Micky Flanagan left school at 15 with no qualifications – now he is one of the most popular comedians in Britain. James Rampton investigates…
Flanagan’s Out, Out tour comes to the Liverpool Empire tonight (April 6) – and the tour tops an extraordinary 18 months. He’s made a number of TV appearances, has fronted his own Radio 4 series, What Chance Change?, and is one of only a handful of comedians to be accorded their very own 30-minute Comedy Central special. His West End shows sold out in record time.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t surprised by it all, and I’m not in the business of lying,” laughs Flanagan. “It’s been a superb surprise. I’m fortunate. I’ve now reached the stage where I can go to most towns and sell out a decent-sized theatre, and that’s exciting for any stand-up. I did the comedy circuit for a number of years, I did my time and learnt every trick in the book. People are going, ‘Yes, we like what you do. Here’s £15. Can I come and watch?’ It’s really gratifying.”
His show is a comic account of his rise from “working-class Herbert to middle-class ponce”, and the awkwardness of being stuck between the two. He draws on his East End background and spins yarns about his working-class upbringing, where Alphabetti Spaghetti was a luxury and a bottle of Blue Nun the height of sophistication.
The material has struck such a chord, he says. “It was an idea that a lot of people felt but no one was expressing. If we have now all become middle-class – which we are being constantly told we have – then some of us are not as comfortable about it as others. I’ve gone from punk anachist to someone who wears a vest and listens to Radio 4 and says ‘that’s a good deal’ when tuning in to Moneybox. It happens to us all.
“It’s about the lost-ness of the working-class person who’s done quite well. He suddenly catches himself in a deli thinking, ‘What on earth am I doing here? This has no relation to my reality. I remember when I was a kid, knowing full well that my Mum would run out of money by Wednesday’.”
And Flanagan clearly has a love for the live arena. “Stand-up is uncluttered and clean,” says the comic, who hails from Bethnal Green in East London, where he once plied his trade as a window cleaner. “It’s uncensored. You live or die by what you do. I love that clarity. So many other things are filtered – for instance, people watch you on TV over a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. But stand-up is different. Comedy needs focus and investment from the audience. That’s why it works best live.”
For more tour details, see www.mickyflanagan.com.