Stephen Dixon



I WAS born on the borders of Cheshire and Derbyshire, and after leaving school studied ceramic art in Manchester. After a bad car crash when I was 19 ended my studies, I turned to journalism, and after brief experience on weekly and provincial daily newspapers joined The Guardian in 1969. Though hired as a trainee production journalist, I quickly became a feature writer and critic, and it was during my seven years on the staff that I met these veterans of variety. I left the paper in 1976 but still contribute as a freelance writer, mostly obituaries of comedians and ex-variety performers.

I also worked in Manchester for The Daily Mirror and The News of the World, and was part of the launch team for The Daily Star. In 1980 I moved to Ireland for personal and professional reasons, and have lived in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin, since the 1990s.

Variety Gift

Irish stand-up.

In Ireland I have been Arts Editor of The Sunday Tribune, Deputy Features Editor of The Irish Independent and Editor of RTE Guide (the Irish equivalent of Radio Times). I have freelanced as a book reviewer and feature writer for The Irish Times for many years and have also written for Rolling Stone, Penthouse and various film magazines.

With my wife Deirdre Falvey (also a journalist) I wrote what has been called the definitive book on modern Irish stand-up comedy, Gift of the Gag (BlackStaff, 1998), which contains interviews with Dylan Moran, Dara O Briain,  Graham Norton, the Father Ted creators and many others (including a last interview with the great Dave Allen), and was Consultant Contributor on comedy for The Encyclopaedia of Ireland (Gill and Macmillan, 2002). My work has also been anthologized in The Bedside Guardian and The Guardian Book of Obituaries.

I have also been a regular broadcaster on Irish radio, doing spots based around my collection of Variety and Novelty records, and writing and presenting my own series for RTE Lyric.

Here’s one of my RTE Radio shows, from 2006.

For the past 15 years I have mostly worked in my successful dual career as a porcelain sculptor under the name Stephen Dee (see

Variety WKandB

Wilson Keppel and Betty, by Stephen Dee, Dublin Theatre Festival, 1996.

Recent Feedback



Doesn’t ring a bell with me, Stefan, tho it’s a very typical Sarony line. Anyone? Stephen

stefan Beard


Just been reading the Leslie Sarony piece. Absolutely fantastic. Well done. A question if you don’t mind. Does anyone know the the title of the Leslie Sarony song that has the line “Oi ! how you gettin’ on? ” in it ?



I do hope you can help me. I have been searching for many years for my Great Uncle Mr Albert Edward Rayner who went under the name of Dan Rayner. I believe he worked the Music Halls but I do know for sure he worked with Fred Karno. When Charlie Chaplin left Fred in America over a Pay dispute the American backers of the tour insisted that my Great Uncle Dan Rayner be called over from England to take Charlie Chaplin’s Place. It appears Dan was liked more at that time in America than Charlie was. Another man in the troupe at that time was Stan Laurel. When the show folded Dan was asked along with Stan to stay in America. As we know Stan stayed and found he fame and fortune. Dan however chose to return to England. He was last that I can find in a play Dick Wittington at the Empire Theatre advertised in the a local paper in Durham in 1948. Unfortunately I have not been able to find when or where he died. I am hoping that maybe on your search you came across some info on Dan Rayner. I live in Australia so am unable to search all the death records for England with out it costing me a fortune. So any help you maybe able to give me would be really appreciated. I know he went to America twice and once to Australia and also once to South Africa. I do know he was married to a lady named Barbara Robinson and they had a son Conrad Paul Rayner but I have been unable to find any thing out about these two members of his family. I do know they separated before 1935 and he lived with another lady named Phyliss but as to her last name I have no idea. I have been searching for nearly 10 yrs now and I don’t think there is any thing left on the net that can help me. You it would appear maybe my last chance. I will keep my fingers crossed that you did come across some info on him or you know some one that maybe able to help. He went to America in 1913 on the Lusitania and it shows at this time he is married. He then returns to America in 1914 on the ship Adriatic. I do believe he also did a radio show after 1935 for quite some time but do not know the name of that show. I do hope you can help in my search for my Great Uncle.
I also might add my great grandfather was Edwin Richard Barwick. He was also a Music Hall performer and appeared in the first Royal Command Performance. If you get the picture and Index to that even you will see him standing next to Pavlova. I would love to hear any information you may have found out about him. I do believe he was one of the first members of the charity named water rats, I know star was spelt back wards to get the rats part. Edwin did a lot of work for this charity in his day. What I would love to know is if there is any recording of Edwin Performing and if so how I would go about getting a copy or seeing any recording. I do have a photo copy of an old theatre bill with my grandfathers name boldly written on it. Again any help would be appreciated.
All the best and I look forward to hearing back from you in the near future
Kim Rayner
my email address is