Comedian Mike McClean talks family, the future and returning to the Ipswich Regent

Comedian Mike McClean is returning to the Ipswich Regent with his new show. Photo: Contributed

Comedian Mike McClean is returning to the Ipswich Regent with his new show. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Comedian Mike McClean returns to Ipswich next week. Just be sure you don’t turn up late he tells entertainment writer Wayne Savage.

Mike McClean in Enchanted Entertainment's 2016 Ipswich Regent pantomime Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Paul

Mike McClean in Enchanted Entertainment's 2016 Ipswich Regent pantomime Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Paul Clapp - Credit: Archant

Not even McClean’s dad was safe when he arrived late for his son’s recent one-nighter in home town Manchester.

“I saw this old bloke walking in late; looked and it was my dad. I said ‘I can’t believe it, the one person coming in late is my dad’,” says the comic, returning to the Ipswich Regent next week where he just appeared in the Enchanted Entertainment panto Sleeping Beauty.

“Normally I’d rip somebody to bits but said ‘I can’t because I’ve got to go home now and if I do he’ll put me to bed early’. My dad’s an Irishman and loves comedy, he was crying with laughter. He paid me the highest compliment, he said ‘that’s the best I’ve seen you’.”

McClean was 13 when he performed his first gig, a magic act, one New Year’s Eve at Levenshulme Conservative Club after the scheduled act let it down.

Unforgiving club crowds don’t care how old you are and he remembers putting down hecklers with one-liners from the likes of Les Dawson and Tommy Cooper.

“I’ve got the balls of a rhino, I wasn’t scared,” remembers the comic, whose boldness served him well when interviewing stars for The Big Breakfast and Richard and Judy.

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“I ran home and said look I’ve got paid five pounds. I couldn’t find it so went back and the bloke said ‘don’t worry, there’s another fiver, you were worth it’. A week later I found the other fiver so I technically got paid 10 pounds. I loved it up there, I’d got a taste for it then.”

McClean’s parents weren’t able to be there for the former self-confessed class clown as he is for his two young sons, who just joined him for one of his cruise ship gigs for the first time.

Mel Gibson, one of several celebrities Mike McClean's interviewed. Photo: PA/William Conran

Mel Gibson, one of several celebrities Mike McClean's interviewed. Photo: PA/William Conran - Credit: PA

“They weren’t the way I am with my kids... If I’m in the country I’ll be there for them no matter what. My mum and dad were never there to see it... My dad worked nights, my mum was a dinnerlady. His main concern was making sure there was money in the house to feed us, her’s was we had a full belly.

“She was always in the kitchen cooking something Spanish. Everybody’s eating baked beans and my mum’s making octopus, Spanish stew... I’ve got a great sister, she’s my rock, she’s been brilliant the last couple of years.”

Life as a stand-up isn’t an easy one. He always tells people if you like motorways and Ginsters pasties then it’s for you. He’s not one to moan, getting paid to perform for people around the world. McClean doesn’t want to do it forever though.

“My eldest said ‘daddy, I’m nine now, can I come and see your adult show?’ I said ‘you’ve only got 10 more years to wait son’,” laughs McClean. “He said ‘will you be doing it then’ and I said ‘I don’t know, hopefully not’.

“I’ve been writing my autobiography which is going to be out this year. I was in pantomime with Larry Lamb and read his. I said I’d love to do mine and Larry went ‘you can do it, just do it’. So last year I spent a year when I was travelling around on the ships and doing stuff just writing. Not only was it very therapeutic but I even laughed at some of the stories from when I first started out in stand-up. Obviously I’ve got some great stories about The Big Breakfast and working with the king and queen Richard and Judy,

“I’m working on a few TV ideas and my thing is to try to get back on the box; I’m writing a good comedy with a mate of mine who’s a very good comic. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we might get it away.”

Before then, you can catch him back at the Ipswich Regent.

“I’ve Karen Bayley supporting me. She’s brilliant, very, very funny. The only thing is she’s a West Brom supporter and I’m a Man City fan.The Regent’s a lovely theatre. I’ve got a nice little affinity with Ipswich. It’s just nice to come back to somewhere where the audience appreciate you... I’ve seen some big names coming there, I’m the only name there I don’t recognise,” he laughs.

On the topic of big names, when interviewing some of the biggest stars of the day McClean followed an early piece of advice - it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Known for submitting one set of questions to PR teams and then asking entirely different ones, he has some great memories; from interviewing the cast of Ocean’s 11 to Britney Spears.

“Not one has intimidated me. I never get phased by them yet I’ll meet a Man City player who scored a vital goal and I’m like jelly. Footballers, sports stars, are my idols. The majority of the celebrities have been absolutely lovely.

“Mel Gibson had brought out a film called The Passion of the Christ which was getting criticised left, right and centre. They flew us to New York, we did the interview and he was really nervous. His PR knew about me, but you couldn’t take the mickey too much because you know one day you’ll be at the gate and Jesus will probably turn around and go ‘I saw that interview you did about me’.

“I said ‘Mel Gibson, you flew me over here to interview you, I was a bit disappointed you flew me economy, I was a bit upset’. He laughed and we wrapped up the interview. I got to JFK, checked in and he’d upgraded me to business which was really nice.

“Julia Roberts was just lovely. She likes knitting and I did some gags about knitting and stuff like that. Brad Pitt was married to Jennifer Anniston then and I said ‘just to let you know, I’m not going to ring her anymore’ and he goes ‘no, it’s cool’. He played along. These film stars are in their room answering the same questions all day long. I was always cheeky but never rude, I think that’s the secret. Nobody’s doing it these days.”

Mike McClean, Just Plain Funny, stops by the Ipswich Regent January 14. Read my previous chat with him here and my review of his last visit here.