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Dave Allen
Born David Tynan O'Mahoney
6 July 1936(1936-07-06)
Firhouse, Dublin, Ireland
Died 10 March 2005 (aged 68)
Kensington, London, England, UK
Nationality Irish
Occupation Comedian
Spouse(s) Judith Stott (m. 1964–1983) «start: (1964)–end+1: (1984)»"Marriage: Judith Stott to Dave Allen (comedian)" Location: (linkback: divorce
Karin Stark (2003-2005)
Children Jane O'Mahoney (born 1965)
Edward James Tynan O'Mahoney (born 1968)
Cullum Eden O'Mahoney (born 2005)

David Tynan O'Mahoney (6 July 1936 – 10 March 2005), better known as Dave Allen, was an Irish comedian, very popular in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada in the 1960s and 1970s; he also became known in America through reruns of his shows on public television. His career had a major resurgence during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Allen's act was typified by his relaxed, rueful and intimate style; he would sit on a high bar stool facing his audience, smoking and occasionally sipping from a glass of what he always allowed people to assume was whiskey, but in fact was merely ginger ale with ice. Literally and metaphorically, he was a sober-minded man who, though sometimes appearing crochety and irritable on stage, gave off an air of serene melancholy in real life. Each day he would pore over the newspapers, constantly scribbling notes and ideas which he expanded for his routines.

He was an atheist[1] (according to Allen himself, "what you might call a practising atheist") as a result of his deeply held objections to the rigidity of his strict Catholic schooling, and consequently religion became an important subject for his humour, particularly the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.

Along with his seated stand-up routines, his television shows were interspersed with filmed sketch comedy.

Highly regarded in Britain, Allen's comic technique and style had a lasting influence on many young British comedians.[2] His targets were often figures of authority, his style was observational rather than gag-driven, and his language frequently ripe; in this respect he was a progenitor for the "alternative" comedians of the 1980s. In his home country of Ireland, however, he always remained something of a controversial figure due to his mocking of the Catholic Church.



Born in Firhouse, Dublin, Ireland, the son of Cully Tynan O'Mahoney, managing editor of The Irish Times, and an English mother, David O'Mahoney left school aged sixteen, after attending the Dublin secondary schools Terenure College and the Catholic University School and followed his father into journalism. He joined the Drogheda Argus as a copy-boy, and went to London, aged nineteen. He drifted through a series of jobs before becoming a Butlins Redcoat at Skegness in a troup that also included the British jazz trumpeter and writer John Chilton and hosting pop music shows. At the end of the summer season, he did stand-ups at strip clubs and for the next four years he appeared in night clubs, theatres and working men's clubs. When entertainment work was slow he sold toys in a Sheffield store and as a door-to-door draught-excluder salesman.

He changed his stage surname to "Allen" on the prompting of his agent, who believed that few English people would be able to pronounce "O'Mahoney" correctly.

Allen lost part of the index finger of his left hand, after catching it in a cog. However, he told many differing stories as to how it actually happened. One version was that his brother, John (who later became a down and out), had surprised him by snapping his jaw shut when they were children, resulting in him biting it off. Another was that it was done deliberately to avoid National Service. One explanation that he told on his programme Dave Allen at Large is that he often stuck his finger in his whiskey glass and that it was eaten away by "strong drink". Another time he said the cause was repeated brushing down the dust from his suit with that hand causing the finger to be worn away. Yet another of his more memorable stand-up jokes was that, when he was a boy, he and his friends would go see a cowboy movie at the local theatre, then come out all ready to play "Cowboys and Indians". Staring down at his truncated finger, he muttered, "I had a sawed-off shotgun." Once on the show he also told a long ghost story, ending with "something evil" attacking Allen in a dark and haunted house. Allen grabbed and bit the attacker, and it turned out to be his own hand.

Allen had his first television appearance on the BBC talent show New Faces in 1959. In 1961 he toured England and France with the then-unknown Beatles, and toured South Africa in 1962 with Sophie Tucker, whom he described as "one of the most charming and delightful performers with whom I have ever worked".

While on tour in Australia in 1963, he quickly proved successful and accepted an offer to headline a television talk show with Channel 9, Tonight with Dave Allen, which was very popular. However, only six months after his television debut he was banned from the Australian airwaves when, during a live broadcast, he told the show's producer — who had been pressing him to go to a commercial break — to go away and masturbate so that he could continue an interview with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The ban was later dropped quietly when Allen's popularity continued.

In 1964 he married actress Judith Stott, whom he had met while working in Australia. The marriage ended in divorce in 1983. Their son, Edward James O'Mahoney (aka Ed Allen), is also a comedian.

Allen returned to the United Kingdom in 1964 and made a variety of appearances on ITV, including The Blackpool Show, Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium and on the BBC onThe Val Doonican Show. In 1967 Allen hosted his own comedy/chat series, Tonight with Dave Allen, which earned him the Variety Club's ITV Personality of the Year Award. He signed up with the BBC in 1968 and appeared on The Dave Allen Show, a variety/comedy sketch series. This was followed, 1971-79, by Dave Allen at Large, which introduced his trademark solo joke-telling-while-sitting-on-a-stool-and-drinking routine. This standup routine by Allen led to handsomely mounted sketches that continued on the themes touched on in the preceding monologues.

The comedian's trademark debunking of religious, especially Catholic, ritual throughout each episode made for minor controversy which, coupled with some quite frank material, earned the show a somewhat risque reputation. So disapproving were some of his own countrymen that in 1977, the Irish state television network RTE placed a de facto ban on him. Typical routines included sketches showing the Pope (played by Allen) and his Cardinals doing a striptease on the steps of St Peter's, aggressive priests beating up their parishioners and other priests, priests who spoke like Daleks though electronic confessionals and an extremely excitable Pope who spoke in a Chico Marx type accent as he ordered Allen to "getta your bum outta Roma!"[3] New seasons of the series, which was renamed Dave Allen in 1981, were made until 1990. During the same period, Allen also made The Dave Allen Show in Australia (1975–1977) for his old employers, Channel 9 in Australia.

His final series for the BBC in 1990 caused considerable controversy because of the strong language that Allen used (in contrast to his earlier BBC series), and the matter was raised in the House of Commons.[4][5] In 1993, he moved back to ITV, where he starred in its version of Dave Allen, which was to be his final regular television series.

At the end of his act Allen would usually toast his audience with the words "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you", an original and inclusive toast that typified Allen's gentle style.

His hobbies included painting, about which he became increasingly enthusiastic; his first exhibition, Private Views, was held in Edinburgh in 2001.

Other television and theatrical work

Allen made several serious television documentaries, including Dave Allen in the Melting Pot (1969), In Search of the Great Eccentrics (1974) and Eccentrics at Play (1974).

He also had a successful stage career. In 1972 he starred in The Royal Court's production of Edna O'Brien's play A Pagan Place, and appeared as both Mr Darling and Captain Hook in the London Coliseum's production of Peter Pan. In 1979 he played a property man who sleeps in the company's office block, in Alan Bennett's play One Fine Day.


Latterly, Dave Allen lived quietly in Kensington, west London, in the relative peace of semi-retirement while at the same time enjoying the regular company of his close friends and devoted family. He was a keen amateur artist and exhibited paintings.[1]

Allen had given up smoking cigarettes, which he had enjoyed during his television appearances in the 1970s. He died suddenly, but peacefully in his sleep on March 10, 2005, aged 68.

Dave Allen was survived by his wife of eighteen months, Karin, and by three children.


The Essential Dave Allen (2005) edited by Graham McCann. Hodder and Stoughton: London. ISBN 034089945X


  1. ^ a b Last Updated: 11:47PM GMT 11 Mar 2005 (2005-03-11). "Dave Allen obituary". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  2. ^ "Mark Thomas interview". 1999-03-03. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  3. ^ The Essential Dave Allen (2005) edited by Graham McCann. Hodder and Stoughton: London.
  4. ^ "Comedian Dave Allen dies aged 68". BBC News. 2005-03-11. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  5. ^ "Dave Allen article at". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 

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