Comedy has been touted as the new rock’n’roll ever since Newman and Baddiel played Wembley in the 1990s. But now Michael McIntyre has proved the point by taking £21m – nearly as much as the Rolling Stones – from his latest tour.
McIntyre may have been dubbed “comedy Marmite” but 639,000 fans flocked to see his latest show, making him the most successful stand up in the world last year, according to figures from ticket sales tracker Pollstar,.
While the London-born comic could not rival pop stars such as Madonna - who topped Pollstar’s table of top 100 Worldwide Tours in 2012 bringing in a staggering £184m - McIntyre was just £1m shy of the Stones’ sales. He was the only stand up among the top 50 touring acts.
Julian Hall, The Independent’s comedy critic, said: “McIntyre is a stadium comic, following the path pioneered by people like Lee Evans and Eddie Izzard. Yet judging by these figures he is almost in a category of his own.”
Due to the demand for tickets during last year’s tour across the UK and Ireland McIntyre extended the number of shows from 58 to 71. It made him the 36 biggest touring act beating Florence & The Machine and Aerosmith.
The 36-year old comedian played 10 nights at the O2 Arena in London as part of the tour, with Peter Kay the only comedian to do more.
“He’s got that mass appeal that crosses the boundaries between generations. You’re safe to give his DVD to your parents, but he still has a glint in his eye. The young also find his giddiness and momentum infectious,” Mr Hall said.
Comedy website Chortle acknowledged that while McIntyre was not a cutting edge comedian “in broad appeal arena-filling stand up, he remains the king.”
McIntyre also sells huge numbers of DVDs of his live shows. His latest release Showtime topped the official UK Comedy Stand-Up Chart on Christmas Day selling 65,000 copies that week alone.
Live and Laughing remains the biggest selling debut stand up DVD in the UK, while Hello Wembley became the fastest selling UK stand up DVD of all time. Combined they have sold over 2.5 million copies.
Mr Hall said: “His comedy is based off shared experiences and saying what the audience is thinking. There’s a communality we can all relate to when he riffs on things like going to the dentist.”
McIntyre is the son of comedy scriptwriter Ray Cameron, a script writer on Kenny Everett’s television shows and struggled for years to break into the comedy mainstream.
In 2003, he was nominated in the best newcomer category at the Edinburgh Festival, but his break TV break came with his first time appearance at the Royal Variety Performance in 2006.
He built his career on television doing Live at the Apollo as well as the rounds of television panel shows. His first tour of the UK came in 2009, and played to more than 500,000 people.
This mainstream appeal has also left him with a trail of critics, often from other comedians. Jonathan Ross and Lee Mack have both targeted McIntyre, while in one routine in 2009, Stewart Lee described his work as like “spoon feeding his audience warm diarrhoea”.
In interviews he has tended to shrug off the criticism, which has dogged him throughout his career. He once said: “Maybe people just can’t cope with how jovial I am.”