Belfast Festival: Mick Miller
Scouse funnyman Mick Miller may have cut his teeth in classic TV shows but, as he tells Matthew McCreary he’s come a very long way from his old school roots to success on the alternative stand-up scene
Whether it’s the late Frank Carson’s glasses, Jimmy Cricket’s hat or Bernard Manning’s beer gut, there’s a generation of stand-ups whose very comedy essence has been encapsulated in their physical accoutrements.
And when it comes to hairstyles there’s few more instantly recognisable than Mick Miller’s.
The genial Scouser’s bald pate and long hair have rather imaginatively earned him the moniker of, erm, ‘the bald comedian with the long hair’.
“I just went bald and then had my publicity photos taken but I realised I was stuck with it until I got rid of the pictures — I had 5,000 of them,” he laughs. “It’s with me now, and I get a good laugh. But I do have to remind people I’m not the fella from Little Britain in a wheelchair. I think that was based on me, though, ‘cos I’ve got the accent as well.”
Unfortunate comparisons aside, Miller is certainly no rookie when it comes to taking the mickey out of himself and his blend of observational humour and classic gags has long endeared him to audiences here.
“I used to come over here all the time with dear old Frank Carson and do the Kelly show,” he says. “I’ve always found being in Belfast just like being in Liverpool, the docks and the working class people, they love their craic.”
When we speak he has just finished his latest summer stint in Blackpool, as well as a turn in the rather unlikely environs of the Edinburgh Fringe, normally the mainstay of alternative comedy. It’s a contrast with what one might label Miller’s old school origins in classic shows such as New Faces and The Comedians.
“I wouldn’t say I am old school,” he counters. “I do the comedy clubs as well, so I go right through the board, I do the lot.”
He adds: “The alternative circuit has accepted me and Roy Walker because we’re not normal mother-in-law joke tellers.”
While he admires modern stand-ups for their sheer industry and the challenges they face in their early years, there is still something of a cultural difference between the two generations.
“Alternative comedy to me is just like one big long rant at the establishment,” he says.
“But we couldn’t have got away with what they do now. The language they can use after the watershed is incredible.”
Then again there are plenty of jokes from that era that comedians today wouldn’t get away with, the aforementioned Mr Manning being one case that springs to mind.
“Bernard was a one-off,” he laughs. “He was actually a very generous entertainer. I don’t know how he did it because he could arrive and walk straight on stage.
“I couldn’t do that, I like to settle in and have a look around. But he was straight in on stage, back in the car and straight home.
“In those days Frank (Carson) did all the Irish gags and me and Stan Boardman just talked about Liverpool. But then you had (black comedian) Charlie Williams saying ‘If you don’t laugh I’ll come and live next door to you’; could you imagine saying something like that now?”
Among the ‘new lads’ he particularly rates at the moment are Sean Locke, Peter Kay, John Bishop and Andrew Maxwell, although there is no mention of the edgier acts making their name now, such as Frankie Boyle.
“Roy Chubby Brown did all that 25 years ago, but he never did it on TV,” says Miller.
“Also it was advertised ‘If easily offended don’t go in’. But I do think Frankie does take it to the limit a bit — there’s some subjects you don’t go at, is there?”
- Mick Miller, October 23, Elmwood Hall