act as a cabaret-style comedian sitting on a high stool, glass and cigarette in hand, made him a firm favourite with TV and theatre audiences from the early 1960s.

His TV shows, full of elaborate sketches, poked gentle fun at life and at Catholicism in particular.

Nevertheless, he outraged some, and he was banned from appearing in a number of towns.

He was born David Tynan O'Mahony in Dublin, the son of the managing editor of the Irish Times.

He was educated by the notoriously strict Catholic Christian Brothers who, in his own words, "literally beat the fear of God into me". He was to become an atheist.

Redcoat beginnings

At school Allen lost part a middle finger after catching it in a cog. He used the fact of his missing digit as an excuse for numerous different shaggy dog stories.

And it didn't prevent him showing two fingers to the hypocrisy and stupidity he saw in many aspects of life.

Allen dressed as Pope
His parody of the Pope got him banned

Dave Allen followed his father into journalism. After working as a junior reporter on a weekly newspaper for three years, he came to London, hoping for a job in Fleet Street.

Lack of success took him to Butlins as a Redcoat, and after two years entertaining the holidaymakers, he started doing spots in working men's clubs and variety halls.

He changed his name to Dave Allen, and broke into television in 1959 on New Faces. After working in TV in Australia in the early 1960s, he returned to Britain for Sunday Night at the London Palladium and launched his BBC TV series.

Religious taboo

The formula of chatting to the audience from his high stool, with breaks for sketches involving other actors, was highly successful. But his jokes about religion were a frequent source of controversy.

A sketch in the 1970s, in which the Pope did a striptease, brought protests from many quarters and resulted in a de facto ban on his shows by the Irish state broadcaster, RTE.

Allen sketch dressed as a priest
His satire on religion stemmed from his education

He once said: "The institution you never laughed at in Irish society as a kid was the church, whether it be the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland.

"It was alright to snigger at the Church of Ireland, but certainly not to laugh at the Church of Rome."

Dave Allen's use of a four-letter word in January 1990 was raised in the House of Commons.

He appeared in a number of one-man shows in London theatres, simply talking to the audience without the use of supporting acts, music or props.

Dave Allen was a popular performer in Australia, and had a big following in Eastern Europe, where his television shows were dubbed or sub-titled.

His favourite sign-off line at the end of a performance was: "Goodnight, good luck, and may your God go with you."


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