How Michael found that stand-up comedy sweet spot the nation loves

Michael McIntyre PA/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes
Michael McIntyre PA/BBC/Hungry Bear/Gary Moyes

As Michael McIntyre’s Big Show returns for a second run, the funny man and dad-of-two talks to GEMMA DUNN about finding that sweet spot between stand-up and Saturday night family viewing

Michael McIntyre has quite literally skipped his way to superstardom - and with continuing success, the much-loved comic is only upping the pace.

He reportedly pocketed a cool £21 million from his biggest tour to date, 2012’s Showtime - a 71-date stint that saw him pack arenas, including an impressive 10-night stretch at London’s O2, which, with a 20,000 capacity, is a residency usually reserved for the likes of Justin Bieber and Adele.

Not bad for a jovial stand-up from the London borough of Merton. But more telling than his colossal success is his refusal to rest on his laurels.

McIntyre’s big break had arguably come around some six years earlier, with the 2006 Royal Variety Performance: a few years later, he landed the Bafta-nominated Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, and then a coveted judge’s spot on Britain’s Got Talent.

But he was so concerned his mammoth 2012 tour wouldn’t be a hit, he decided to release the tickets almost 18 months in advance, admitting in an interview with The Telegraph at the time that it was down to utter panic.

“What if someone forgets me? I know that people like me now, but what about in a year? Anything could happen. Loads of other people could show up and I’m yesterday’s news,” he said.

This could have had something to do with the fact he’d previously spent years struggling on the comedy circuit, amid hostility from his peers - but McIntyre needn’t have worried.

Since taking to the stage, he’s bypassed his counterparts to work on another UK tour; extended his material to international arenas; and continued to release bestselling DVDs - in addition to more on-screen work.

The funny man’s latest gig comes in the form of BBC One’s all-singing, all-dancing hit Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, which debuted with over five million viewers earlier this year.

Now gearing up for its second series, the variety format - which is filmed in front of a live audience at the Theatre Royal, and airs on Saturday nights - will, as before, include a medley of celebrity guests, musical performances, stand-up and surprises.

But this time, everything has gone up a notch, McIntyre promises.

“Knowing that series one was a success has allowed us to expand the ideas for series two and explore more parts of it,” says the 40-year-old father-of-two, who spent a year at the University of Edinburgh, before dropping out to pursue script-writing. “We’ve tried to make them even more fun and be more confident with them.”

Pledging fresh family entertainment, the opening episode delivers a musical performance from Ellie Goulding, an exclusive look at the brand new musical School Of Rock, and a grandfather who surprises his grandson with hilarious results.

Expect some unpredictability - though popular features from the first run are also set to return, such as the Unexpected Star slot, where a talented member of the public is surprised by McIntyre and given the opportunity to perform at the end of the show.

“There are some wonderful performers, really surprising, incredible talent but also really fun people,” gushes McIntyre, whose late father Ray Cameron was also a comedian and wrote for Kenny Everett’s television shows.

“We’ve tried to make them all really different this series,” he reveals. “There’s a 12-year-old girl, a father and son, and 21 different people become unexpected stars in the Christmas show!

“The fireman in the first show is completely mind-blowing. The audience just loves the fact that someone is having that moment, because they’ve seen what they’ve been through and love that they’re fulfilling their dream and they are part of it.”

Also on the bill are plenty of comedy guests (Russell Howard, Sarah Millican and Jack Whitehall, to name a few), and more Send To All - which sees McIntyre send a text of his choice to all the contacts in a willing celebrity’s phone.

“We’ve had people’s CCTV, Carol Vorderman’s fart machine, I ordered a taxi on Olly Murs’ phone and there were some very private photos on Jamie Oliver’s phone which are really funny,” McIntyre notes, chuckling.

“Hopefully people realise it’s just a bit of fun and will keep playing.”

Above all, McIntyre - whose two sons Lucas and Oscar feature highly alongside his aromatherapist wife, Kitty, in some of his funniest material - hopes the show will provide big laughs for the whole family.

“I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity and responsibility of trying to create a family entertainment show,” he says, admitting that it’s been a “gradual process” finding his feet with the format.

“First and foremost, I am a stand-up,” says McIntyre. “I do stand-up in every show, but I am interested and excited by entertainment television. I’m new to it, and what’s really surprised me, because we record the show in a theatre, is how big the laughs are.

“The atmosphere has been amazing - almost annoyingly, as I think, ‘I can’t really get laughs like this with my jokes!’”

- Michael McIntyre’s Big Show returns to BBC One on Saturday, November 19.