Alternative comedian Tony Allen dies aged 78

Saturday 2nd December 2023, 11:20am

  • Tony Allen, a key comedian in the alternative comedy movement, has died of cancer aged 78
Tony Allen

Tony Allen, one of the founders of the alternative comedy movement, has died aged 78.

He had been diagnosed with cancer. Earlier this year, his friends threw him a 'woke wake' to act as a 'going away party' while he was still alive.

In 1979, Allen co-founded Alternative Cabaret with fellow comics Alexei Sayle, Andy De La Tour, Pauline Melville and Jim Barclay, gigging in venues like The Elgin in Ladbroke Grove.

In 1980, he and Sayle took their solo stand-up acts to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe under the title Late Night Alternative, helping to build the trend for comedians to attend the festival with solo shows. Allen continued to appear at the Fringe each year up until the mid-1990s.

Allen regularly appeared at The Comedy Store in the venue's early days, and he took over from Sayle as resident MC early in 1981.

He was also among the acts to take part in television's first alternative comedy showcase, Boom Boom... Out Go The Lights, which was released last year on The Young Ones 40th anniversary Blu-ray. Allen appeared in Episode 5 of The Young Ones as a left wing activist.

As a writer, Allen contributed material to shows like Hello Mum, Alas Smith & Jones, Naked Video Week Ending and Spitting Image. He published his autobiography Attitude! Wanna Make Something of it? The Secret of Stand-up Comedy in 2002.

Here is a clip of Allen performing a joke at The Comedy Café in 1993:

And here is a longer video of a performance at the same venue in which he talks about Time Out labelling him as 'the godfather of alternative comedy':

Allen's appearance on online format Dave Green's Street View Show in 2018 saw him reminiscing in-depth about his life and career:

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