Dave Allen was an Irish actor, comedian, writer and producer best known for the comedy shows, "Dave Allen At Large" and "The Dave Allen Show." His unique relaxed comedy style was most remembered for comedy directed at the Catholic Church.
He was born David Tynan O'Mahony on July 6, 1936 in Firhouse near Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of three sons of Cully Tynan O'Mahony, managing editor of The Irish Times, and an English mother, Jean Archer-Allen. His brothers were John and Peter. In his youth, he lost the top of his left forefinger above the middle knuckle in a machine cog, a revelation he kept secret for several years as he told various stories to cover up the incident.
Allen attended secondary school at Newbridge College, Terenure College and the Catholic University School, later leaving school at age of sixteen to follow his father into journalism. He joined the Drogheda Argus as a copy boy, but in in 1955, he traveled to London where he drifted through a series of jobs before becoming a Butlins Redcoat at Skegness in a troupe that also included the British jazz trumpeter and writer John Chilton. At the end of each summer season, he did stand-up, appearing in night clubs, theatres and working men's clubs. Between jobs, he sold toys in a Sheffield store and worked as a door-to-door draught excluder salesman. He changed his stage surname to "Allen" on the prompting of his agent on the belief that "O'Mahony" was hard to pronounce correctly. Allen also hoped that a surname beginning with "A" would put him at the top of any agent's list.
Allen's first television appearance was on the BBC talent show, "New Faces," in 1959, leading to hosting pop music shows in the early 1960s and tours by Adam Faith, Helen Shapiro and The Beatles. When he become better well known, he had toured South Africa with American vaudeville star Sophie Tucker in 1962. She suggested that he he could boost his popularity in Australia, and Dave moved there, working with Digby Wolfe on Australian television and becoming Wolfe's resident comedian.
While on tour in Australia in 1963, Dave quickly proved successful and accepted an offer to headline a television talk show with Channel 9, "Tonight with Dave Allen." Although the show proved successful, he was banned from the studio after only six months after his television after a lewd on-line suggestion to his producer on air while interviewing Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The ban was subsequently dropped quietly, and Allen's popularity continued unabated. In 1964, Allen married actress Judith Stott. They later had a son, Edward James Tynan O'Mahony, who also became a comedian under the name, Ed Allen, and a daughter, Jane Tynan O'Mahony.
Allen returned to the United Kingdom in 1964, appearing on "The Blackpool Show," "Val Parnell's Sunday Night" and "The Val Doonican Show" before landing his own night time talk show, "Tonight with Dave Allen," on ATV, which earned him the Variety Club's ITV Personality of the Year Award. He eventually starred on the BBC in "The Dave Allen Show," a variety and comedy series which reached international success as "Dave Allen At Large" from 1971 to 1979. Exported to other countries, such as the United States and Canada, the series made him Britain's most controversial comedian, best known for his sitting on a stool and drinking commentary and regularly provoking indignation directed at the Catholic Church in comedy sketches. The show included former Benny Hill cast members, such as Michael Sharvell Martin, Ronnie Brody and Susie Baker; the show theme for both "The Dave Allen Show" and "Dave Allen at Large," was written by Alan Hawkshaw and was known as "Blarney's Stoned." Some of his most controversial sketches involved sketches with the Pope played by Allen doing a striptease to music on the steps of St Peter's, aggressive priests abusing their parishioners and other priests, priests who spoke like Daleks through electronic confessionals and an extremely excitable Pope who spoke in a Chico Marx-style accent.
Dave also appeared in stage between seasons. In 1972 he appeared in Royal Court's production of Edna O'Brien's play, "A Pagan Place," and as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" with actress Maggie Smith of "Harry Potter" fame in 1973 and 1974 at the London Coliseum.
Allen also worked as a social commentator, appearing in several television documentaries for ITV, such as "Dave Allen in the Melting Pot" in 1969, "Dave Allen in Search of the Great English Eccentric" in 1974 and "Eccentrics at Play" in 1974, in which he looked at colourful characters with idiosyncratic passions. After "Dave Allen At Large" wrapped, he starred in "The Dave Allen Show," his second sketch comedy series, in Australia from 1975 to 1977 for his old employers at Channel 9. The series followed much the same style as "Dave Allen At Large."
His career had a major resurgence during the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the height of his career, he was satirised himself by Benny Hill on May 30, 1978 episode of "The Benny Hill Show" with Benny impersonating Dave. The sketch included Chris Serle, one of Dave's own cast members. In 1993, Allen returned to ITV ad starred in "The Dave Allen Show," his final regular television series. He partially retired to his home in Holland Park, west of London, in 1995. A keen amateur artist, he began painting and exhibiting his work, having given up cigarettes in the 1980s after having smoked regularly during earlier television appearances. Making occasional chat show appearances, he discussed his career in the six-part "The Unique Dave Allen" on the BBC in 1998 featuring clips from his past BBC series. He was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards in 1996 and received his first exhibition, "Private Views," for his paintings in Edinburgh in 2001.
Having divorced Stott in 1983, Dave married again in 2004 to Karin Tynan Stark after living with her since 1986. He died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Kensington, London on March 10, 2005 at the age of 68. He was survived by his two wives and his three children, Edward, Jane, and his stepson, Jonathan. Three weeks after Allen's death, Karin gave birth to their son, Cullum.