“IF I had to compare myself to a musician, it’d have to be Paul Weller,” says John Maloney. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but he’s a musician’s musician who has respect from fans, but isn’t on everyone’s radar.” And John’s right, he isn’t on everyone’s radar, but fellow comedians have admiration for him in droves. Holly Walsh told me last week that John was ‘the type of comedian she wanted to be’, and her namesake, Seann, also told him the same after a gig. And Radio 4 legend Barry Cryer even described him as ‘one of the backbones of British comedy. “That was nice,” adds John, in his charmingly humble manner.
I remember seeing John perform on TV around ten years ago, on the Paramount Comedy channel. I’m always delighted to meet comics i first saw on the box as a nipper. At 27, I am twenty years his junior. But He doesn’t look it. “I wear it well,” he jokes. “And like to keep myself fit!” “Healthy body, healthy mind,” I say. “I like to think I’ve got a healthy mind,” he says. “When they do the autopsy on me, I think they’ll go ‘yeah, his body’s f****d, but his brain’s OK.” And the 47-year-old’s brain is indeed still OK. Especially as he’s escaped the ‘trappings of showbiz’ as he calls it. “It can be a bit false,” he says. “Everyone’s like ‘You’re wonderful, you’re wonderful’, and you think ‘I’m alright’. “Some people need that adulation as their oxygen to continue. “But I never reached for the heights, so when they temporarily happened I didn’t have that fall from grace that would leave you angry and bitter.” Sitting with John, it would be difficult to imagine a less angry and bitter man, and his attitude to comedy is spot on. “All I’m asking for is a nice crowd, a microphone, a light that works, and I’m fine,” he says. “People describe my intimate shows as like sitting down with an old friend, because I’m relatively unthreatening as a comic. “I’m not standing there going ‘You’re fat, you’re bald’. “If somebody’s paid fifteen pounds to come and see me, I should give them ultimate respect, and not insult them. “Comedians who do so should spend more time writing material.”
Writing material is absolutely paramount to John, who admits he agonises over every word. Such attention to detail has drawn comparisons with a raft of comedy heroes. John adds: “I’ve been compared to Les Dawson and Dave Aleen. Les Dawson’s word play was sublime, and Dave could sit with a whisky and cigarette on a stool. There’s a real art in that. “So if I can die having been associated with their style of comedy, it’ll be as a very happy man.
“But not at the age of 47, I hope.”
One act you’re not likely to hear John Maloney compared to is Harry Hill. But the pair go way back. The big-collared funny-man has been entertaining millions weekly with his TV Burp show on ITV1.
But twenty years ago, he will have been performing upstairs in pubs, just like any other jobbing comic. And John can remember seeing him do unpaid five minute slots. He says: “I can remember him as a young nervous comedian. ‘I worked with him, he was an open spot, doing 5 minutes. Phill Jupitus was on too, but the act that stood out by a mile was Harry. He did one liner after one liner, like ‘never go for a candlelit dinner with a moth’. “It was just like ‘bang, bang,’. “I said to him afterwards ‘You’re gonna be a star. You blew us away, and we’re all being paid!’.
“He was so self-effacing and modest, but he had the gift in spades.” And he’s shovelled himself a pretty decent comedy castle since.