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Micky Flanagan: I knew my dad was involved in crime

Comedian Micky Flanagan has spoken about visiting his father in prison as a 10-year-old and being told to keep his parent’s crimes a secret.

The stand-up star was raised in Bethnal Green in the east end of London, where he said he was always aware that his father was not always operating inside the law.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs: “He was a fish porter for most of my life, prior to that he’d been a welder, he’d been involved in crime at a certain level, him and his mates.”

Asked if he was aware of that as a child, he replied: “Yeah. ‘Why are there 50 Hoovers in the front room? Why is there all this aftershave? All these nail varnishes?’ You are aware.

“We sort of didn’t talk much about what was going on inside the house outside the house.

Comedian Micky Flanagan appearing on Desert Island Discs (BBC/PA)

“Say we were out and I said to my mum, ‘Oh mum you know those hairdryers indoors?’ and she would say ‘Earwigs at the rhubarb, don’t ever talk about anything outside of the house about what’s going on inside the house because essentially you don’t know who is sitting next to you or overhearing it’.

“So he came from that world of knocked off gear.”

Flanagan continued: “He went to prison a couple of times.

“He wasn’t a jailbird. I think he really liked life as well, he liked to drink, he loved his horse racing, he liked his nights out and I think when the couple of little bits of prison he got, I think it just knocked him for six.

“I remember going to see him in Pentonville, I think I was probably 10 or 11 at the time, I had to miss the big match so I already had the hump, and I remember looking at him, even at that age, I looked at him and thought ‘you’re not coping  with this that well’.

“I wouldn’t say he was forever changed, but I think he thought ‘enough’s enough’.”

The comedian said it was also common for his mother to take tranquillisers. Asked if a joke in his set about his mum being “off her nut” on valium was a memory or just a gag, he said: “That was probably a memory.

“I think for so many women of that generation, tranquillisers were part of every day life. It wasn’t uncommon for certainly East End women to talk half a valium on a stressful day.”

Flanagan also spoke about taking a year off from comedy in 2015, despite enjoying huge success.

He said: “It’s something I’ve always done, the minute I feel things getting a little bit out of hand and that I’m possibly not enjoying them as much as I was before I just stop.”

Flanagan said he had become overwhelmed by the pressure to deliver, saying it was the hardest thing about being a solo performer.

He added: “It’s you on your own, having to deliver. It’s fun a lot of the time but it’s just constant pressure to do it again.”