Enjoy the show because you’re not getting a refund - Ipswich Corn Exchange bound comedian Mike McClean interviewed

Comedian Mike McClean brings his new stand-up show to Ipswich this month. Photograph: Laura Orlando

Comedian Mike McClean brings his new stand-up show to Ipswich this month. Photograph: Laura Orlando - Credit: Archant

Cruise lovers, Russell Crowe and why modern TV is crying out for shows like The Big Breakfast. Entertainment writer Wayne Savage talks to the undisputed star of Cinderella at the Ipswich Regent, comedian Mike McClean.

McClean won over film star Russell Crowe, just one of many celebrities he's interviewed over the yea

McClean won over film star Russell Crowe, just one of many celebrities he's interviewed over the years. - Credit: PA

The trouble with TV these days says McClean is nobody’s prepared to take a chance because we’re all too scared of upsetting somebody.

“Don’t get me wrong, I agree with being politically correct but there are other lines (you can take). We used to laugh at ourselves as a country. Not now and it’s such a shame. It makes it harder for comedians because you can’t do this, you can’t say that; you’ve got to be careful - but you’re not going to please everybody all the time.”

The stand-up, at Ipswich Corn Exchange January 24 with his new show Just Plain Funny, thinks British TV is crying out for the return of The Big Breakfast, where he spent his time interviewing stars including Julian Roberts, Brad Pitt, George Clooney...

“Mel Gibson was probably the most nervous person I’ve interviewed because he’d heard about my reputation of being cheeky. John Travolta wouldn’t let me interview him because I’d go in with one set of cards and when I was in there I’d pull out the genuine cards with the jokes on. He didn’t want that, he just wanted serious questions about his film.”

McClean as Buttons in Enchanted Entertainment's pantomime Cinderella at the Ipswich Regent. Photogra

McClean as Buttons in Enchanted Entertainment's pantomime Cinderella at the Ipswich Regent. Photograph: Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

Russell Crow was another memorable one. Assorted interviewers arrived in Germany to be told he’d cancelled talking to everyone but McClean.

“Honest to God, I was thinking ‘s***’. I walked in and he says ‘I hear you’re a funny f***** and I said ‘I hear you’re a bit of a miserable one’.

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“He just started laughing, told me to sit down and I had about 15 minutes with him instead of the usual seven or eight. He was brilliant.”

Synonymous with an entire generation, McClean remembers Big Breakfast producer Ben Rigden encouraging everybody to run with what was funny, whether it was in the script or not.

“It was one of the best breakfast shows on TV and they made a mistake getting rid of it. If somebody brings it back it’ll be a massive ratings success,” says the comic, who was about to fly to Barbados for a week of gigs aboard a cruise ship.

“They’re the hardest audience, (people just want to know) where’ve you come from and how much did you pay, it’s really funny. You think ‘am I actually funny’? I think (my agent books them) to stop me getting big headed,” he laughs.

Talk of travel leads into a long, but hilarious, diversion into his comedy travelogues for the travel channel.

“I think Ecuador’s probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to... The only thing I couldn’t do there was eat a guinea pig which I’d seen that day alive on the market. He gave me the paw as well... Out of all the bits of the guinea pig he gave me the b***** paw,” he remembers, lamenting life on the road now consists of just him, a Ginsters pasty, a cup of coffee and talkSPORT.

Then there was the time he went scuba diving in the Indian Ocean.

“The guy’s fixing us up and showed us the signs for okay and then for shark. I went ‘are you kidding and he went ‘no, no no’. I was like ‘I’ve got me own sign for shark.’ I was thinking ‘Jesus Christ’.”

Piranha fishing in the Amazon could’ve ended just as badly.

“I caught one, I was dead chuffed; then in the afternoon the director said ‘I tell you what’s a good idea, you dive off into that bit, swim around and then say that’s the end of part one, we’ll see you back in part two’.

“I was like ‘you want me to swim in the bit where I’ve just caught a piranha fish’. He said I’d be alright,” laughs McClean. “I ended diving in thinking ‘s*** this is a place where I’ve just caught a piranha’. The UK is an amazing country, when you travel around the world you realise just how big it is - I wouldn’t want to paint it.”

Back to his new stand-up tour; which he describes as a funnier, ruder version of Derren Brown’s mind-reading act.

“I’ll be doing things that’ll leave you thinking ‘how the hell did he do that’ and ‘why did he do that’, but along the way it’ll be a laugh.

“There’s loads of audience participation... I always think the gold is in the audience. You have a chat, have a laugh with them,” says McClean, who started off doing comedy magic when he was a kid.

He originally planned on being an actor, spending two years at drama college.

“I didn’t do the three... I remember the teacher saying one day ‘I’m going to teach you how to breathe’. I was like ‘I can do that in me sleep’. It was at a time when my dad was made redundant. I got offered season work and thought I could help out the family financially.

“I thought ‘I’ll put together a little comedy magic act’, nobody else was doing it. I was really rubbish, I was, but people laughed,” says McClean, whose comedy writing skills came in handy while playing Buttons in Cinderella at the Regent.

“You get a script and I said to the producers ‘I’ve got this idea and that idea’ and they said ‘yeah go for it’. It’s going to be different because I’m on me own now - I haven’t got a cast behind me. So I’m thinking ‘God will they find it funny’ because they were quite a hard crowd Ipswich I have to admit.”

He hopes people who enjoyed him in panto will be curious enough to check out his solo act, adding: “I want it to be a really good night, because they’ve given me four great weeks in the town.

“You’ll never please everybody all the time, somebody’ll come up on the night and say ‘he was alright’ or ‘I didn’t like him’.

“I remember me grandad always saying ‘if you can make just one person laugh... You’re crap’. But you know what, they’ve paid their ticket they’re not getting a refund,” he laughs.

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