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Comedy: John of all trades

John Moloney has more strings to his bow than the London Symphony Orchestra. For a start, he speaks several languages; he knows 12 different German words for "horse", for instance. Sadly, there is not much call for that knowledge as a stand-up in this country.

"The only time I use the languages on stage is as a way of disguising what are basically tawdry knob gags," he admits. "I have a doctorate in German medieval philosophy and the only use I've made of it in my act is to say `I'm hung like a Hoover' in German. If my professors knew, they'd be turning in their ivory towers. Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money, and what came out of it? A beer gut and the ability to say `I'm hung like a Hoover' in German. It's a sad indictment of our education system."

The other skill that distinguishes Moloney (right) from other stand-ups is his musicianship. "I play seven musical instruments. When I started out on the stand-up circuit, I was called `The Angry Young Accordionist'. I used to be World Accordion Champion in Irish traditional music."

"I've got this Irish traditional music band called Liverdance, and we play once a week. It takes the pressure off. It's a complete about-face from comedy - it's my version of a long walk in the country or playing snooker with port and cigars."

This same down-to-earth approach characterises Moloney's stand-up. "People trust me because I'm an ordinary-looking bloke. There's a feelgood factor because I'm like everybody else - I'm not threatening. There's nothing glitzy about me, and I'm not trying to oversell myself."

He also makes an effort to establish a rapport from the moment he walks on. "A comedian is judged within the first few seconds, so you have to be self-deprecating. I come on and say, `Good evening, I'm John Moloney. I'm a fat bloke who looks like Victoria Wood', or `I haven't got a lot of material, but when you're a bit of a looker, it doesn't really matter'. It makes me more accessible.

"I'm not one of those people who thinks, `If I hadn't been a comedian, I'd have been a rock star (even though I can't sing or play guitar)'. I'm at the more honest end of the spectrum, and people warm to that fallibility. It doesn't alienate people. I don't have a hidden agenda to shock people or change their minds or have a hit single with a football theme... "

John Moloney appears at the Comedy Store, Oxendon Street, SW1 (0171- 344 4444) tonight


One of the biggest comedy events of the autumn is likely to be Lee Evans's 10-week run at the Apollo Theatre in the West End. After his manic performance in the Hollywood hit, MouseHunt, Evans really has an international profile these days. If you fancy catching this human dynamo live on stage - he expends so much energy during his performance he has to keep wiping himself down with a towel - between 14 Sept and 21 Nov, phone now on: 0171-494 5586 to book tickets