Dave Allen was one of Ireland’s greatest comedians and storytellers.
His dry, sophisticated delivery was backed up by a razor sharp intelligence that helped him to cut through the absurdities of life and religion – his two favourite topics.
He would smoke a cigarette as he told his stories, keeping the audience hanging on every word as he paused to sip from a glass of whiskey.
He was popular across the world, particularly in Australia and the UK. His irreverent attitude towards the church sometimes upset some people in his native Ireland, but just as many loved him for daring to say the unsayable.
Allen was born on 6 July 1936 and died on March 11 2005.
He began his career as journalist like his father but turned to comedy shortly after moving to England and then Australia.
Allen disliked the way religion often divided people and would often end his shows with simple sign-off to the audience: may your God go with you!
Here are some of Allen’s best jokes, quotes and comedy sketches.
Giving up smoking
I have given it up. I’m a heavy smoker. I use to even smoke in between smokes. I’ve given it up. Totally changed. The most extraordinary thing about giving up smoking, to non-smokers I’m a convert. I’ve come over.
I’ve joined them. They’re proud of me they say “Good for you you’ve given up the filthy habit”.
To the heavy smokers who use to be my allies, I’m a traitor. “Bloody Judas! You of all people.” But one of the good things, one of the new things about giving up smoking is that I now have my sense of smell back.
I can actually get up in the morning and open the windows, throw them open and breath and smell again… petrol, carbon monoxide, dog shit. Taste. I actually thought when I used to eat food it was because of the smoking.
I had no taste. It’s not the smoking it’s the food. It’s bloody tasteless. Somebody said to me the other day shall we eat or have a McDonald’s.
Fathers and daughters
There’s an interesting thing between parents. Fathers and daughters and mothers and sons. The girl will bring the boy home for you to meet and because you’ve talked in liberal terms all your life you have to kind of follow this through.
“Daddy, I’d like you to meet Paul.” Hello Paul. “Uggggg.” “Can I bring Paul in daddy?” Yeah, of course you can. “No, but can he stay here?” Yes of course you can, he can stay for dinner. “No I mean do you mind if he stays here?” What do you mean, stay here? “Ohh stays in the house.” Doesn’t he have a house of his own? Why does he have to live here? “Cause I’d like him to live here.” Well where is he going to stay? “He’ll stay with me.” What? In your room?
And that’s it. He’s in. And they take over. She loved Paul. Paul’s an a**ehole. I come down in the morning he’s drinking tea out of my cup. Reading my paper. Eating my food. And not only that he’s humping my daughter. And I’m out in the garden feeding her rabbit! What should be happening: she should be feeding me and he should be out in the garden with the rabbit.
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Irish skill of giving directions
I suppose Ireland is the best place in the world for directions. People will say to you “I wouldn’t start from here if I were you.”
I was driving to Wicklow town and outside Wicklow town there’s a kind of country road and I came to a cross section and there was one sign post and it had Wicklow on it and the other way was Wicklow. And there was a fella sitting there and I said does it make any difference? and he said “Not to me it doesn’t.”
The classic on my way to Limerick and I said to this fella do you know where this place is? And he said “Ahh yes. Ahh yes, ohh god yes. Now go down the road, straight down the road just follow your nose. Ahh keep going straight and you’ll see a turn on the right hand side. Now ignore that. And then there’s a second turn on the right hand side and ignore that one as well. There’s two, three, four, five. Five turns on the right hand side, ignore them. Then you see a house on the left hand side, turn left there. That’s where you want to go.”
And I said why did you tell me about all the right hand turns? Why didn’t you just say take the first on the left? And he said “Who’s giving these directions, me or you?”
Dave Allen’s take on Banks
Tell you what my pet hate in life is… Banks. I really do. I loathe banks as they stand now. When I was a young man you’d never borrow money. You might borrow a few quid from a few friends, go and have a drink or go to the cinema or something like that.
But you’d never dream of going into a bank and saying could I borrow some money. They’d say what collateral do you have? You’d say I don’t have any. And they’d say p*ss off.
Now, in the 80’s that all changed didn’t it? A few years ago. Come on in, do you want to borrow money? You’d just be walking by the place. “Do you want to borrow some money?” What? “Do you want to borrow some money?” No thank you. “No thank you! Why not? What’s a matter with you? Are you a lunatic?”
Well I’m unemployed. “That doesn’t make any difference. Have some money, come on here have some, what do you want, buy something, have a house, buy a house.”
Well I hadn’t thought about it. “Here, have some buy a house, do you want a car? You don’t want to walk around like everybody else, go buy a car.” And they just poured it on you.
Now that’s all changed. The images of the banks which was at one time, the caring bank. We are the caring bank. We are the listening bank. We are the friendly bank, we are the open bank. We are the bank that likes to say YES bank. Now it’s changed totally. Now it’s Are you out of your mind bank. We don’t give a sh*t bank. We’re told the the economy of the high street depends on us.
Now to help the economy of the country the banks arrange credit for us. By letting us have credit cards. And we, to help the economy, take these credit cards and spend money, that we don’t have. And these banks charge us for that. And we’re grateful.
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When I fly I don’t want to care about wide seats, short seats, reclining seats. How much booze they’re going to give me, what food I’m getting, when I fly, three things I want to know:
Will the plane take off.
When it’s up in the air, will it stay in the air.
And when it comes down is it coming down where they said it would come down.
That’s all I wanna know. Get on aeroplanes, the language. The language of airlines. Planes are never late, you ever notice that? They’re delayed. And there are always these words that they use. Words are very important, the psychological wording.
You get on an aeroplane, sitting on the runway. Ready to take off. That’s when the hostess always tells you about the things that can go wrong with the plane. They never tell you that when you’re buying a ticket do they? They never say the wings could fall out or oxygen will fail. None of that. They wait until you’re sitting there, not only are you sitting there but you’re strapped. You’re strapped into your seat.
And then under the guise of talking about the doors they’re give you a blessing. They use the words: ‘If by chance’ “If by chance the pressurisation of the cabin drops, oxygen will be provided.” That’s nice of them isn’t it? They’ve got you up to 35,000 feet, they’re about to asphyxiate you… Ohh, we’ll give you some oxygen. “If an oxygen mask drops down in front of you, please place it over your nose and mouth and breath”
Where else? That’s the only part of your body you can breath through, you’re not going to stick it on your ass! And Breath normally, normally! Can you see yourself at 35,000 feet and these things drop out of the roof, like used contraceptives and you’re going to go “Ohh look at that, Ohh that’s interesting. The pressurisation of the cabin must have dropped and they’re providing us with oxygen… Very interesting isn’t it? Yes.”
Crap. Let me tell you if you’re sitting there at 35,000 feet and those things drop down in front of you, the first that that happens is your anal nerve goes. And on a Jumbo jet that’s 500 anal nerves. So the quicker you get that thing over your nose, the better.
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Toast at a wake ‘Here’s to your health’
A very important part of the Irish way of life is death. See if anybody else anywhere else in the world dies that’s the end of it they’re dead but in Ireland when somebody dies we lay them out and watch them for a couple of days.
It’s called a wake. And it’s great, it’s a party, a send off. The fella is laid out on the table and there’s drinking and dancing and all the food you can eat and all of your friends come from all over the place and they all stand around the wake table looking at you with a glass in their hands looking at you and they say “Here’s to your health”.
The terrible thing about dying over in Ireland is you miss your own wake. It’s the best day of your life. You’ve paid for everything and you can’t join in. Mind you if you did you’d be drinking on your own.
First day at school
First question they ask, what do you know about God?
I didn’t know anything about God, Who? “God!” Who’s God? “God, you do not know who God is? Sister! Sister! We have an Atheist here!” “Let me tell you little boy, God is, God was, and God always shall be…” What? “What he is!” What was that? “He is the father! He is the son! He is the holy ghost! He is 3 in 1”. “Do you understand?”
I’m four years of age, why wouldn’t I? Greatest Theological question in the world, three people in one… Where is he? “He is here!” Where? I can’t see him. “That doesn’t mean because you can’t see him he’s not here”. It doesn’t?
He’s in the cupboard? “He’s not in the cupboard! God doesn’t go into cupboards!” He’s under the stairs? “He’s not under the stairs! He is here, with us now. He’s upstairs he’s downstairs he’s outside he’s inside he’s everywhere.”
He’s a big bloke, why can’t I see him? And I’m asked “Do you love him?” I don’t know, I’ve never seen him. “God loves you and he wants your love, but if you do not give him your love he will cast you into ever lasting flame”. What? “He will cast you into ever lasting flame, have you ever burnt yourself? Yes I burnt myself on a candle. “What was it like?” It was sore. “Can you imagine that pain all over your body? That’s what will happen to you if you do not love God! What do you think of that?”
I love him!
Dave Allen’s view on ‘Skin’
Skin is actually quite an interesting subject. Do you know that we all shed skin, did you know that? Did you know that each and every man, woman and child sheds skin. Over an hour each and everyone of us sheds something like 10,000 minute scales of skin.
Over a three day period we shed one total layer of skin.
This is fact, this is not made up. Did you know that 90% of the dust in the world is made up of dead human skin? How do you feel about that?
You think you’re dusting your house? You’re not you’re just moving your grandmother around.
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Attending his first funeral
First time I learnt to bless myself was sadly when my uncle died. And he was being buried in a remote part of the Dublin mountains and it was a real funereal day, the wind was whipping down and rain.
I’m only this big and I’m wandering around between these legs and this black crowd of umbrellas and dripping rain and this bloody hole in the ground and Christ I didn’t know what it was all about and I’m watching the coffin being lowered into the ground and I hear the Priest say, what I think.
“In the name of the father and the sun and into the hole he goes.”
You can become grey because of various different reasons, it can be hereditary. A malfunction of the genes can cause greyness. Anaemia causes greyness, lacking Vitamin B and Vitamin F causes greyness, vast quantities of liquids, cause greyness.
Shock, causes greyness. Terror, fear, shock, actually it’s been recorded that a man went from being totally black haired to totally white haired in something like seven minutes. That’s an interesting thing, the body hair on my body, I’m going grey at the top of my head, but the rest of my body hair is black.
My eyebrows are black, my beard is black, my hands are black, my legs, my chest is black. I noticed recently, I was having a bath, I noticed that I had my first white pubic hair.
Now what did he see that the others didn’t see? Can you imagine you’re one of those little hairs turning around to the other grey hair… “What did you see?” “I saw… I saw.. Ahhhh!” …Another one.
The demon drink
An old drunk is on his way into a bar when a nun standing outside the bar suddenly speaks to him. “Your drinking is the easy road to evil and damnation. Drink will pollute your body and soul. Give up the foul spirits and live a better life!”.
The drunk looks at her and asks “How do you know that drinking is so bad for you?”.
The nun looks puzzled and shrugs. The drunk says “Have you ever even tried a drink?”. The nun admits she hasn’t, so the drunk tells her “Listen, I’ll go into the bar and order myself a drink and I’ll get one for you too. I’ll bring it out here and you can taste it yourself and see that alcohol is nothing bad.”
The nun reluctantly agrees, but says, “I don’t want anybody out here getting the wrong idea about me, so would you mind bringing me the drink in a paper cup?”.
The drunk agrees to this and goes inside. At the bar he tells the bartender “Give me a double shot of whiskey, and a second half shot in a paper cup.”
The bartender groans and says: “Is that bloody nun out there again?”
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