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Dave Allen At His Observation Post

September 20, 1986|JANICE ARKATOV

Comedian Dave Allen on time: "You get up to a clock, leave the house, arrive at work to the clock. Clock in and out to a clock and when you retire after 40 years of work, they give you a clock so you can watch your life go away for the next 15 years."

Time is but one of life's interests for this Irish-born performer who's bringing his one-man show, "An Evening With Dave Allen," to the L.A. Stage Company West for two nights, beginning Monday.

What interests him is "our reaction to the world, what life is about--whether it's stress or sperm donors or the atomic bomb. Basically it comes from observation: observation of myself and other people.

"And no matter where I'm playing, people can relate to what I'm saying. We all deal with children in a certain way. Or with doctors, bureaucrats, technicians.

"Of course, there are certain changes I see when I travel. Like here, there are lots of people, but they're all in cars. So I have to slightly adapt the way I talk about pedestrians because this isn't a pedestrian culture."

Some of his observations are generational. "I talk a lot about the things my (four) children haven't had growing up.

"When I was young, the cinema was imagination land. It was a weekly ritual for all the kids: getting your money, queuing up--and the total, godlike power of the man in the uniform (head usher), whether or not to allow you in.

"Then we had cap guns, so at the point in the Tom Mix or Roy Rogers movie where the identifiable villain would approach, we'd all pull out our guns and fire. And this posse of ushers would come rushing down, flashing their lights at us. . . .

"It's all changed now," he said. "I went back to the Princess Theater and looked at this man--and he wasn't eight feet tall, the uniform wasn't the equivalent of Marshal Goering's. It had soup stains, it was frayed. And he had no teeth.

"Nowadays, I go to the cinema in London where they have five films (a multiplex)--and I'm always wondering if one of the other films is better than mine. And they show advertisements, which drives me mad. There are bars, food. In the men's room you can buy a toothbrush, a squirt of deodorant, contraceptives. You could live in that place and never leave."

Allen's contemplations aren't always based in humor. Between international tours and British variety shows (up to six a year), he makes documentaries, including one on the ethnic makeup of 1970s New York, "The Melting Pot."

Yet, no matter how serious the subject matter, Allen (who began his career in 1961 as a warm-up act for the Beatles) finds it hard to totally divorce his comedic side.

Some examples: Driving (once he found himself accelerating at the sight of a pedestrian in his path--"not that I was going to hit him, but I wanted to make sure he realized this was my road") and airports ("You get there and it's 'Get in, get out,' a charge for this, long queues--delays, sweat, filth, everything smells like plastic; then maybe there's someone waiting to put a gun to your head").

"I have a fairly big bundle of stuff that I can go to," Allen said. "I can take whatever (route) I want. I have no rules or regulations."

Which leaves the audience open to inspiration as well: "I've had a few deaths during the show. But I've also had a baby born--the laughter brought it on."

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