Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Relatively Speaking: Comedian Kevin McAleer

Kevin and Valerie love sharing a laugh
Kevin and Valerie love sharing a laugh

Omagh comedian Kevin McAleer is known for his deadpan style and is regarded as one of Northern Ierland's finest stand-up comics. He's married to artist and choir leader Valerie Whitworth, from Ipswich, and they have three children, Florence (23) and twins Louis and Josiah (22).

Name: Kevin McAleer

Age: 57

Occupation: Stand-up comedian

Relationship: Husband of Valerie

Val's best friend was living with my best friend in London and we met at a dinner party in their flat. It wasn't a matter of our eyes meeting across the table -- it took us a few encounters to connect. We began to notice each other after a while. I do remember the pictures of some owls she showed me when she was still an art student and thinking she was really talented. She still is. It was a meeting of minds on some level but she had her eye on some saxophone player and we'd go to a few of his gigs, and I'd have to listen to her talking about him.

I wasn't jealous, no, but I kind of sneaked in ahead of him. I was away on a lot on tours in the beginning and I was back in Ireland one time when it dawned on me that it would be a nice thing to ask Val to get married, but she beat me to it. We'd had all the children by that stage. Before that, marriage wasn't something we had in our minds. It was just the icing on the cake. We got married in 1997 in London.

Things happen naturally because we are so into each other. We have the same sense of humour. She makes me laugh. I have a cubby-hole at the end of the house so she can let loose with her choir practice at the other end. She undersells herself -- the community choir work she does is fantastic. She's out every night at it singing all round the place. It's wonderful stuff -- people get so much out of it.

I suppose what might annoy me the most is that she's not the tidiest person. I am, in certain spaces. I don't like clutter. But on the other hand when I went to her flat for the first time in London I liked all her lovely arty clutter around the place.

She's very beautiful, energetic and friendly. She has a huge amount of positive energy and light which she spreads when she comes into contact with people. She's very English, and that's one of the things I like about her. She keeps in touch with her own roots and she goes back there to recharge her batteries.

Name: Valerie Whitworth

Age: 55

Occupation: Artist and choir leader

Relationship: Wife of Kevin

I really don't have any first impressions of meeting Kevin, but it definitely wasn't love at first sight. We became friends and when he saw my paintings from art college it was more a meeting of minds artistically.

We were friends for about six months before it gradually became romantic and later the children came along. I remember the proposal well -- it was a leap year, 1996, and I heard on the radio it was an opportunity for women to propose, and I thought 'I suppose I'd better do this before I miss the chance'. Kevin was on tour in Ireland and that day he recorded in his diary while staying in a hotel in Clare that he was coming to the same conclusion, but I pipped him to the post when he came home.

We moved over from London and never looked back, although I enjoy visiting back home. We're a bit like ships in the night these days -- he stays up late writing and gets up late, but I get up early.

It's very hard to say if he's anything like what he is on stage. He's very humorous. And no, he's not a real culchie -- he'd be most offended if I said that! -- but he still makes me laugh. He's very kind and generous, very thoughtful, and a genius, I think. He's romantic at times too. There are occasional gestures, not on Valentine's Day or anything -- we're not that sort. There are little magical things, like when we drove to a gig he was doing in Ennis. The planet Venus was rising in the sky and it was very romantic.

* Kevin will be appearing at the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, this Saturday, at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, next Thursday, November 21 and the Roe Valley Arts Centre, Limavady, on Friday, November 29. For details, visit www.kevinmcaleer.com Valerie will lead the community singing at the Unison In Harmony Grande Finale Concert on Sunday, December 1, 11am-6pm at the Guild Hall in Londonderry. For details, visit www.valeriewhitworth.co.uk

Years of a clown

* Kevin McAleer's comedy career began in his mid-20s with an open-spot at a Dublin club, before moving to London

* He came to prominence on the RTÉ television show Nighthawks in the late 1980s, where he became known for his three-minute sketches of surreal rustic tales told in his slow country drawl

* He claims his love of comedy began as a young boy: "At school, I was a bit of a clown with softer teachers and with the strict teachers I was a good boy."

* He has written a draft novel about the assassination of JFK

* He cites Stewart Lee as one of his favourite comedians

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